Archive for category Environment
Mexico’s lower chamber has recently passed legislation that could make Mexico the second nation in the world to pass comprehensive national climate change legislation. On Wednesday the lower house passed the “General Law on Climate Change”. This could have major benefits for the economy of Mexico and could bring new hope to a country who’s largest export commodity comes from it national oil company PEMEX. The bill must be passed before the congressional session adjourns at the end of the month and to be passed must have senate and presidential approval. This seems likely in the Senate considering they passed their version of the bill in December.
In effect the bill:
-Will require the whole country to reduce its carbon emissions 30% by 2020 and 50% by 2050.
- Establish goals for increasing electricity generation from renewable sources, with a goal of 35% of electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2024.
-Establish the National Institute of Ecology as the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change.
-Establish a climate fund and request the Ministry of Finance, among others to develop a system of incentives that favors renewable energy by 2020
-Establishes a national emissions registry and mandatory emissions reporting
Though the bill does not mandate the creation of a domestic greenhouse-gas emissions trading system it does enable it. This essentially is the idea government would provide economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) predicts if were to do so Mexico would achieve its goals at low cost and significant profit and attract international investment. The EDF says it would be able to do so if the system were to include an absolute carbon cap set near their current target and allow trading both domestically and in international markets. Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology have found that smart mitigation action could trigger a 5 percent incremental GDP growth, and create 3 million additional jobs, distributed among the poorest sectors of the population.
Mexico is the 11th largest emitter of global greenhouse gases and hosted the latest summit on Climate Change in 2010 in Cancun, Mexico. The summit in Cancun and previously in Copenhagen seemed to have produced few and loose results. The biggest challenge to global progression into the green economy is its lack of profit compared to those of large emission emitter economies. If Mexico can induce a profitable green economy it may act as a model for other developing nations or produce competitive investment into green technology from other nations.
A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck Mexico accroding to U.S Geological Survey. It was located 82 miles North-East of Guerrero Negro and 6.4 miles below the surface. No damages or casualties yet reported. Oleg Starovoit, PhD, deputy director of the Geophysical Service of Russia’s Academy of Sciences states, “Had it happened in a densely populated area, the resulting damage would have been catastrophic.”
Earlier Wednesday morning a earthquake hit the state of Michoacan with a magnitude of 6.5. No reports or major damages or casualties there either. The effects are reported to have been felt as far away as Mexico City. At nearly the same time an 8.7 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia.
The quakes two quakes in Mexico come after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake had struck the southwest part, March 20th.
According to the Arizona Sonora News Service, in 2007, Arizona ranked 15th of 50 states for childhood obesity, with 30.1%-35% of children suffering from obesity. Not only is childhood obesity a problem for the state of Arizona, but also within the state’s Hispanic population. The obesity rate of Hispanics in Arizona is at 31.4%, which is higher than the national rate of 28.7%. While there can be many factors that lead to obesity, one of the main causes is a poor diet.
Community gardening in Arizona has become popular in South Tucson as a means to combat the issue of obesity, and it also helps to foster a stronger sense of community. Some groups that have been teaming up to help foster these community gardens are Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), the House of Neighborly Service (HNS), the Primavera Foundation, and Ochoa Elementary School. Together they have joined to create the Tucson Garden Network, which aims to strengthen the already existing community engagement, and promote partnership with the residents.
“Josefina Ahumada, a board member for the [HNS], said the gardens are a crucial part in working toward the larger picture of promoting a healthy community.” (Adler). She added that community gardens also benefit the community because the residents will have immediate access to food. This will be especially beneficial for new members of the community who have recently emigrated who may have to default to fast food because they are busy with work or adjusting to the American lifestyle. Ultimately, Ahumada adds, “We want to give people alternatives. We are trying to provide opportunities for residents and organizations within the community to get involved and make a difference.” (Adler).
At a time when the United States is trying to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, Americans are beginning to look outside their borders for a much more precious resource: water. For years, the Western states both of the United States and Mexico have relied on the drought-prone Colorado River as the main source of water for millions of people. However, both countries are now looking for strategies to wean themselves off of the unpredictable river. The most salient solution so far is two large desalination plants proposed for Playas de Rosarito, 15 miles south of the San Diego border. Combined, the two plants are expected to provide 150 million gallons a day, supplying more than 300,000 homes on both sides of the border with water. This means a possible new export industry in Mexico and another foreign dependency in the United States. The huge water plants will be a cooperative effort between the two countries, though, with four U.S. water districts directly involved in the planning of one of the two plants.
