Editor’s Note: The original version of this post, published on March 31, 2015, stated: “… if Mexico achieves its goal, its 2030 emissions will be 614 megatonnes (Mt) of greenhouse gases without international support, or 504 Mt with support.” These figures were based on an earlier version of Mexico’s INDC, which listed Mexico’s 2030 baseline as 787 Mt CO2-equivalent. A subsequent version of the INDC lists the baseline as 973 Mt CO2-equivalent. As a result, this post has been updated on June 5, 2015 to read “… if Mexico achieves its goal, its 2030 emissions will be 759 megatonnes (Mt) of greenhouse gases without international support, or 623 Mt with support.”

In 2012, Mexico became the first developing country to pass comprehensive climate change legislation. Last week, it built on its tradition of leadership by becoming the first developing country to release its post-2020 climate action plan, or “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC).

Mexico’s INDC commits the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 22 percent and its black carbon (soot) by 51 percent by 2030, relative to business-as-usual levels. Its goal—combined with the INDCs of other countries around the world—will help form the basis of the new international climate agreement to be finalized at the climate summit in Paris later this year. Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of its INDC.

What Does the INDC Say About Mitigation and Adaptation?

Mexico will peak its greenhouse gas emissions in 2026 to achieve its 22 percent reduction target, with a long-term goal of halving emissions by 2050 relative to 2000 levels. With international support, Mexico says it could reduce its GHG emissions by 36 percent and black carbon by 70 percent by 2030.

Mexico is also the first country to include a comprehensive adaptation component in its INDC. It highlights three goals: reduce by 50 percent the number of towns considered “most vulnerable” to climate impacts, while also preventing new cities from entering this category; cut deforestation rates to zero by 2030; and protect strategic infrastructure while improving systems like agriculture and the economy.

What Is Notable About Mexico’s Pledge?

Mexico’s INDC stands out for several reasons because it:

  • Offers GHG reductions not conditional on international support. Mexico’s 22 percent reduction target is not conditional on international support like climate finance from developed nations. This is in contrast to Mexico’s pledge in Copenhagen and Cancun to reduce emissions 30 percent by 2020, contingent on international support.

  • States its emissions peak year. Science tells us that global emissions must peak by 2020 and phase out in the long term in order to limit warming to 2°C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. And it’s generally considered fair and equitable for developed countries to peak their emissions earlier than 2020 and developing countries to peak somewhat later. Limiting warming to 2°C also depends on the actions of other major emitters, but it is encouraging that Mexico took the step of identifying a peak year.

  • Includes black carbon. Black carbon is a short-lived climate pollutant. Reducing black carbon offers a range of benefits for the climate and human health.

  • Includes adaptation. The adaptation component shifts the national adaptation strategy from one of disaster response to one of prevention. It addresses gender and human rights concerns, and also recognizes the importance of cooperation with the private sector and financial actors like insurance markets.

How Transparent Is Mexico’s Pledge?

Transparency in INDCs is imperative to understand how pledges will affect global emissions, to promote trust and accountability between countries and to track progress. Consistent with the Lima Call for Climate Action, WRI’s Open Book initiative provides a set of indicators for evaluating INDC transparency. According to this framework, Mexico has done well by:

  • Quantifying its baseline for reducing emissions. This information enables us to conclude that if Mexico achieves its goal, its 2030 emissions will be 759 megatonnes (Mt) of greenhouse gases without international support, or 623 Mt with support.

  • Translating the target into a peak year and a GHG intensity reduction. While Mexico’s primary pledge is relative to a business as usual trajectory, including information on the peak year and GHG intensity enhances understanding of how its goal will be achieved, and how it compares with other countries’ targets.

  • Clarifying what can be achieved with and without international support. This fosters accountability – to ensure that Mexico delivers on its unilateral pledge and that the international community delivers support.

  • Separating the GHG reduction goal from the black carbon goal. Due to tremendous uncertainty and regional variation around the global warming potential of black carbon, researchers have questioned whether it is appropriate to use a single metric to track greenhouse gas and black carbon reductions. It’s helpful that Mexico disaggregated its goals – though the aggregated 25 percent goal, which it has also provided, should be interpreted with caution.

  • Providing information on why its contribution is fair and ambitious. Mexico provides data on its per capita emissions (5.9 tons) to justify why its plan is fair compared to that of other countries, though it does not compare those emissions to the global average. Mexico also states that its plan is ambitious because it will generate synergies between mitigation and adaptation activities.

What Can Be Improved?

Despite these strengths, Mexico could also improve upon its transparency by:

  • Further clarifying the baseline. In the past, Mexico has changed the baseline associated with its 2020 pledge, which contributes to uncertainty about future emissions and makes it difficult to track progress. Mexico should clarify whether the baseline associated with its 2030 goal will be allowed to change, and if so, under what circumstances. Additionally, Mexico should clarify the projection method and key assumptions used to develop the baseline scenario.

  • Clarifying the level at which emissions will peak. Global temperature ultimately depends on cumulative emissions. While we commend Mexico for specifying its peak year, clarifying the level at which it expects its emissions to peak would provide even greater clarity on Mexico’s cumulative emissions over the coming 15 years.

  • Detailing what support will be needed to achieve the conditional goal. As a developing country, it is reasonable for Mexico to expect a degree of international support to achieve the deepest possible emissions reductions. Absent further information on how much and what kind of support is needed, however, it will be impossible to tell whether Mexico can meet its conditional mitigation and adaptation goals. Developed countries, in turn will need to respond to those finance needs.

  • Explaining the relationship of the INDC to the 2020 pledge. At previous climate summits in Copenhagen and Cancun, Mexico pledged to reduce its emissions 30 percent from business as usual by 2020. It is unclear how this compares to its new pledge of 22 percent from business as usual for 2030. Mexico should clarify the baseline for its 2020 goal.

Mexico already wins the title of the first developing country to submit its INDC. It can truly secure its role as a climate leader by strengthening its transparency between now and the climate summit in Paris.