Vanessa Pérez-Cirera
Director of the Climate Change and Energy Program
View from the Top

Leading the Private Sector on the Path to Sustainability

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 10:16

Q: What is WWF’s approach in creating an inclusive agenda that all Mexicans can identify with?

A: Our emphasis is on two aspects: water, and climate change and energy. The latter was launched in 2010 and it is comprised of four lines of business. One focuses on renewable energies, as WWF is a strong believer that these can be a solution for developing economies as part of an energy security agenda. Mexico can show other developing countries how to upscale in the use of renewable energies. Another priority is climate change policy, where we have been working on an economic analysis behind policy planning and the role renewable energies play in climate change. Finally, we focus on ecosystem adaptation, which is an important division since Mexico is responsible for 1.5% of global emissions. In terms of adaptation, it is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world due to its topography and coastal areas. We are trying to implement nature-based adaptations, while leaving aside adaptations involving physical infrastructure that create more problems than solutions.

Engagement with the private sector also plays an important part in our agenda. We work with companies on two fronts, a policy agenda for renewable energies and cost-competitive mitigation opportunities. In a recent study, we arrived at the conclusion that 40 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved by 2020. In terms of economic benefits, we estimate this could be equivalent to 8% of Mexico’s GDP growth over the past decade.

Q: Do you think the Energy Reform fully considered all the ways in which Mexico could potentially reduce emissions?

A: The focus of the Energy Reform was on competitiveness and market opportunities, so the topic of sustainability did not play a prominent part in its early stages. However, certain interesting instruments, such as CELs, are encouraging sustainable practices. The Law of the Energy Transition complements the Law of the Electricity Industry by strengthening the framework and fostering the development and implementation of renewable energies. Nevertheless, clean energies still require a more accurate definition. At the moment, the Law of the Electricity Industry uses ambiguous definitions that include natural gas. While gas might be an important part of a diversified energy matrix, it is not necessarily a clean energy. It is important that externalities are recognized, such as the impact on health, ecosystems, and CO2 emissions. This is the only way a fair playing field can be established for all energy sources to compete in.

Q: With which industries do you most commonly work in your business engagement strategy?

A: Our business engagement strategy involves working with decision-makers in energy-intensive industries. We help companies achieve the best standards and we help them engage with the players in their value chains in order to promote change. It is easier for companies in energyintensive industries to instill change in their own sectors. It is important to suggest cost-competitive solutions that present the right goals for these players’ concerns. 

Our international Climate Savers program is made up of an exclusive group of 35 companies that have the most efficient benchmarks in their respective industries. These companies are large international players and we believe they can incentivize change across their supply chains. In the first few years, companies focus on reducing emissions derived from electricity consumption. Later, the company works with its supply chain to implement green practices, and finally, we engage with companies to achieve changes in policy.

Q: In what ways do WWF’s objectives converge with or differ from those of the government?

A: This administration has made a specific effort to promote renewable energies and its ambitious goals are a reflection of that. The second important factor is the purchasing of energy, where long-term contracts are crucial for the renewable energy industry. These contracts must be longterm because the most attractive incentive a company can give to someone buying power from renewables is consistent prices. The third point is transmission infrastructure. If a company wishes to develop a renewables project, it must have interconnection to the grid. Contrastingly, natural gas concessions are allocated and the private sector can then construct the pipelines. Infrastructure is crucial for the growth of the renewable industry and demands high investments and a significant investment of time.