Gustavo Ampugnani
Campaign Director
View from the Top

Long Mission to Change Government Policies

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 16:37

Q: How serious is the commitment of the Mexican government to decreasing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels?

A: Mexico needs to change the way it is looking at the sector. The authorities know the oil and gas sector very well and are continuing to invest in it. At the same time, the government’s public discourse could lead one to believe that Mexico truly cares about fighting climate change. But if you contrast this discourse with the facts about where investment in the energy sector is being allocated, it becomes nothing but hot air. We are not seeing a real shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Q: What steps could President Peña Nieto take to boost the renewable energy sector?

A: First of all, he should take advantage of all the potential Mexico has to increase energy efficiency across different sectors. This includes finding solutions for pumping water in the agricultural sector and reducing CO2 emissions in the transportation sector, as the latter will soon be the main cause of CO2 emissions. Boosting public transportation systems like the Metrobus is the way to go. After having maximized that potential, President Peña Nieto should start replacing the coal share in the energy mix. This is a small part of the energy mix, with only two coal power stations accounting for 7% of Mexico’s power generation capacity, which could easily be replaced by renewable energy sources. He should also replace the share of nuclear energy with solar and wind.

Q: What is Greenpeace’s strategy to get its message across and promote sustainability among the key stakeholders in Mexico’s energy future?

A: Many people believe that the way Mexico is producing energy right now is fine because it is cheap. Our core audience is the general public, who are not currently aware of the advantages of renewables and how much potential using them could unlock. Most of our work seeks to creatie awareness among the general public that Mexico has the potential to produce energy much more efficiently than it does today, but needs investment to do so. We also have more detailed strategies for communicating technical reports to the authorities, such as SENER and CFE. If the authorities do not facilitate investment in renewable energy, there will never be a shift in generation.

Q: How do you justify investments in renewable energy being made by the government in a country that also needs to tackle poverty, education and security?

A: Shifting investment to the right areas allows you to target problems like education and poverty. Betting on renewables leads to an increase in the number of green jobs. This process also entails identifying which technologies and sources of energy should be relied on. Following on from that, investment is needed in infrastructure. We need engineers and technicians, which means that we have to improve technical career options within universities.

We have to challenge the idea that Mexico is just a poor country. Mexico is currently investing in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to obtain more oil. That oil is not being used to solve energy problems; it is being exported to the US to bring in revenue. That revenue is not being used to create jobs or feed the poor in rural areas.

Q: How does Greenpeace ensure that any potential plans it presents to the government also factor in the loss of revenue your recommended actions might lead to?

A: This is a matter of concern for us. We believe that if we shift the subsidies to foster the needed infrastructure for renewable energy sources, the numbers must make sense. Of course, Mexico cannot abandon its oil policy from one day to the next. We have to look closely and evaluate how and where we can best invest some of the revenues from the oil and gas sector. If we do not change the way Mexico generates its income, public finances will never be able to change the country’s energy mix.

Greenpeace does not have the capacity to present an entire reform for the whole of the Mexican government. We are not experts on financial issues. We are very clear with the authorities regarding that. Confronting the government does not mean that I am obliged to provide a solution. The government is paid to do that. We show them where they can improve, but officials have to come up with the solutions.