This post was written by Lord Nicholas Stern, president of the British Academy, and Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico and a WRI Board member. It originally appeared on Project Syndicate.
This Friday, in its latest comprehensive assessment of the evidence on global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will show that the world’s climate scientists are more certain than ever that human activity – largely combustion of fossil fuels – is causing temperatures and sea levels to rise.
In recent years, a series of extreme weather events – including Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, floods in China, and droughts in the American Midwest, Russia, and many developing countries – have caused immense damage. Last week, Mexico experienced simultaneous hurricanes in the Pacific and in the Gulf of Mexico that devastated towns and cities in their path. Climate change will be a major driver of such events, and we risk much worse.
This puts a new debate center stage: how to reconcile increased action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with strong economic growth.
Mexico City launched its first Bus Rapid Transit Corridor along Avenida Insurgentes, one of the longest avenues in the world. Eighty low-pollution buses will carry 250,000 passengers per day, replacing 350 dirty and dangerous buses. The Corridor is the centerpiece of an ambitious plan by Mexico City and WRI’s EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transportation to implement a clean transportation system in one of the world’s most polluted cities. The new bus system reduces CO2 emissions by 35,000 tons annually. New partnerships with Istanbul and Porto Alegre are also under way.
International climate action took an encouraging step forward today. President Obama reached agreements with the G-20 and with China to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases used in appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners.
The world's cities are about to get a lot busier. Today, more than 50 percent of the global population lives in cities; by 2050, that figure will have risen to 75 percent.
This mass migration to cities could result in crowded streets rife with air pollution, traffic accidents and congestion. Or it could see a boom in clean, compact urban centres with safe, healthy communities. The way the world's cities operate in the future will be shaped by how they are designed and developed now.
WRI’s New Ventures project identifies, mentors, and provides small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to investment. New Ventures operates in five of the world’s most vibrant emerging economies – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Mexico – where current business and development trends will impact the entire world. In 2007, New Ventures Mexico launched an independent institution – Centro de Negocios Sustentables. With a $400,000 grant from Mexico’s Ministry of Economics, the Center, the first of its kind in Mexico, provides sustainable SMEs with a wide range of services from business acceleration and incubation to market access through the Green Pages. Since its founding, New Ventures has provided comprehensive support to over 150 entrepreneurs and facilitated $38 million in investments for sustainable companies.
Mexico currently ranks twelfth in the world in terms of GHG emissions. Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits, the country is committed to fighting global warming. Mexico’s new climate change strategy proposes a graduated process that begins with GHG accounting and reporting, progresses to energy sector GHG caps, and culminates in a national cap-and-trade system linked to international GHG markets. WRI provided the GHG Protocol accounting tools that undergird the policy and provided technical consultation to the Mexican government. WRI also helped launch a Mexican industry-led voluntary GHG accounting program in 2004. WRI is working with partner organizations to replicate the model in Brazil, China, India, and the Philippines.
In March 2009, Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara, unveiled a new bus
rapid transit (BRT) system. The 27-station, 16-km system services 130,000
passengers per day and feeds into light rail and other bus services, with fully
integrated fares. The project has reduced travel time by 30 percent and is
expected to cut the city’s (CO2) emissions by 36,000 metric tons per year,
equivalent to removing about 7,000 cars from the roads.
“It’s the first phase of an ambitious plan to transform the entire transit system in
this city of four million,” says EMBARQ’s Adriana Lobo. EMBARQ – The
World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport – and its allied
Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico conceived the project, delivered
financing, and helped restructure the entire feeder bus system. “EMBARQ,”
explains Lobo, “in effect, served as an extension of city staff to lead the design
and implementation of the project.”
By working with cities around the world to improve their transportation,
EMBARQ seeks to make cities clean, livable, and prosperous. Since 2002, the
EMBARQ Network has expanded into seven countries and employs more than
60 experts in fields ranging from urban planning to air quality management, and
from geography and sociology to civil and transport engineering.
Embarq’s Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico (CTS-Mexico) has played a leading role in the implementation of the federal government’s Public Transportation Federal Support Program (PROTRAM).
