During the last quarter of 2008 Mexico advanced a remarkable movement on climate protection, achieving some objectives much past its more affluent neighbors to the north. Through a remarkable collaboration involving NGOs, museums, state governments, private foundations, and national government agencies (Mexico’s meteorological service and national institute for astrophysics, electronics and optics and the US’s NOAA and NASA), Mexico has begun to construct the world’s first national interactive climate awareness and response system. The brainchild of Luis Roberto (Ro) Acosta, the Director of the Climate Institute’s Mexico and Latin America Program, this effort has leveraged the national pride and excitement in soon having the world’s highest altitude greenhouse monitoring station to create a network linking the nearly operational climate observatory, museums in Cancun and Mexico City, an observatory education and outreach centre in Flor del Bosque State Park in Puebla, a similar one to be built in Cuernavaca, capital of the State of Morelos, and the Climate Institute environmental demonstration center in the northern part of Mexico City. This network will at the outset have at least four climate theaters with NOAA Science On a Sphere or similar programs, as well as computer terminals connecting visitors to images and data from the Sir Crispin Tickell High Altitude Climate Observatory and other greenhouse monitoring stations, allowing them to access climate scenario data.
The first portion of the interactive climate awareness and response system started to solidify on October 1, 2008 when Governor Mario Marín Torres, Sir Crispin Tickell, Ro Acosta and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Francisco Castillo Montemayor unveiled plans to the public and media; later that day a dedication was held in Flor del Bosque State Park at the largely completed outreach center designed by national prize winning architect, Enrique Murillo. NOAA’s Science On a Sphere has been installed and the outreach centre is expected to be fully operational in February 2009. In early December 2008 a second portion of this system became visible: a climate theater and outreach centre in a room of the Pelopidas Museum in Cancun. Made possible by the generosity of the museum’s benefactor, Spanish entrepreneur Juan Poch, the climate theater is expected to be fully operational by February 2009 and also to serve as the hub for Climate Institute programs in the State of Quintana Roo. On October 1, 2008 representatives of four state governments (Puebla, Morelos, Tlaxcala and Hidalgo), leaders of state industry associations in Puebla and Mexico, and the director of Mexico City’s Museum of Natural History and Federal Senator Ludivina Menchaca of Quintana Roo all gathered for an open air luncheon at Flor del Bosque to hear about plans for the Interactive system. This has moved with remarkable rapidity with both the Mexico City Museum of Natural History and the State of Morelos signing contracts in December 2008 with the Climate Institute to create climate theaters and outreach centers. Construction is anticipated in spring 2009. Somewhat before that, construction is slated to be carried out on the Tickell High Altitude Observatory. Made possible by the generosity of Fondacion Pedro y Elena Hernandez with instruments provided by NOAA and NASA, this project in Pico de Orizaba National Park has required extensive environmental impact approvals.
The Interactive Climate Awareness and Outreach System rapidly taking shape has spurred much broader action in Mexico with Governments in six Mexican states in Central and Southern Mexico and Mexico City as well as industry associations in two states with about a quarter of Mexico’s industry working to develop climate response plans that may link to this evolving interactive network.
Just as the Interactive Climate Network has developed traction at the state and federal district level from elected officials of each of Mexico’s major parties (PRI, PAN and PRD) as well as the Green Party, Mexico’s national government made a dramatic announcement December 11, 2008 at the Poznan Conference vaulting Mexico into the lead in climate protection among developing countries. Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira and Vice Minister Fernando Tudela announced that Mexico will commit to reduce its greenhouse emissions 50% below 2002 levels by 2050 if it receives technological and financial support from developed countries. In February 2009 President Felipe Calderon is expected to announce details of this plan. The plan will likely include large-scale expansion of natural gas cogeneration, installation of 2500 megawatts of wind generation, and a sizable expansion of solar water heaters in the residential and hotel sectors.
Politics in Mexico can be very contentious but remarkably a broad political consensus for action has made it possible for the Calderon Administration to act decisively despite concerns expressed by its PAN party business constituency. This center right government has in some ways gone past even the aggressive climate protection positions of the incoming US Obama Administration. The incoming US Administration is committed to 80% reductions below current levels by 2050- a sweeping change from the position of the Bush Administration. Yet as the US’s per capita emissions are about 3 ½ times those of Mexico, the Mexican commitments can be viewed as even more ambitious than those of the incoming US Administration. With a National Interactive Climate Awareness and Response System likely to be in place by mid-2009, Mexico may be even better positioned than the US to build the broad public support needed to translate Presidential vision to real change.