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López Obrador Meets with US Climate Envoy John Kerry

By Cas Biekmann | Wed, 10/20/2021 - 15:05

President Andres Manuel López Obrador met with John Kerry, climate adviser to US President Joe Biden on Monday, ahead of the COP26 climate conference that will take place in Scotland. During the meeting, which took place in Chiapas, they discussed Mexico’s energy transition and bilateral business opportunities.

Kerry did not directly discuss López Obrador’s proposal to reform the energy sector in a manner that would give the state and its utility significant power compared to private companies. AP News suggested the adviser was cautious not to mention the Mexican president’s inclination toward fossil fuels, either.

The two leaders discussed climate goals, after which the Mexican president stated he would support the US’ push for climate action. “We are going to support the plan President Biden is promoting… President Biden has an ally in advocating for climate policy to confront climate change,” said López Obrador.

According to Kerry, Mexico’s industry could stand to gain from a transition away from using fossil fuels. “Mexico's industrial base, already deeply integrated with the rest of North America, absolutely stands to benefit from the energy transition,” he said while visiting a reforestation project near the border with Guatemala. Kerry believed that Mexico’s automotive industry could benefit greatly from the growing electric vehicles by becoming a hub for their manufacturing processes: “When we switch from gasoline to electrified vehicles, there are going to be a lot of good-paying jobs here in Mexico because of the connection already of the automobile industry and our two countries.” Since the ratification of the USMCA-agreement, the automotive industry’s massive cross-border potential has only increased.

Climate action analysts have deemed Mexico’s climate goals, which include a milestone of 35 percent clean energy by 2024, as “insufficient”. The reform proposal has been particularly derided by environmental watchdogs such as Greenpeace, who believe that it would only increase Mexico’s emissions. Nevertheless, the government continues to put in the work to undo the status quo established after the 2014 Energy Reform, pointing toward what it sees as malpractices in the legacy market consisting of pre-reform schemes as a major motivator to put the power back in the state’s hands.

Ministry of Energy SENER claims it will surpass its climate goals despite the criticism, touting a hydroelectric power revamp and the tree planting program as bulwarks of Mexico’s transition. Kerry praised the latter efforts: “Whenever I talk about the challenge of the climate crisis, yes, I talk about energy and energy choices," he said, adding that “I always talk about nature-based solutions.”

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst