State Government Offices

State Government Offices, San Miguel de Allende

It is clear that Mexico has begun taking legislative steps towards implementing climate change policy (and greener energy policy generally) in the country.  Perhaps the clearest example of this is the Ley Para el Aprovechamiento de Energías Renovables y el Financiamento de la Transición Energética (Law for Renewable Energy Usage and Energy Transition Financing), which hopes to promote and support the use of renewable energies in the country.  The law is ambitious in its remit, but issues of insufficient funding and inter-government interest negotiation may limit its effectiveness as it is implemented.

The law has three main objectives:

1. Promoting and implementing the use of renewable energy in the states;
2. Facilitating the “flow of resources” from international frameworks such as the CDM towards renewable-energy projects in the country;
3. Promoting the use of renewable energies generally, and providing education in this matter for policy-makers and other citizens.

The law aims to achieve this through the Estrategia Nacional Para la Transición Energética (National Strategy for Energy Transition), in which all major stake-holders, including energy providers, will be involved at the design stage, and through the creation of a Fondo Para la Transición Energética (Fund for Energy Transition).

Leaving aside the fact that the Fund is not extensive (3 billion pesos, or ~USD$210 million) and that this will limit the scope of the Strategy’s implementation, policy-makers and other government officials will face another significant challenge as the law is implemented: organisational problems at the national, state, and municipal levels, and the issue of negotiation between these.

The law hopes to bias energy production in the country in favour of low-carbon, or carbon-free, technologies.  To do this, renewable energy plants will be built and put into operation around the country, and the government will actively work towards “taking advantage” of international mechanisms such as the CDM.  The number of stakeholders involved in the law’s implementation will mean, however, that interests will not be shared across the board as Mexico “transitions” towards greener energy production.

At the national level, the law calls for the formation of a “technical committee” to direct the transition efforts.  Representatives from the Ministries of Energy, Agriculture and Rural Development, Fisheries, and Environment and Natural Resources, as well as from the Treasury and the Federal Commission of Electricity, the Central Electrical Company (Compañía de Luz y Fuerza del Centro), and the National Council of Science and Technology, will sit on this committee.

Needless to say, the interests of SEMARNAT (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) and CONACYT (National Council of Science and Technology) will differ greatly from those of the Federal Commission of Electricity (which provides electricity to the vast majority of Mexicans).

At the state level, the law hopes to promote the creation and use of renewable energy plants and the implementation of internationally financed and implemented CDM projects.

This may well result in an uneven distribution of clean energies across the country:

a. Some states, such as Oaxaca, in which the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (with its high-speed winds from both the Pacific and the Atlantic) facilitates the production of wind energy, will be better positioned geographically to produce clean energy.

b. Other states, whose economies are stronger or whose industrial development is greater, may well be better able to take advantage of international frameworks such as the CDM (and may be more interested in doing so).  Mexico has fewer CDM projects that one would expect from a country of its size and economic make-up; their current distribution is biased towards the north and centre of the country, where the larger industrial cities are situated.

c. Poorer states such as those on the Yucatán Peninsula may well lag behind in clean energy development and production as a result, creating progress in some parts of the country but neglect for green agendas elsewhere; production of carbon-heavy energies may remain stable, or even increase, in some ‘low-focus’ states as a consequence of this.

At the municipal level, the government will have to contend with municipal and citizen interests.  After the “municipalisation” of the country, spearheaded by the PAN, gave municipalities control over how municipal land can be used, municipalities and their citizen groups must agree before their land can be bought by the government in order to build federal projects such as renewable energy plants.  Municipalities’ power over predial (land use tax) collection means that economic interests, clientelism, and corruption issues play a role in deciding the fate of land in municipios.  This problem is compounded by the fact that municipal presidents tend to be figures of local influence, often with little or no political training.  Some municipalities may have progressive leaders who are able to promote the use of clean energies successfully, while other administrations may be at a loss as to how to do so.

Because municipalities will be able to sign agreements with energy providers directly (choosing what company to favour with their business), economic and personal interests may well dictate whether municipal governments choose to use carbon-free or carbon-heavy energies for their citizens.  This will be further complicated as the $3-billion “Energy Transition” fund is apportioned to different state and municipal governments.  As Nick Dommett has pointed out in another blog on Climatico, in developing countries, questions about the flow, use, and availability of money have a large role to play in determining the success of climate change policy.

Finally, lack of education about climate change mitigation and low-carbon or carbon-free energy may result in opposition to the development of renewable energy projects in municipalities.  NIMBY issues will also have a role to play, especially in parts of the country where income levels are higher, such as some areas of Mexico City and Monterrey.  The power of citizens at the municipal level must not be underestimated: during Vicente Fox‘s administration, citizen opposition to land sales stopped the development of a second, much needed airport in Texcoco (for which there was overwhelming popular support) to ease air-traffic flows to Mexico City’s Benito Juarez, which is located in the middle of one of the city’s residential areas.  Though the government can expropriate land–Fox’s government tried this to disastrous results in the case of the Texcoco airport–in order to facilitate the development of projects such as renewable energy plants, this option is obviously a political landmine: past experience suggests, however, that negotiation with citizens can be equally fraught with pitfalls.

If the Mexican Executive is to make the objectives of the Ley Para el Aprovechamiento de Energías Renovables a reality, then, it seems that the best strategy would be to get the negotiations–at all government levels–underway now.

Further work on this topic is currently being carried out by MSc students at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.

Photo credit: Digiyesica, Flickr

Print Friendly, PDF & Email