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Mexico Looks to Lead Southern Shift to Green Energy

Q&A with Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of
Monday, October 24th, 2011
Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada

Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico

On September 5, 2011, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, minister of environment and natural resources of Mexico, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Mr. Richard Samans, executive director of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). The MOU will build a cooperative partnership between the two organizations in activities and initiatives related to global green growth. The Asia-Pacific Business and Technology Report spoke with H.E. Quesada after the ceremony in an exclusive interview.

What does Mexico hope to gain from a partnership with GGGI?

Mexico really wants to learn from GGGI. We are essentially here to mobilize resources for those countries that are interested in rigorous green growth planning, both for economic performance and GDP growth. Countries may also have strong environmental reasons such as carbon and water security and access factors. We believe we can provide the institutional capacity that governments need to add green technologies to their domestic capacity.

Is this a new emphasis for Mexico?

We just started working very hard on natural resources preservation. And after 4 years we decided to organize the Cancun agreements. But there is a difference between Korea and Mexico, which is that Mexico has oil. But, Mexico doesn’t have the right to burn all the oil. We need to continue growing, but decouple emissions from economic growth. We are trying to do that. We want to build something different. Mexico is a tropical country, we have the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast, and we have 30 different hurricanes from May to October or November. So the vulnerability of Mexico to climate change is quite high. That is the reason we need to adapt. We also need to control the emissions. Mexico only produces 2 percent of global emissions. But that’s not to discount our contribution; we need to show other Latin American countries and other countries how to do economic growth but at the same time to reduce emissions. We need to get some experience in how to get financing from the developed world to do this. Finally, we need to know the new technologies that the federal government requires to do this. We need to reduce pollution in all areas more efficiently.

What are you hoping to learn from Korea? What are your future plans to promote Green Growth in Mexico? And do you have specific plans to cooperate with Asian countries?

This MOU is very general, but the first step, the first movement, is to build an initiative in Mexico. How can Mexico work in the next ten years without sacrificing economic growth? How can we build low emissions developments from 2010 to 2020? We expect to be collaborating with 3GI as we move forward. We are discussing 3 lines of cooperation for the future. This is critical because we want to lay the foundations in 2020 and 2030 in economic growth and adaptation, and economic development and social development. As part of this effort, we will be collaborating on GGGI on 3 levels. GGGI will be supporting Mexican efforts in developing macroeconomic models to understand the implications of the policies we are pursuing in Mexico in terms of trade, foreign investment, etc., that will be something that we can do with 3GI. We will also be working on enhancing subnational planning. We believe that in order to move forward on green growth and strategy not all planning can be federal. We have to establish important coordination between municipal, state, and national governments. We will be working with GGGI in one or two states in Mexico to assure the coordination with federal planning. We will be looking for experiences around the world for other countries that have similar experiences in development.

Finally, we need to combat poverty in Mexico. We need to create green jobs and make a green economy. And what you were saying is that yes, we can do a lot of things with Korea. But we can learn as well from other emerging economies like China, India, or others.

The point is not to say that we are happy and we have nothing else to do. We have to adapt. The historic first hurricane in New York last week is totally different from what happens in tropical countries. In tropical places it’s usual but not in the northern areas. The climate is changing, and we need to face this. We need to do something.

What do you expect to happen because of this MOU? And what would you consider to be a success?

In the G20, we can present the initiative that Korea is helping Mexico to make. We can explain to the rest of the world how Mexico will reduce emissions and continue economic growth. We are not creating the center, we are making the steps for creation, which will be done in the next few months. Our objective is how to explain and how to alert many other countries around the world to what Mexico is doing in this vein.

As far as success goes, Mexico only produces 2 percent of the emissions of the world, but we don’t want to say we are not part of the problem. Everybody is part of the problem. Mexico wants to say that work is needed, and to show the way, to be an example to other countries. To combat poverty, create jobs, protect resources, and show other countries that it is possible.

Also, we want to have the next meeting in Mexico, with the experts from GGGI and the experts from Mexico working together. The point is to discover how to fund the research that should be done in order to change from the use of oil in general in order to lower our emissions. This is along with the trend of increasing economic growth.

