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Public Participation Essential for a Sustainable City

Tanya Müller - Environment for the Federal District


Wed, 02/19/2014 - 16:21

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Q: What are the priorities for Mexico City’s Environment Ministry during the current administration?

A: We have determined five priority areas on which we will focus for the next five years. The first two go together: air quality and climate change. Our air quality target during this administration is to reduce ozone by 25%, as well as reducing PM2.5 and PM10. The third is biking infrastructure or sustainable mobility. The fourth is green urban infrastructure, which covers the benefits that green infrastructure can provide. The fifth line of action is water management.

Q: What are the main challenges that come with implementing sustainability policies in a metropolitan area the size of Federal District?

A: One of the greatest challenges we face is ensuring much more sustainable and cleaner mobility in Mexico City but we have come a long way since the 1980s, when pollution and air quality were the city’s biggest problems. There is much more consciousness about the environment today. Right now, our greatest challenge is the increasing number of vehicles in the metropolitan area and the accompanying high levels of fuel consumption and emissions. Our challenge is getting people who drive their own cars to switch to cleaner methods of transportation: either public transportation or cycling.

Q: What lessons has Mexico City learned from overcoming some of its environmental challenges, and how can that serve as an example to other cities?

A: The main lesson we have learned is regarding how the budget is invested, which provides lessons especially for Latin American cities and other metropolitan areas of Mexico. We see that, contrary to what is happening in Mexico City, air pollution is getting worse in other Mexican cities. One of the great lessons from Mexico City is the importance of investing in public transportation. If there is a safe and secure transport system, there will be much better mobility and air quality. As for green buildings, if they want to be competitive, they have to be certified, which is something that the market is pushing cities toward.

Q: How have you convinced the public to implement sustainable practices in their daily lives?

A: Mexico City has set an example, in terms of encouraging public participation in sustainability. Our public bike system, Ecobici, has received a very positive response. One of the elements that has the biggest impact on quality of life is the time it takes to commute. We have seen an increase of 40% in the use of bikes in the last couple of years. Ecobici saw an increase of 50% in its total users in 2013. I really think there is a predisposition among inhabitants to change their transportation habits, as long as they can do so efficiently and safely.

Q: How is the Mexico City government pushing for more stringent construction regulations that would lead to on-site energy generation and water recycling in new buildings?

A: Our regulations have become much more stringent and norms are being changed to reflect this. Every new building or construction now has to have mitigation and compensation actions. We are switching from a voluntary mitigation program to an obligatory one. The private sector has reacted quite well to these changes so far. Obviously they have to make a bigger investment, but they are aware that in order to be competitive their buildings have to be greener, as clients are increasingly looking for sustainable buildings.

Q: What potential is there to use the Bordo Poniente landfill for waste to energy conversion?

A: The plan is that by 2015 we will be able to use methane from Bordo Poniente for energy production, and that by 2018 it will provide close to 75% of the energy requirements for public buildings and public lighting. In the meantime, we are considering using wind power to provide the remaining 25%. We are analyzing our options for how to best start using wind energy and will announce the project officially in late 2014.

Q: How are you combining the environmental and economic priorities of the government of Mexico City?

A: We cannot have a greener, better city, without public policies that are focused on sustainability. We are planning important investments in public transportation in the next few years. For example, we will extend the rapid bus transit system, RTP, by a further 100km from its current 105km. For Mexico City to be competitive, sustainable growth and economic development must go hand in hand.

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