Mexico Pledges to Cut Emissions 25% in Climate-Change Milestone

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A View Of Smog Covering The Mexico City Skyline
A view of smog covering Mexico City skyline on March 30, 2014. Mexico’s pledge has two components. It will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 22 percent and will halve the production of so-called black carbon -- particles created by burning wood, diesel and other fuels. Photographer: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Mexico has become the first developing nation to formally promise to cut its global-warming pollution, a potential milestone in efforts to reach a worldwide agreement on tackling climate change.

Mexico expects greenhouse-gas emissions to peak by 2026 and then decline, Environment Minister Juan Jose Guerra Abud said at a news conference in Mexico City Friday. The nation has pledged to curb the growth of pollutants 25 percent from its current trajectory by 2030.

The United Nations is encouraging more than 190 countries to submit by March 31 formal plans detailing how they will curb greenhouse-gas emissions. These documents are a key step leading up to a December meeting in Paris where negotiators expect to complete a global climate-change agreement, and most nations are going to miss the deadline. Mexico’s plan is only the fourth submission, after the European Union, Switzerland and Norway.

“It’s obvious that global warming is already a reality,” Guerra said. “It’s without a doubt the principal challenge for humanity in the 21st century.”

Mexico’s pledge has two components. It will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 22 percent and will halve the production of so-called black carbon -- particles created by burning wood, diesel and other fuels. The net effect will reduce by 25 percent the generation of air pollution that’s causing global warming.

Rich Versus Poor

Mexico’s participation in the process could be significant. One of the key hurdles to crafting a global climate-change deal is the conflict between wealthy nations, that have historically produced most of the air pollution contributing to global warming, and developing nations, where emissions are growing the fastest. The deal that’s expected to emerge from the Paris talks would be the first to wrest promises from both sides of that debate.

The U.S. has said it plans to cut emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 and will file its formal submission to the UN by the end of the month. Sealing a global deal is a central goal for U.S. President Barack Obama, who has pushed clean energy and pollution limits on coal-fired power plants in his second term.

Mexico’s goal is ambitious but achievable and should set a model for other emerging economies in the climate talks, an Obama administration official said after Friday’s announcement. The U.S. is working with Mexico to develop efficiency standards for vehicles and appliances and to boost clean energy, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss negotiations between the two countries.

Shift to Renewables

Mexico’s pledge builds on a climate-change law it adopted in 2012. The government has set a goal of generating 35 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2024, up from 3 percent now. Guerra, the environment minister, said the country will cut emissions in part by shifting state-owned power provider Comision Federal de Electricidad to cleaner-burning natural gas instead of fuel oil.

Fossil fuels are used to generate the “overwhelming majority” of Mexico’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Hydropower supplied 11 percent in 2013.

Mexico’s announcement is an “ambitious and important commitment in the fight against global warming,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based advocacy group. “Its pledge to make meaningful cuts in dangerous carbon pollution sends a signal that will help secure a global climate-protection agreement in Paris this year.”

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