Mexico’s climate policies continue to go backwards, as fossil fuel use is prioritised and climate-related policies and institutions dismantled. Mexico’s updated 2030 target (NDC), submitted in November 2022 results in higher emission levels than the targets from 2016, breaching both agreements under the Paris Agreement and Mexican Law – where governments committed to improve their targets over time. The updated NDC lacks transparency and disguises its lack of ambition by counting forests differently in the base and in the target year. Mexico will meet the unambitious target with already implemented policies as emissions continue to rise through 2030. With this update, the CAT’s rating of Mexico’s climate targets and action worsens from “Highly insufficient” to “Critically insufficient”.
While the new target includes a larger percentage reduction it still leads to higher emissions. The NDC update increases the percentage reduction of the unconditional target from 22% to 35% (30% with own resources and an additional 5% from agreed international support) by 2030 and from 36% to 40% conditional on additional international support. But the business-as-usual (BAU) baseline, against which the targets are defined, has been revised upwards. In addition Mexico expects a higher contribution of emissions sinks in forests to achieving the target. Together this means that the new target can be met even if emissions excluding those of forestry are higher than what they could have been under the old target.
The 2022 NDC update replaces the 2020 update, which became invalid after a Mexican court found that it is less ambitious than the very first NDC of 2016 and therefore a violation of continuous progression of ambition. The 2022 update is less specific on the contribution of forestry to the target, which may make it more difficult to argue its ambition.
Mexico pursues a “gross-net” approach, meaning it counts only emissions sources in its BAU, ignoring sinks from land use and forestry. However, the NDC does intend to use these sinks to achieve the target, highlighting that nature-based solutions are ‘central’ to achieving the targets. In 2019, reported sinks were almost 200 MtCO2e, or about a quarter of Mexico’s emissions excl. land use, land use change and forestry. While technically allowed, this accounting approach has been criticised as in-transparent for over 20 years.
Mexico’s 2022 NDC update removes the target to peak emissions in 2026 and does not mention any net zero nor other long-term targets.
Mexico’s climate policies under President Lopez Obrador continue to go backwards, as fossil fuel use is prioritised and climate-related policies and institutions dismantled. This puts the country’s emissions pathway even further from the Paris Agreement 1.5°C goal. Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise – despite the brief dip caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – and are projected to continue increasing through 2030. Mexico is on track to achieve its old and new unambitious climate targets in 2030. For Mexico to reverse trends and transition towards a 1.5°C-compatible pathway, it needs to reverse its policies, move away from fossil fuels, foster renewable energy, and tackle the transport sector.
Instead of investing in renewable energy, Mexico has acquired an oil refinery in the US and is fast-tracking the construction of another in Dos Bocas, Tabasco. These actions were included in the ten ‘climate’ actions Mexico is committed to pursuing in the coming years, presented by President Lopez Obrador at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate held by President Biden in June 2022.
Lopez Obrador’s government also continues to subsidise the use of fossil fuels in the transport sector as a response to the global energy crisis and inflation rates that have stemmed from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. As part of the Federal Budget for 2021 and again in 2022, over 70% of the budget under ‘climate change mitigation and adaptation effects’ has been allocated to the transport infrastructure of fossil gas.
Reforms to the General Climate Change Law in 2020 eliminated the Climate Change Fund and in 2021, the government announced the dissolution of the National Institute for Climate Change. The dismantling of climate change governance sends a clear message to Mexicans and the international community that climate change and the environment are simply not a priority in Mexico.
However, Lopez Obrador’s party lost its qualified majority in congress in the 2021 elections, enabling its political opposition to stop the executive’s proposal to reform Mexico’s energy system in April 2022. With this proposed reform, the government intended to limit the participation of private electricity producers and disestablish the National Centre of Energy Control (CENACE) and the Clean Energy Certificates. Prior to the vote against the energy reform, a massive civil society protest movement created a public debate on the implications of the proposal—sending a clear message to the government that Mexicans are concerned about climate change and their future.
The CAT rates Mexico’s climate targets and policies as “Critically insufficient”. The “Critically insufficient” rating indicates that Mexico’s climate policies and commitments are not consistent with any interpretation of a fair-share contribution and lead to rising, rather than falling, emissions. If all countries were to follow Mexico’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C.
Mexico’s overall rating has worsened since the last update as our estimations of the updated climate commitments show significantly higher emission limits in 2030 that are not in line with any interpretation of a fair approach to meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit. The 2022 NDC update provides an updated, increased BAU baseline, and provides lack of transparency regarding the sectoral contributions towards achieving the targets – particularly that of the forestry sector.
We rate Mexico’s policies and actions as “Highly insufficient” when compared modelled domestic pathways. The “Highly insufficient” rating indicates that Mexico’s policies and action in 2030 lead to rising, rather than falling emissions and are not at all consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit. If all countries were to follow Mexico’s approach, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C.
