Environment Takes Center Stage in Mexico Ahead of Major Conferences in November and December

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With some important environmental conferences scheduled in Mexico in November and December, the Chamber of Deputies moved to restore funding for anti-pollution and conservation programs that had been cut in early stages of deliberations for the 2011 expenditures budget (Presupuesto de Egresos). The proposed reductions had prompted strong protests from environmental advocates and some legislators, who had warned that the cuts would send a very bad signal to the global community as Mexico prepared to host the latest round of talks on global climate change in December and the World Mayors Summit on Climate (WMSC) in late November. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) offered direct and symbolic support to Mexico in early November by providing a loan of US$400 million for the government to devote to regulatory initiatives to address climate change

Congress restores funds for climate-change measures in 2011 budget

The Congress engaged in the usual tug of war regarding funds during deliberations on the 2011 expenditures budget, but the proposal to reduce funding for expenditures for certain environmental programs, including air-quality monitoring stations and other anti-pollution measures, raised protests from legislators on environment committees and from environmental organizations. Under the proposal in the budget committee (Comision de Presupuesto), the funding allocated for these programs would have been cut to about 700 million pesos (US$56.5 million) in the 2011 budget compared with 1.35 billion pesos (US$109 million) in 2010.

"The cuts angered members of the environment committee (Comision de Medio Ambiente), who warned that the Chamber of Deputies would be sending a very bad signal just weeks before the start of the climate-change summit in Cancun," said the Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma.

Deputy Cesar Daniel Gonzalez Madruga, who chairs the special committee on climate change (Comision Especial sobre Cambio Climatico), urged the Congress, and especially the budget committee, to heed the warnings from environmental organizations about global warming and its effect on Mexico.

In a press conference in Mexico City, Gonzalez Madruga told members of the budget committee that the desire to allocate funding for initiatives dealing with climate change cuts across party lines.

Some representatives of important environmental organizations were also at the press conference. Sandra Guzman, an attorney for the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), urged legislators to support programs that promote energy efficiency across all economic and social sectors.

Guzman also urged legislators to make a greater commitment to restoring Mexico's forest resources. "There should be greater investments in sustainable forestry," said the CEMDA attorney.

Jorge Villarreal, representing Fundacion Heinrich Boll, said the Congress could make a huge difference in the effort to address the impact of climate change in Mexico by ensuring adequate funding for key programs. "Some 70% of Mexicans find themselves at risk because of climate change," said Villarreal, referring to such factors as drought, flooding, rising sea levels, and other effects of global warming. "That's why we require more funding."

After grueling deliberations, the budget committee increased the environmental budget. The full Chamber of Deputies approved an expenditures budget of 3.44 trillion pesos (US$278 billion), of which 51.3 billion (US$4.1 billion) will be devoted to the Secretarfa del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT). Deputies had some room to maneuver because the revenues budget they approved in October was about 60 billion pesos (US$4.8 billion) higher than the amount President Felipe Calderon originally proposed in September SourceMex, Nov. 17, 2010.

Inter-American Development Bank approves loan ahead of Cancun summit

Other funds for environmental protection will come from the IDB, which in early November announced that it had awarded a loan of US$400 million to Mexico to devote to programs to address the impact of global climate change. …