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As COP16 Nears Mexico Expands 'Green' Programs

November 23, 2010

MEXICO CITY, November 23, 2010 - With less than a week to go before Cancun's COP 16 climate summit, Mexico has taken new steps to cement its "green" leadership in the global fight against the effects of climate change. 

This week's approval of three World Bank "green" projects worth US$650 million strengthens the Bank's partnership with Mexico while supporting its strategy to pursue a low-carbon growth path, improve its energy efficiency and adapt to climate change challenges, experts point out.

The financing package includes: a $450 Development Policy Loan (DPL) to support Mexico's low-carbon growth strategy MEDEC, a US$250 loan to support efficient lighting and appliances in households and a US$4.5millon GEF grant to prop up adaptation to climate change in Mexico's coastal wetlands. Additionally, a US$ 50 million concessionary loan from the Clean Technology Fund and a US$ 7.12 million GEF grant will support energy efficiency efforts.

This new set of projects adds to the growing list of Mexico's climate change adaptation initiatives that include "clean" transportation –such as Mexico City's Metrobus- wind energy farms in southern Mexico, and innovative mechanisms to preserve forests through cash incentives –all of them projects that are being closely watched in the region as evidence that economic growth can be achieved without damage to the environment.

Experts say this shows Mexico can address essential development issues –such as combating poverty and providing basic services- while becoming a climate change leader by taking action against climate change in all relevant areas of the economy.

"Mexico has shown the international community that an emerging economy can address responsibly and proactively the climate change challenge, thus becoming a respected player in a global climate change agreement. Cancun's COP16 is a clear example of this," said World Bank Mexico Director Gloria Grandolini.

Mexico could reduce its green-house gas emissions by 40 percent in the next 30 years with no negative impact on its development or economic growth, according to the recently released low-carbon study MEDEC, which is in sync with the government's own calculations -as set out in its National Climate Change Plan.

"The country is setting a regional example by helping debunk the myth that growth is not compatible with sustainability," argued World Bank Sustainable Development expert Gustavo Saltiel. "It is showing us that progress can be made on both fronts at the same time," he added.

Eco-friendly initiatives abound and have people talking of a "green revolution" that is already having a positive impact on their daily lives.

From the air Mexicans breathe on Mexico's busy streets, to cheaper and less polluting lighting at home, actions to protect the environment are becoming apparent for most in Mexico.

"Without the Metrobus or the program to replace old appliances at home, or the various interventions to preserve our water and forests, we would be much worse off and it would be much more costly in the long run," said Adriana Cota, 26, who uses frequently the Metrobus system to get to her music classes at UNAM.

Cota is convinced the government is on the right track as far as protecting the environment, but feels that more needs to be done to cushion the impact of climate change.

Future steps include taking federal programs to the state and municipality levels where climate change challenges are more noticeable –such as the erosion of Mexico's coastal wetlands. Saltiel says the Bank is working on two pilot programs to expand federal initiatives in Michoacán and Yucatán where it is helping local governments design joint climate change strategies.

"The next big thing will be to replicate all these national programs in states and municipalities across Mexico to expand the climate change agenda," said Saltiel.

But as Mexico tries to "green up" potential roadblocks include high costs of climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as politics.

Mexico's leadership has enabled it to tap vast financial resources –especially from the $4.5 billion Clean Technology Fund-, but future costs to fund mitigation and adaptation to climate change are steep. By some estimates developing countries will need around US$19 billion annually to finance climate change needs in the coming years, which is a topic likely to dominate the agenda at the upcoming COP16 climate change summit in Cancún.