On the heels of successful sustainable transport implementation in several key Mexican cities, the federal government’s creation of PROTRAM in 2009 signaled an important shift toward strong institutional support for nationwide sustainable mobility. PROTRAM offers grants to subnational governments for up to 50% of the infrastructure cost of public transportation projects. As the first program that provides federal funding for urban public transit, PROTRAM is a critical component of the mainstreaming and replication of sustainable transit systems across Mexico.
CTS-Mexico has served as the government’s main advisor in implementing PROTRAM effectively and improving the quality of its projects. The Secretary of the Treasury and Public Credit appointed CTS-Mexico to evaluate the technical and financial feasibility of public transportation projects seeking funding from PROTRAM. In this role, CTS-Mexico developed project evaluation guidelines that allow for rapid analysis of each project, and is responsible for continuous high-quality operational and financial reviews. CTS-Mexico is uniquely positioned to reconcile competing interests and offer objective, forthright advice.
CTS-Mexico has reviewed a total of 21 projects and positively influenced the design quality of eight projects now in the investment phase -— in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Chihuahua, Mexicali, Tijuana, Culiacán, Monterrey, and Veracruz. One of these projects, the second line of Guadalajara’s BRT, has been funded by PROTRAM and is now under construction. The other seven projects are confirmed in PROTRAM’s financing pipeline and are moving forward toward implementation. By providing project evaluation guidelines and assistance, CTS-Mexico has not only improved the efficacy of each project proposal submitted, but also strengthened PROTRAM’s institutional capacity to provide funds in the future.
Specifically, INFONAVIT connected CTS-México to the mid-sized city of Aguascalientes to transform a new low-income housing development, encompassing 10,000 houses for 40,000 people. CTS-México recommended solutions for mixed land use, public transportation, green spaces, and walking and bicycling.
In March 2010, the municipal government revised its development plans to include about 70 percent of CTS-México’s recommendations. The new design is expected to increase the neighborhood’s demand for public transportation, biking and walking. And the level of social interaction is expected to quadruple through the addition of four community centers and a 1.5-kilometer pedestrian-cyclist road. Dense development connected to mass transit can help reduce carbon emissions and lower urban infrastructure costs.
The redesigned development plan is estimated to reduce traffic speeds by 34% and also increase the demand for public transport by 30% to 60%, bike trips by 4% to 50%, walking trips by 24% to 40%, and green space by 5% to 30%.
Legislation by national governments to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential to achieving a low-carbon economy and improved public health worldwide.
In 2012, Mexico took the historic step of enacting a comprehensive climate change law. The groundbreaking legislation commits Mexico to cut its GHG emissions by half by 2050 and prominently features sustainable transport initiatives.
EMBARQ Mexico played a major role in shaping the law, proposing measures for mass transit, fuel efficiency, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and restrictions on high-polluting vehicles—all of which the government included.
Setting a Precedent for Global Climate Action
When a government signals its seriousness about combating climate change by passing legislation, it promotes the country’s transition towards a competitive, sustainable, and low-carbon economy. It provides a precedent for other countries to follow suit, and gives a boost to the U.N. international climate negotiations.
Mexico’s groundbreaking law makes it one of the first countries to adopt ambitious and comprehensive legislation on climate change. Enacted by President Felipe Calderón, the General Law of Climate Change seeks to guarantee citizens’ right to a healthy environment. The law will unlock substantial federal funds for low-carbon development and will prompt new regulations to mitigate GHG emissions.
In a major departure from the international climate negotiations, the bill’s measures for reaching the 2050 emissions goal include transforming transportation systems and infrastructure. Mexico’s president worked across party lines at the federal, state, and city levels to win agreement on the policies needed to meet the bill’s ambitious targets.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
EMBARQ Mexico was designated as the transport expert to review the draft bill when it went before Mexico’s Senate and make specific policy recommendations.
We proposed key sustainable transport measures that were included in the final law, including the development of sustainable mass transport systems and improved infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. The bill also includes our recommendations to develop new fuel-efficiency standards for light and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as regulations restricting imports of high-polluting vehicles.
EMBARQ’s prominent role in the legislation stemmed from our work in helping Mexican cities to introduce sustainable transport systems, as well as our national policy research demonstrating the importance of sustainable transport as a climate-mitigation strategy.