Gustavo Alanís Ortega
Director General
Mexican Environmental Law Center

Call for Sustainability Enforcement

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:30

Mexico has an abundant set of environmental laws but regulation and technical official norms are not properly upheld, believes Gustavo Alanís Ortega, Director General of the Mexican Environmental Law Center (CEMDA). “There is something wrong with the law when externalities are not considered at the initial stage,” says Alanís Ortega. Externalities have recently moved into the spotlight as they are seen as crucial to increasing energy efficiency and boosting the development of renewable energy. “Even though a recent law was passed mandating that externalities be taken into account, there are still no mechanisms to ensure that these rules are implemented and complied with,” states Alanís Ortega. “What we are seeing on a regular basis is that companies do not internalize but rather externalize in order to avoid paying for their environmental impact.” The public sector, legislators, and CEMDA are confronted with the challenge of finding ways to enforce these laws.

CEMDA was angered when the government’s new energy policies did not sufficiently seek to replace fossil fuels with renewable energies. “Mexico cannot make decisions based purely on economic interests while its natural reserves are being depleted. We feel that Mexican policy decisions are currently pointing towards a sustainable future,” says Alanís Ortega. Incorporating externalities requires the creation and the publishing of a measuring methodology, he recommends, while adding that CEMDA will also advocate the reduction of the use of fossil fuels in the transportation sector and a halt to the promotion of nuclear power.

“According to the World Health Organization, around 40,000 people die every year in Mexico due to poor air quality, but not many policies address this issue although plenty of laws exist,” Alanís Ortega laments. CEMDA points to a broad array of issues that need immediate attention across several sectors. “First, the question of subsidies should be addressed. For example, the subsidy on gasoline only benefits a small segment of society with financial means and promotes air pollution. Second, law enforcement should place more emphasis on illegally imported cars, which arrive in Mexico every year in large quantities. These vehicles often do not have catalytic converters and do not comply with technical norms. Therefore, CEMDA is in favor of establishing a mandatory car verification program in every state while establishing local standards,” says Alanís Ortega. He declares that labor, education, culture, crime, and the economy feature far more prominently on Mexico’s public agenda than environmental issues. CEMDA notes that the preservation of natural resources, quality of life, and public health go hand in hand. “By increasing the use of renewable energies, the annual mortality rate linked to poor air quality would dramatically decrease. The overlapping of social and environmental issues should also concern lawmakers. An existing phenomenon known as ‘environmental migration’ has recently received attention, as it has grown in scope. Environmental migrants are people who have moved because they can no longer remain in their original place of residence due to droughts, heat, hurricanes, floods, among other environmental contingencies. Today, more than ever, vulnerability should be taken into account but it is not happening.”