Cablegate: Calderon's Environmental Agenda: Policy and Promises

DE RUEHME #0152/01 0151710
R 151709Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Calderon's Environmental Agenda: Policy and Promises



1. (U) SUMMARY: President Calderon's environmental agenda,
released with the 2007-2012 National Development Plan, is organized
around an ambitious principle of environmental sustainability. The
agenda aims to promote efficient and rational use of natural
resources, a competitive economy, and job generation without
endangering the environmental heritage of future generations. To
date, however, Calderon has yet to implement the basic tools
necessary to execute and enforce these environmental goals. End

2. (U) Calderon sees himself as an outspoken champion of climate
change. His leadership in international negotiations and domestic
policy on this issue are widely acknowledged both in Mexico and
abroad. However, his administration has struggled to address the
broader environmental agenda, which includes water use,
biodiversity, sustainable forest management, wildlife management,
hazardous waste, scientific research and environmental education.
Most critically, Calderon's environmental strategy has fallen short
on policy and program implementation. His environmental agencies
have failed to develop the expertise and financing necessary to
enforce environmental law and achieve his long-term objectives.



3. (U) In January 2008, President Calderon appointed Patricio
Patron Laviada as head of the Environmental Attorney's Office
(PROFEPA). A member of Calderon's National Action Party (PAN),
Patron Laviada's tenure as governor of Yucatan has been criticized
for a lack of expertise and for placing economic interests above
environmental protection. Last August, the Mexican press held him
responsible for allowing the illegal construction of an exclusive
hotel in a mangrove on an environmentally fragile Caribbean island.
Patron's defenders point out that after his PROFEPA appointment, he
closed hotels constructed in protected areas in the state of
Quintana Roo and halted illegal beach recovery projects in Cancun.
However, many have interpreted Patron's actions more as political
revenge against Quintana Roo's governor, who supported the
opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), than
environmental stewardship.

4. (U) As a result of this controversy and other environmental
issues, academics, congressmen and NGOs have called for improved
environmental enforcement at every level of government. Some
environmentalists have advocated that PROFEPA should abandon its
traditionally administrative role to become an autonomous
independent organization with real judicial independence.
Left-wing congressmen recently proposed that the environmental
attorney become an elected post, rather than a presidential

Environmental Costs vs. Environmental Expenditure

--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (U) According to the National Institute of Statistics and
Geography (INEGI), environmental costs of economic activities such
as mining, transportation, agriculture and livestock from 2003 to
2006 averaged 8.8 percent of GDP, equivalent to USD 69 billion. In
contrast, during the same period, the federal and local governments
spent an average of only USD 4.5 billion on environmental

MEXICO 00000152 002 OF 004

protection, equivalent to 0.6 percent of GDP. In 2009, the federal
budget allotted USD 1.015 billion for environmental conservation,
52 percent of which was allocated to water supply and sanitation
through the National Water Commission (CONAGUA). The remaining 48
percent funded the rest of the programs and agencies within the
Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).

6. (U) To reduce environmental costs, Calderon will have to
provide economic disincentives to environmentally harmful
practices, such as those employed by illegal developers, and
decrease wasteful subsidies. Persistent gasoline subsidies have
encouraged fossil fuel consumption and discouraged development of
efficient public transportation. Artificially low water prices
have discouraged efficient use of water for agriculture, human
consumption, and industrial use.

Natural Protected Areas


7. (U) Natural protected areas in Mexico remain vulnerable due to
lack of funding, coordination, and support. For example, Mexico
enjoyed a notable increase in newly-designated protected areas
during the previous and current administrations, many of which were
decreed under international recognition categories, such as Ramsar
(Convention on Wetlands of International Importance) and World
Heritage sites. However, many of these protected areas lack
funding for long-term management and upkeep. SEMARNAT's Commission
of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) manages 173 natural areas
totaling over 60 million acres. The fact that only a small
percentage of these areas have designated staff and equipment has
never been formally addressed by CONANP's director.

8. (U) Lack of coordination among government programs and
enforcement mechanisms has also stymied Calderon's sustainability
goals for natural areas and wildlife. For example, responsibility
for endangered species has been split between CONANP's Action
Program for Species Conservation and SEMARNAT's Priority Species
Program. The result is long-standing confusion about which agency
is responsible for key decisions. The negative impact of this
confusion is well-illustrated by the case of the Mexican wolf.
This endangered species has long been ready for a controlled
reintroduction, but an ongoing conflict between the agencies about
the most optimal release site has delayed the program indefinitely.

9. (U) The fate of natural protected areas in Mexico is
intertwined with the status of Mexico's poor indigenous
communities, which are often owners of vast natural resources.
Expert technical support and cultural understanding is necessary to
effectively enforce environmental regulations in indigenous areas.
In the past, the GOM has simply paid communities to stop exploiting
their forests and marine resources. However, without proper
re-training or education, the members of these communities were
unable to find alternative sources of income. Government handouts
were quickly spent, and communities returned to their previous
harmful methods of fishing and logging. Unlike former Environment
Secretary Julia Carabias (1994-2000), who was successful in
implementing environmental programs by merging academic efforts and
public policy, the Calderon administration has not tapped the
necessary expertise to implement policies tailored to the complex
needs of poor indigenous communities.

