By Alexandra Stark
On Friday, Mexico’s House of Representatives passed a new piece of climate change legislation, making it only the second country in the world behind the UK and its Climate Change Act to do so, once it is approved by Mexico’s Senate. The law calls for reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050.
When it is signed by the President and becomes law, the climate legislation will require the government to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020, and, with international support, begin phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and make renewable power more competitive with oil, coal, and gas. There is also a strong focus on equity, conserving Mexico’s environment, and making sure there is widespread citizen participation.
The law is a game changer even on its own merits. Mexico, which hosted the 2010 UN climate negotiations in Cancun, is currently the 11th largest GHG emitting country, and is projected to be the fifth largest economy in the world by 2050. But beyond its immediate effects, this law should be a wake-up call to the developed countries of the world, and particularly to the U.S.
The last time the U.S. Congress tried to pass comprehensive climate change legislation, way back in 2009, cap-and-trade legislation managed to squeak by in the House of Representatives by a 219-212 vote. A triumvirate of bi-partisan senators (Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham) managed to cobble together an odd bedfellows coalition of the major green groups and biggest polluters of industry. Yet it all fell apart, and things have only gone downhill (or even, one might argue, off a cliff) since then, when it’s totally in vogue in the mainstream of one party to deny that climate change even exists, while the other is too frightened of its own shadow to utter the word “climate” out loud.
Members of Congress are of course reacting to constituent perceptions, but also to campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, which spent more than $25 million during the 11th Congress on campaign contributions. Meanwhile, industry cries that committing to emissions reduction, putting a price on carbon, or cutting subsidies to the fossil fuel industry will wreak havoc on the fragile U.S. economy and result in the loss of thousands of jobs.
Mexico is a developing country, with a GDP per capita that is less than a third of the U.S., and more than 50 percent of Mexico’s population lives under the national poverty line. Mexico is also suffering from the global economic recession, during which its economy may have contracted by at least 5 percent. The message from Mexico’s climate law is clear - if they can do it, then so can we.
Image Credit: UNclimatechange, Flickr