Edgar Villaseñor Franco
Executive Director

Local Strategies for Global Issues

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 13:04

In the fight against climate change, non-governmental actors have the distinct advantage of being able to work across national boundaries to address matters that affect the entire globe. Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) is an international non-profit organization made up of governments from various levels around the world. Having achieved official UN Observer status, ICLEI represents the collective vow of its more than 1,400 members to work together on sustainable development. Its chapters, such as the Latin American & Caribbean division, help local governments through projects supported by international mechanisms. For example, ICLEI has fought for the improvement of financial mechanisms such as green funds,” says ICLEI Mexico’s Executive Director, Edgar Villaseñor Franco. “But such initiatives are undermined by legislations that impede local governments from accessing resources.” Villaseñor Franco states that the NGO participates in modifying technical and legal tools that could benefit municipalities in adopting sustainable policies. In Mexico, ICLEI analyzed Mexico’s General Climate Change Law and worked alongside the Congress of the Union to review the 2013 federal budget and ensure the proper use of the country’s green fund. “We want to present financial, technological, and economic alternatives to municipalities. We want to join academic, public, and private efforts to improve public policies regarding sustainable development, governance, renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, water use and sustainable transportation,” explains Villaseñor Franco.

One of ICLEI’s major projects is the Municipal Climate Action Plan (PACMUN), a program financed by the British government to help local governments in Mexico limit the effects of greenhouse emissions and adapt to climate change. This initiative complements the General Climate Change Law, which encouraged the involvement of municipal governments but did not define specific strategies for them to act. “This is where ICLEI came in,” says Villaseñor Franco. “We are currently working with over 65 municipalities to raise awareness about their susceptibility to climate change and the impact certain industries have on the environment. These communities can then introduce mitigation measures with immediate environmental, economic, and social benefits.” Villaseñor Franco highlights the growing commitment of Mexican civil society to sustainable development, which he says is crucial to transforming political will into action. However, this does not distract him from the fact that Mexico is facing several challenges that need to be addressed. “First, more political will is needed among local authorities, and ICLEI is working to rapidly create awareness about environmental issues before irreparable changes take place due to climate change. Second, the political terms of local authorities are short at just three years, which affects how governments prioritize issues. This often sees environmental issues placed at the bottom of the agenda. Furthermore, the legal and judicial frameworks should be modified to facilitate the way local governments work,” he states. “Current regulations are so complex that even if a local government has the will and resources to use renewable energy, a project can usually not be implemented within a three-year term. It is also imperative to improve tax collection at the municipality level to finance environmental policies and actions,” he explains.