10. (U) At the request of CONANP, the US Agency for International
Development (USAID) supports efforts to diversify sources of income
for populations living within protected areas and to help generate
incentives for ecosystem protection. USAID also assists with the
preparation of a pilot project on Reduced Emissions from
Deforestation and Degradation that is anticipated to become a new
mechanism for payment for environmental services. In addition, in

MEXICO 00000152 003 OF 004

response to a request from CONANP, USAID is supporting the
strengthening of the existing legal framework for management of
protected areas, including assistance in developing official norms
regulating mining and tourism activities within these zones.

Loss of Mexican forests


11. (U) Over the past fifteen years, Mexico has developed some
successful policies that support conservation, ecotourism, and the
sustainable use of forests. Nonetheless, deforestation continues
to have a devastating effect upon the country's landscape. Mexico
has lost 27 percent of its original vegetation, and one-third of
the remaining vegetation is in recovery after initial

12. (U) One of President Calderon's most visible efforts to combat
deforestation is the creation of the ProArbol (ProTree) program.
The primary mission of the program is to plant more trees in
Mexico. However, while the United Nations credits Calderon with
planting 250 million trees in 2007, Greenpeace reports that only
ten percent of those trees survived. Experts have called for a
change in the way that ProArbol's success is measured: from simply
counting the number of individually planted trees to measuring the
square footage of robustly restored forests. The former head of
the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) in charge of ProArbol
resigned last March in the face of strong criticism. The new
director, Manuel Rojo, announced revised rules for 2010, which will
favor forest conservation and restoration. He will be forced to
work with a reduced budget of USD 25.5 million in 2010 due to
lawmakers' skepticism regarding ProArbol's results.

13. (U) Mexico's forests have tremendous economic potential.
However, Mexico's production of timber goods fell significantly
from 9.4 million to 6.5 million cubic meters in 2005, and has not
recovered. Mexico's growing domestic demand for timber goods is
increasingly met with imports, contributing to a widening
commercial deficit (estimated at USD 5.8 billion in 2008). Key
obstacles to a more competitive forestry sector include red tape,
massive subsidies that make agricultural activities more profitable
than forestry (and which therefore indirectly encourage land use
change), a large illegal timber products market, and a lack of
infrastructure and financing for sustainable forestry activities.
At CONAFOR's request, USAID is developing a set of recommendations
to improve existing public policies and programs that aim to
stimulate production from sustainably managed forests.

14. (U) COMMENT: Calderon has achieved some limited victories on
his environmental agenda. He has enforced Mexico's participation
in major international agreements, including the Convention for
Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention
for Climate Change, the Montreal Protocol, and the Convention for
International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). He has also
pioneered a groundbreaking program that gives landowners
flexibility in determining their own land conservation plans.
However, his administration has suffered more setbacks than
successes. For example, Ricardo Medina of the NGO Unidos para la
Conservaci????n cites the hasty decentralization of game permits,
undertaken with little regard to training or environmental impact,
as one of Calderon's greatest environmental failures.
Inconsistencies in regulations and criteria among different
agencies and, in many cases, among different divisions in one
ministry, are also widely regarded as persistent stumbling blocks
in this Administration.

15. (U) The challenges to Calderon's vision of a sustainable
nation will extend beyond the daunting task of squeezing funding
out of Mexico's strapped budget. It will also require effective
management of programs, strict enforcement, collaboration and

MEXICO 00000152 004 OF 004

extensive training. Despite the best efforts of USAID and others,
Mexico's environmental sustainability will ultimately be dependent
upon political will and the ability to recognize the economic value
of its natural resources, the value of environmental services and
the costs of environmental deterioration and degradation. With his
presidency half over and his PAN party severely weakened after
congressional elections last July, for Calderon this may be a goal
more aspirational than achievable. END COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UNFCCC: Simon Stiell Appointed New Executive Secretary
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Simon Stiell as the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat based in Bonn, Germany...

Binoy Kampmark: Europe Dries Up
Scenes and pictures have been circulating of broken earth, lacking moisture, cracked and yearning. But these are not from traditional drought-stricken parts of the planet, where the animal carcass assumes near totemic power... More>>

UN: Bachelet Alarmed By Number Of Palestinian Children Killed In Latest Escalation

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet today expressed alarm at the high number of Palestinians, including children, killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory this year, including in intense hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last weekend... More>>

Afghanistan: One Year On From Regime Change And Children Face An Unimaginable A Crisis
On the one-year anniversary of regime change in Afghanistan, a new World Vision report highlights the grave risk the country’s children face from starvation, forced child marriage, and child labour... More>>

Somalia: ‘We Cannot Wait For Famine To Be Declared; We Must Act Now’
Rising acute food insecurity in Somalia has caused more than 900,000 people to flee their homes in search of humanitarian assistance since January last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned... More>>

UN: American West Faces Water And Power Shortages Due To Climate Crisis
Two of the largest reservoirs in the United States are at dangerously low levels due to the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, which could affect water and electricity supply for millions in six western states and Mexico, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned on Tuesday... More>>