By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla
Mexico City, Oct 18 (EFE).- Despite criticisms of Mexico’s energy model, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday told the United States’ special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, that his administration is an ally of the US in the area of environmental protection.
Kerry, for his part, applauded Mexico’s vast Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) reforestation program in the country’s southeast but urged the Mexican government to put its economy on a track toward carbon neutrality through a focus on wind and solar energy.
“President (Joe) Biden has an ally in climate policy … We’re allies in the defense of the environment,” AMLO said during an event with Kerry in Palenque, a city in the southeastern state of Chiapas.
Lopez Obrador has been criticized for his moves to strengthen state oil company Pemex and his plans to increase state control over the electricity sector, with renewable energy industry bodies saying that bolstering state power utility CFE will veer Mexico off its current course toward cleaner energy.
But AMLO told Kerry that his government is modernizing 60 CFE-run hydroelectric plants with the goal of doubling hydropower production and complying with its international clean energy commitments.
“We’re going to keep promoting hydro-generated electricity. The cheapest and cleanest energy is (the power) generated at hydroelectric dams,” he added.
And although Lopez Obrador’s administration plans to boost crude production, the president pledged that Mexico “will not extract more oil that is needed for domestic consumption.”
Kerry visited southeastern Mexico on Monday to observe the implementation of the Sembrando Vida program, an initiative that provides economic aid to farmers who reforest their plots of land.
A total of 180,000 small farmers have benefited from Lopez Obrador’s flagship environmental project, through which around 395 million trees have been planted over a 447,000-hectare (1,725-square mile) area in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo.
The government says each reforested hectare of land captures 17.8 tons of carbon dioxide, although the opposition has criticized the program and says it encourages farmers to burn down forest so they can later replant trees and receive the economic aid.
Kerry hailed Sembrando Vida, calling it a symbol of Mexico’s leadership at a crucial time in the fight against climate change.
But the US climate czar also urged AMLO’s administration to take action in all sectors and transition to a net-zero emissions economy, a shift that he said would entail a bigger transformation than the industrial revolution.
In that regard, he said wind and solar farms must be prioritized and governments around the world must take action between 2020 and 2030 to keep the global rise in temperatures to 1.5 C versus pre-industrial levels and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. EFE