Mexico in COP26: Paradoxes of a developing economy in the climate emergency

Raúl Zepeda Gil – PhD Candidate, Defence Studies Department, King’s College London. Member of the Environmental Security Research Group.

Undoubtedly, international negotiations highlight the constant contradiction between foreign policy compromises and internal policy. This trend is even more evident by not archiving the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) to greenhouse gas emission in the Paris Accord framework towards the COP26 in Glasgow. Mexico assists COP26 with a plan that paradoxically makes this contradiction more evident for Mexico but plays into the global politics of reprehension between developing and developed countries. The message from the Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs of the Mexican Government, Martha Delgado, in a meeting with the King’s College London Mexican Society last November 1st before COP26, shows this paradox.

As is widely known, the 2015 Paris Accord created the NDCs to balance in good faith manner that countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions following their national capacities, their contribution to the CO2 emissions, either historical or current: Common but Differentiated Responsibilities. This balance allowed developing but high CO2 emitter countries such as India, Indonesia, Brazil, or South Africa to the table. The second balance of the 2015 Paris Accord was to have a green fund to accelerate the energy transition in developing countries. Effectively, developing countries are not the ones who contributed historically more. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has insisted in their reports that the NDCs of the developed world would not be enough to stop the increase of global temperature to more than 2° Celsius that will cause absolute catastrophe to the planet (1). The developing world that also has significant industrial emissions must participate.

However, like India, South Africa, Australia or Brazil, Martha Delgado’s position holds the same pattern of contempt to the developing countries on how these demand action to developing nations: rules must be clear, finance abundant for transition, and establish more transparent rules according to the number of emissions of CO2 each country contributes. In her presentation, the Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs of Mexico argued that the fundamental achievement of COP26 would be finishing the “Paris rulebook” that would make operational the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities for NDCs. Indeed, it is fundamental that standard rules for accountability in the Paris Accord enforce the common compromise to reduce emissions. Nevertheless, insisting on this without more responsibility towards the climate crisis reinforced the “blame game” that almost derailed the Paris Accord in 2015 when most countries waited for India to compromise. Concerning evidence that supports both sides of the argument is the recent revelation by the Washington Post about how countries presented biased or flawed data to the IPCC on their emissions for the NDCs reports (2). If governments distrust each other in this matter, the invectives for “cheating” on the NDCs reports become the rule.

The other continuous argument from the Mexican position undersecretary Delgado is on the finance of energy transition. Effectively, the amount in the Green Climate Fund established in the 2009 Copenhagen Accords has not been enough to foster the clean energy transition for developing countries. However, there is a fair balance to finance: many developing countries can acquire low-risk debt to finance infrastructure projects to foster the energy transition. For example, to update electric grids for more efficient materials and connect them to new sources of energy as nuclear, solar, wind or even natural gas. Some countries require more proportional financial assistance to transition to clean energies. However, countries within the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), under the same principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, should recognise their national financial capacities instead to pose their relative difference to the rest of the developed countries to justify not updating NDCs. This urgency is even more evident after the IPCC Sixth Assessment was clear that the scenarios for CO2 reduction under 2°C were even narrower than the last assessment (3).

Finally, the last position by the Mexican Government for Glasgow COP16 is on put into function the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) for reporting CO2 emissions to the IPCC and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat. The beforementioned report by the Washington Post makes evident the urgency to put the EFT into action. However, during the meeting with the Mexican Society in KCL, Martha Delgado mentioned that Mexico will not increase their NDCs, and complained that the United States government was pressuring Mexico to raise them after they pulled out of Paris Accord in 2016. Paradoxically, in the other part of the meeting, she mentioned that Mexico could not compromise more on the NDCs because they were not sure if they could compromise future administrations to follow through. In this scenario, no country could in good faith enforce the ETF if each government argues internal politics (the US, Mexico, or Australia) to avoid global responsibilities in a worldwide human threatening crisis.

Furthermore, these positions are part of the discourse of developing but high CO2 high emitter countries that since 2015 has backed down from the NDCs or openly challenged them. For example, Australia by presenting an entire energy program that does not aim to replace oil as an energy source, Brazil for not reinstitute the Amazonia’s protection rules with the help of indigenous communities, and in the case of Mexico by its current attempts to dismantle market rules for clean energy and reinforcing the local consumption of fuel oil and coal for electricity. In an even more paradoxical turning point, India changed its longstanding position and updated its NDCs in COP26 to reach net-zero emissions by 2070. The once standing leader of the developing countries denouncing developed countries on their emissions has taken a step forward while Mexico and others go in the opposite direction.

Recently, Climate Transparency reported that Mexico was not on track to accomplish with their NDCs for a 1.5° C goal (4). Mexico has increased more than 3.4% of greenhouse gas emissions since 2013, while the average of the G20 (that includes the developed industrialised economies) saw a reduction of -0.17%. Two trends worried the observers of Climate Transparency: the dismantling of renewal energy power capacity, with no plans to increase its investment towards 2027, and the loss 73 thousand of hectares of tree cover under the program “Sembrando Vida”. As in other areas of multilateral discussion Mexico historically engages, the Foreign Secretariat overpromises as a “good doer” country while national politics go in the opposite direction. This tendency also happens in all areas possible: human rights, gun regulation, migration, or the rule of law.

Even so, Mexico is one of the countries of the G20 which will suffer most from the effects of climate change: increasing and deathly droughts that will cause shortages in food production, and even famines; dangerous flooding and more deadly hurricanes for the coastal zones, and with it increasing internal forced displacement of the poorest communities. Even one could argue that Mexico could focus more on climate resilience, but the recent dismantling of FONDEN (the Disaster Prevention and Recovery revolving fund). All signs show that Mexico is not on the moral high ground to complain about their neighbours and other developing countries, and even if the rhetoric of developing countries enforces Mexico demands for COP26, the final beneficiary, poor communities in Mexico will suffer the most from these incongruences that foster distrust in the international community that is already ravaging without control with the “West” conflict against China.

1. Nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. Synthesis report by the secretariat, FCCC/PA/CMA/2021/8,

2. Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, Desmond Butler, John Muyskens, Anu Narayanswamy and Naema Ahmed “Countries’ climate pledges built on flawed data, Post investigation finds”, The Washigton Post, 7/11/2021

3. IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [MassonDelmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

4. Climate Transparency Report 2021, Mexico,

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