Critics claim that the proposals for Playas de Rosarito are an American strategy to fulfill their water interests without the complications of U.S. environmental policies, reviews, and legal challenges. Desalination plants can devastate the coastal ecosystems, sucking in and killing fish and larvae and dumping large amounts of brine back into the ocean, disrupting the balance. Environmental groups are currently fighting similar plans for plants in Monterey and Carlsbad in court. However, officials from both Mexico and California have said that the Rosarito plants will adhere to the same standards as Californian plants, just with fewer legal challenges and quicker response times.
Other issues surrounding the desalination plants in Rosarito involve water rights. It is unclear, and a source of potential disagreements between the United States and Mexico, how the water will be used. U.S. agencies are proposing giving Mexico all rights to the water from the partly American financed plant if the Mexicans will give up some of their claims to the Colorado River. However, Jose Gutierrez assistant director for binational affairs at Mexico’s National Water Commission, claims that would never happen. The other alternative, building pipelines from the plant in Rosarito to California, is not cost effective and inefficient. Yet, the San Diego Water Agency hopes to get 10 percent of the region’s water from desalination plants by 2020 to reduce dependency on the Colorado River 200 miles away. Tijuana also has an interest in reducing its dependency on the river after an earthquake knocked out its main aqueduct for three weeks. So the best way for both countries to decrease their dependency and save money in the process is by joining forces and creating economies of scale, according to Halla Razak, the San Diego agency’s Colorado River program manager.
Hurricane Jova, a Category 3 hurricane, is slowly approaching the western Mexican coast, and is expected to reach it by this afternoon or evening. “Jova is expected to reach the coast of Mexico near major hurricane strength,” said the National Hurricane Center, “Fluctuations in strength were possible before landfall, and a weakening was expected after the center of the storm crosses the coast.”
A hurricane warning was issued from Punta Tan Telmo to Cabo Corrientes, near Puerto Vallarta. As hurricane warnings are issued, emergency officials are rushing to make preparations. “Our main concern is the welfare of the population,” said Trinidad Lopez, civil protection director in Jalisco state. “We’re doing everything in our power to protect people.” Lopez added that 100 shelters have been opened throughout the state of Jalisco. Mexico’s federal government has deployed over 300 soldiers and the Mexican navy in Puerto Vallarta is on alert.
Many are planning to ride out the storm, while several others are taking refuge at storm shelters. “My house has a thatch roof, and it’s not safe,” said Maria de Jesus Palomera Delgado who came to a shelter at a school in Jaluco along with her family. Jalisco authorities evacuated about 500 families on Monday from the coast. “We have about 100 officials working in these communities, telling people they should evacuate,” said Francisco Garnica, the duty officer at the Jalisco state civil defense office. Many however were reluctant to leave their homes, fearful that they would be robbed.
The 18th annual U.S. – Mexico Border Energy Forum, scheduled to take place on October 27th and 28th, provides top policy makers and industry leaders the chance to discuss energy issues that affect the entire bi-national region. The forum will be held at the El Paso Convention Center and will coincide with the Re-Energize the Americas conference. The idea is to facilitate information sharing between the two countries so that leaders on both sides can make informed energy and environmental decisions. The forum helps officials and business leaders track progress and innovations in the natural gas industry, fosters cooperation and interconnectivity in the electricity sector and creates international partnerships for renewable resources. Since the forum is intended to promote the sensible use of energy, this year’s agenda will focus heavily on wind and solar power, most likely discussing the plentiful opportunities for wind power in Mexico.
Over the past few years, Mexico’s renewable energy industry, both wind and solar, has experienced dramatic growth. Big name companies in the industry are investing large amounts of money into the country to build and expand renewable energy power plants. In July, the Cannon Power Group announced its decision to invest $2.5 million to generate wind energy from plants in Quintana Roo, Zacatecas y Baja California. With these three new projects, Mexico will gain more than 1,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity, decreasing the country’s dependency on foreign oil. Calderón claimed that this investment demonstrated confidence in Mexico’s economy and that without a doubt it will have a “very positive impact on the economy, society, and the environment”.
Swiss company, Nestle, also recently announced its decision to invest 60 million Swiss francs in sustainability projects in Mexico. It plans to build wind farms to meet 85 percent of its electricity requirements and hopes to cut energy use by 39 percent over the next five years. The Latin American Wind Association (LAWEA) emphasized the steady progress Mexico is making in the wind power industry, using Baja California as an example. In the state, there is at least one wind farm already up and running and 4 more projects in the development stages, in addition to the upcoming Nestle project. Some of the energy that will be produced at these plants is expected to be exported to the United State, decreasing the dependency on foreign oil for the whole bi-national region. The U.S. – Mexico Border Energy forum will facilitate cooperation in this type of trade in energy resources to benefit both sides of the border.
