Juan Carlos Belausteguigoitia
Council on Climate Change
View from the Top

Keeping Climate Change Actions Moving Forward

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 10:56

Q: How does the Council on Climate Change contribute to effective policy making at the federal government level?

A: It is important for authorities to be in regular contact with experts and become acquainted with their point of view. Through the Council on Climate Change, they can access two areas: expertise of those who sit on the Council and experts in industry, NGOs and academia. The Council derives its legitimacy from its accumulated experience and knowledge, and we try to ensure that all voices are well represented.

The government believes that climate change represents both a challenge and an opportunity that has to be taken seriously. Developing the climate change strategy was a big challenge because it had to be created in a short period of time. The next challenge will be the Emerging Climate Change Program (PECC). We have to make sure all sectors are on board and that the objectives are reached off the backs of solid analytical support. Climate action plans and initiatives tend to be statements of intent rather than elaborate and precise plans. The challenge is to make sure the climate action plan is a real plan. We rely on a talent pool that possesses the technical and analytical resources to advise and encourage ministries to pay more attention to climate change by producing documents, facilitating discussions, and bringing in the latest scientific and technological news, methodologies and knowledge.

Q: How can the PECC become a scientifically, economically, and socially founded policy?

A: First, we need to involve all stakeholders as well as the parties involved in the latest technological developments. We need valuable people, economists and lawyers who know the sector and who can devise a list of actions that can be later discussed with stakeholders. It is a very difficult mix of attributes; we need the right people, the right skills, the will to listen, the right mechanisms, and a timeline.

In 2015, there will be a set of international negotiations on goals that will help countries focus and consolidate their action plans. We know that promises do not necessarily translate into actions, but accountability pushes commitments to become feasible. 

Q: What would you like to see included in the PECC?

A: From a mitigation perspective, I would like to see ambitious, even aggressive, actions to take advantage of all the win-win opportunities offered by energy efficiency. A couple of important steps can be taken, such as fixing the right energy prices. Fortunately, it seems like things are converging from financial, fiscal, environmental, and social standpoints. On the adaptation side, I would like to see a strong analytical effort to describe and understand Mexico’s risks and vulnerabilities. I would like to see a process of institutional strengthening so that municipalities and states become more capable of addressing climate change and extreme meteorological events.

Q: What are the challenges in internalizing all the externalities in the sector?

A: From the mitigation point of view, it is about providing certainty that the sectors responsible for producing emissions internalize the cost they bring upon the global community. A carbon tax or a cap-and-trade mechanisms would be the best ways to do this. This is the most costeffective way to internalize climate change. If you asked me how sectors can adapt to climate change, I would mention insurance companies. Mexico has to develop this line but funding is crucial. FONDEN, the national disaster fund, now provides support in the wake of natural catastrophes. I would push for the creation of another fund that helps communities adapt and prevent the most extreme impacts of severe meteorological events.

Q: What types of incentives could influence these sectors to adapt quickly and become more efficient?

A: There is a straightforward incentive: conditions are changing and these sectors will be affected if they do not change as well. PEMEX has a climate action plan with an adaptation section where the company looks for vulnerabilities across all its sites. They want to reduce potential risks and damage to their facilities. PEMEX is financing reforestation programs in Chiapas and making sure that deforestation does not reach drastic levels. What happens in Chiapas affects Tabasco, where PEMEX has many facilities. If PEMEX does not mitigate deforestation in Chiapas, its facilities will invariably be affected at some point.