Under the government of President Lopez Obrador Mexico’s climate policies have gone backwards—largely because it continues to choose policies that prioritise the use of fossil fuels under the discourse of energy sovereignty and republican austerity. Since Lopez Obrador’s election in 2018, several policies supporting renewable energy and climate change in general have been rolled backed or reformed. In January 2019, the Mexican government cancelled long term electricity auctions – instruments that had incentivised an increase in renewable energy for electricity production in Mexico over three years – and reverted a former government decision to retire the oldest and dirtiest electricity fossil-fuel power plants.
In 2020, the Mexican Ministry of Energy published a bill that would effectively halt private renewable energy investment in the country, prioritising the government's own ageing, fossil fuel-fired power plants. More recently, the government allocated most of the ‘climate change mitigation and adaptation’ budget in 2021 and 2022 to fossil gas transport infrastructure. It is building an oil refinery in Dos Bocas, Tabasco, has acquired one in Texas, US, and continues to subsidise the use of fossil fuels in the transport sector.
Since 2013, Mexico has continued to report its historical emissions at much higher levels than the already high emissions projections under the NDC baseline submitted in 2016. Emissions from the energy sector increased by 34% between 1990 and 2019. This sector alone was responsible for nearly two thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions in Mexico in 2019 (aside from the forestry sector). Nearly a third of projected emissions are expected from the transport sector in 2030.
In December 2021, a new version of the Special Climate Change Program (PECC, in Spanish) was published, outlining objectives, strategies, actions and goals related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Its Objective 2: “reduce greenhouse gas emissions” lists a number of actions regarding renewable energy, which seem to contradict the rollback of energy policies in recent years. Other actions are focused on increasing efficiency in fossil fuel generation plants or mitigation in oil & gas extraction – contradicting the transformative decarbonisation measures needed to achieve the Paris Agreement goal.
During his speech at President Biden’s Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in June 2022, President Lopez Obrador presented ten ‘climate’ actions his government is prioritising in the next years. Two of these actions include ramping up fossil fuel production to achieve energy sovereignty by modernising six oil refineries, acquiring one in the US and building a new one in Dos Bocas, and building two new coke plants to be able to domestically transform fuel oil into gasoline.
We rate the conditional NDC target of an up to 40% greenhouse gas reduction from a BAU baseline scenario in 2030 as “Highly insufficient” when compared to modelled domestic emissions pathways. The “Highly insufficient” rating indicates that Mexico’s conditional NDC target in 2030 is not at all consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit when compared to modelled domestic pathways. If all countries were to follow Mexico’s approach, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C.
We have also estimated a range for the contribution of the forestry and land use sector, given the lack of details in the NDC update. See the Assumptions section for more details.
We rate Mexico’s 2030 updated NDC target of reducing all greenhouse gas emissions by 30% under a business-as-usual (BAU) baseline scenario in 2030 with own resources as “Critically insufficient” when compared with its fair-share contribution to climate action.
The “Critically insufficient” rating indicates that Mexico’s unconditional NDC target in 2030 reflects minimal to no action and is not at all consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit when compared to its fair share. Mexico’s target is not in line with any interpretation of a fair approach to meeting the 1.5°C limit. If all countries were to follow Mexico’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C.
The CAT rates what a country intends to do with its own resources against its fair share. As the updated Mexican NDC specifies within its unconditional target that 5% of the 35% reduction will be achieved through “agreed international support for ‘clean energies1’”, we have considered only 30% reduction from BAU in 2030 as Mexico’s target to be achieved with domestic means.
The NDC update includes a BAU baseline that has been revised upwards from the 2016 NDC and is very similar to the (no longer valid) 2020 NDC update. The updated baseline specifies a sectoral breakdown that includes emissions from forestry but excludes forestry removals. In contrast to the 2016 NDC, the 2022 update does not include the expected sectoral contributions to achieve the target. Notably, the gross-net approach for accounting for the contribution of the forestry sector significantly reduces the need for action to achieve the “Critically Insufficient” target: while removals are not included in the baseline, they are mentioned within the text to be ‘central’ to achieving the target.
In 2021, after civil society won an ‘amparo’ lawsuit (under the constitution) against the lack of ambition of Mexico’s December 2020 updated NDC, a judge reinstated Mexico’s original 2016 climate targets. The reason for this decision was that Mexico’s updated climate commitments, albeit unchanged in terms of reduction percentages, resulted in a higher emissions level due to an upward revision of the baseline. It also was less transparent than the original and excluded the target of peak emissions in 2026. The court also reinstated the 2050 goal from Mexico’s Mid-Century Strategy.
Due to the lack of details on the contribution of the forestry and land use sector in the updated climate targets, we consider a range between assumptions. See the Assumptions section for more details.
1Mexico includes electricity generation through fossil gas efficient cogeneration of as part of its definition of ‘clean energies’.
The land use, land-use change and forestry has been a stable sink in Mexico over the last 20 years.
Notably, the 2022 NDC update considers this sector to be ‘central’ to achieving the updated 2030 climate targets. While emissions from forestry are considered in the BAU baseline and sinks are not, the NDC text mentions sinks from land use and forestry are expected to achieve the target – without specifics on the expected contribution of the sector.
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