The United States and Mexico enter their second round of negotiations this week in Mexico to establish safe drilling practices and standards for the oil reserves straddling the international border. The talks began in Washington during the last week of August in hopes of instituting a “trans-boundary energy agreement”, and both parties hope to finalize the agreements before the end of the year. The U.S. State Department attested that both countries are “committed to the safe, efficient, and equitable development of such reservoirs, in accordance with the highest degree of safety and environmental standards.” The agreement is expected to improve energy security in North America and overall safety in the Gulf.
Although both parties intend to come to an agreement before the end of the year, the negotiations are expected to stall leasing for 166 offshore drilling sites, or blocks. All 3,900 blocks for sale in the Gulf of Mexico will be open for bidding on December 14; however, the five percent of blocks that lie within three nautical miles of the border will be held until the negotiations are finalized. Once the agreement is reached, bidders on the blocks that will be affected by the new policies will be given 20 days to decide whether to rescind or maintain their bid. If the negotiations are not finalized by June 14, 2012, then the blocks in question may be released and open for exploration and development. Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Michael Bromwich stated Tuesday at Platts Energy Podium in Washington, “We think it’s the fairest and most appropriate way to handle that small number of blocks.” Yet he said of the U.S.-Mexico treaty, “We’re still hopeful that we can reach an agreement by the end of this year.”
The World Trade Organization ruled on Tuesday that Mexico’s tuna fishing practices are in fact “dolphin-safe”. The decision ends a 25-year long dispute over Mexico’s tuna fishing practices which were deemed unsafe by the US in 1991. Since 1991, yellow-fin tuna exports from Mexico to the US have been barred. The US can appeal the decision in late July, but it is unlikely that the US will be able to overturn the decision. The ruling has been publicized by Mexican officials and the Mexican National Aquaculture and Fishing Commission, but has yet to be commented on by the United States.
The dispute began after the US Department of Commerce refused to label Mexico’s tuna exports as dolphin-safe, standard US labeling practice. Mexico took the case to the World Trade Organization by contending that although Mexico’s practices are not as strict at the US standards, Mexican fishing practices meet international standards and laws. Both countries are members of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, meaning that an inspector from the commission is always on-board fishing vessels. However, Mexico’s use of a fishing technique which requires encircling dolphins in order to catch yellow-fin tuna can be dangerous and even fatal to dolphins. The largest US tuna companies such as Starkist and Bumble refuse to buy any tuna that was caught in a way that is harmful to dolphins and it is unlikely that even if Mexico begins to export yellow-fin tuna to the US, it’s market share will not be very large. Greenpeace Mexico has stated that the overfishing of tuna is actually more of an environmental concern than endangering the dolphin population and calls the issue political rather than environmental. Mexican tuna will begin to enter US markets in late 2012.
President Calderon emphasized spreading Mexico’s recent economic development to the poorest regions of the country. In a speech which marked the beginning of the second phase of the Water Forever Campaign (Programa Agua para Siempre), Calderon hailed the campaign as successful because of its differences from other social welfare programs. It is a system in which the solution comes from society rather than the government. The campaign is part of the Calderon Administration’s greater National Development Plan (Plan Nacional de Desarollo).
The program requires collaboration from the states of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero; the governors of each state were present at the speech. The efforts of these programs which comprise the National Development Plan all attempt to ameliorate the gaps between the rich and poor in Mexico, which in public relations material for the campaign is called one of the most dangerous threats to society (aztecnoticas.com.mx). The Water Forever Campaign also attempts to highlight the exploitation of Mexico’s precious natural resources including water and forest by previous generations. Calderon explained that people should never have to emigrate because of a lack of resources, which can be prevented if government and society take steps towards sustainability now.
An impending water shortage in Mexico is cause for concern says Calderon.
The “water stress” problem is resulting in lower levels of drinkable, available water similar to those of North Africa. The individual water consumption of the average Mexican is threefold compared to that of the last decade, though Calderon also attributed this to the rapid and continuing industrialization process in Mexico.
To address the water shortage issue, Calderon’s administration is confronting the problem as a national security issue.
All of these calls for water consumption reduction come after a report released by a team of academics, government officials, businessman and civil groups called the Water Agenda 2030. The problem is not simply with wasteful consumption however but also with unsustainable means of obtaining water. 15% of water is obtained in a way that is unsustainable and damaging to future consumption. The Water Agenda 2030 is being presented as a social agreement between the government and society for austerity measures in water consumption.