Mexico is an ally of the United States in the fight against climate change, President López Obrador declared Monday before U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.
“President Biden has an ally in the defense of climate policy to confront climate change and to guarantee life, the survival of all human beings,” López Obrador said during a ceremony in Palenque, Chiapas, after accompanying Kerry on a visit to a parcel of community land where the federal government’s tree-planting employment program, Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life), is operating.
“We’re your allies in the defense of the environment and in a very special way an ally of you, Mr. John Kerry,” he said.
“We’re going to support the approach John Kerry is leading … to improve the environment, … [and] to confront climate change [and] global warming,” said López Obrador, who has been criticized for his own efforts in the area.
“And as he has said, planting [trees] – reforestation, is fundamental. In this region, just in Chiapas, trees are being planted on 200,000 hectares and work is provided for 80,000 farmers. We can do this in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador; … we’re willing to help and the United States government also has the will for programs like this to expand and to confront the migratory phenomenon in this way.”
López Obrador also touted other government efforts to combat climate change, including plans to boost the production of hydroelectricity and not increase oil production beyond 2 million barrels per day.
In his official remarks, Kerry heaped praise on the Sembrando Vida program – despite claims it is in fact causing deforestation, and avoided criticism of López Obrador’s predilection for fossil fuels and his proposed electricity reform which, if passed, would adversely affect privately owned renewable energy projects.
Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 “cannot be achieved without reforestation and dealing with deforestation,” he said.
“Whenever I talk about the challenge of the climate crisis, yes I talk about energy and energy choices but I always talk about nature based solutions. Almost a third of Mexico is covered by forest and President López Obrador is appropriately focused on how Mexico is going to make its contribution by paying attention to that. Success in this area of reforestation could contribute as much as one-third of global mitigation [of emissions] by 2030 and even more in the decades after that,” Kerry said.
“… All of us in the world need to focus on what President López Obrador is doing, and trying to do, and fighting to do,” the special envoy said.
“And it’s not just the reforestation, … [Sembrando Vida is] a program that’s focused on people, on people’s lives, on work, on the ability to be able to stay where you live, and the ability to stay connected to the land,” Kerry said.
“… We recognize that halting deforestation and restoring ecosystems is critical for reasons that go far beyond the climate – the livelihoods of people who depend on the forests, the sustainability of their lives and that dependency, the wellbeing of indigenous peoples who steward the lands, the biodiversity and the water on which we all depend.”
Kerry, who also toured the Palenque archaeological site with López Obrador, said that Mexico has already shown itself to be a leader on climate issues, noting that it was the first developing country to produce a climate action law and the first developing country to come up with nationally determined contributions – efforts by individual countries to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
He also said that in President Biden’s vision there is a possibility of much greater effort and cooperation between Mexico, Canada and the United States on climate issues.
“Transitioning to a net zero economy is the greatest economic opportunity of our lives,” Kerry said before asserting that “Mexico’s industrial base … absolutely stands to benefit from the energy transition.”
“For example, when we switch from gasoline to electrified vehicles, there are going to be a lot of good paying jobs here in Mexico because of the connection already of the automobile industry and our two countries,” he said.