The world must reduce emissions, because if the temperature increases 2 degrees on average around the world, the damages will be very deep to all countries. We should look for new trends so the presidents, the heads of state, and other people want to develop new technologies. In order to finance the next 3 years, there is 30 million dollars that we will use for funding research on renewable energy technologies. We want to reduce emissions. We want to make agreements and build on these agreements. This is what we are doing here in South Korea. We are building new relationships in order to make this happen throughout the world.

In this vein, what is your message to the Korean people?

I think that the Korean people can learn from GGGI, which is leading emerging economies and in the developed world, doing the most important projects. And at the same time Mexico and Korea just signed an agreement last October. This protocol says that we need to increase our natural protected areas. Mexico has 13 percent of its territory as national parks. With that in mind we are protecting the Guadalupe Mexican jaguars, wolves, whales, dolphins, and many species in and around Mexico. But we need to increase this protection. So this is something that we work with to cooperate with South Korea.

The countries that are most interested in green growth are countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Korea... countries that are developed, or developing, and lack oil. But Mexico has a lot of oil reserves and also state control of said oil reserves. So Mexico has options in energy, and seems to be able to afford a more pragmatic outlook on green technologies. Given that background, what must Mexico demand from these new technologies that might differ from that of a country that doesn’t have natural energy resources? And how does the country justify leaving money in the ground?

Well, oil is not eternal. President Calderon, Mexico’s president, is very worried about the negotiation track. While the developed countries say that we need to do this in order to find economic growth, the developing countries say it’s your responsibility to solve the climate crisis. So in the middle of all the negotiations what we require is solutions, not to continue negotiations in 10, 20, or 30 years. What we need is to give balance between the consumption of oil and at the same time to increase the use of renewable energy. In this case president Calderon decided to finish the next year, 2012, with the use of 25 to 26 percent of renewable energy in Mexico. This figure includes hydro power, and it is needed because that is the only way to really move ahead. Many countries cannot realize what climate change means. We in Mexico can see that very clearly because we have floods in the south at the same time that we have drought in the north. So we are suffering from a lot of climate change. We have floods in Mexico City, the valley of Mexico, the south of Mexico, and activities like agriculture needs to change to other activities. Like the cattle production in north Mexico has to change. So Mexico needs to do something different to show that it is possible to grow with different trends than traditional ones and be an example to other countries to show that its feasible to do this without increasing oil consumption.

In international negotiations about climate change, one of the core problems is who should pay for it? Most of the developed countries say that developing countries are doing most of the damage now, so they should shoulder most of the burden. However, developing countries counter that by saying that developed countries have done most of the damage already, so they should foot the bill. How can we find the solution to create sustainable development and a sustainable environment? What is Mexico’s position on this issue?

Mexico just put two initiatives on the table that are now successful. The first is the fast starting fund. This is what developing countries were demanding to work on climate change. It was put on the table in 2009 and was adopted by the Cancun agreements. The other one is the one President Calderon proposed 3 years ago in Italy, and it became part of the Copenhagen Agreement. So in a way developed countries are financing many of the programs or all the money that the developing countries require. But that is not the point, because in the year 2030 the developing world will produce more emissions than the developed world. That’s the core issue.

In Cancun we developed a world workshop. It is necessary to transfer technologies from the north to the south. How to create technology centers around the world, like in Korea, and now in Mexico, in order to give examples of successful technologies and successful businesses. This GGGI is the most successful example of north-south cooperation to create the scenarios for success in the next 10, 20, or 30 years. The rest of the developing countries can see how this is successful, they can see the solutions for the problems of developing countries.

In the case of India and Mexico, we developed a workshop with the Minister of Climate Change, and he was one of the main negotiators. India was helping Mexico to find these agreements a lot. The minister helped us a lot in the Cancun agreements, and this workshop was developed in India. What we want to do is, or what the minister said one year ago, is Mexico, India, Korea, and many other countries can develop world technology centers to demonstrate what the trend is in the future. Mexico is doing this, Mexico’s president announced the creation of these centers, and now we have the help of the Korean people. So this is one of the examples of how we can build something for the future with the help of developed countries.

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