As the planet turns away from fossil fuels and weens itself off emissions-heavy energy sources, one nation is rushing back into coal arms against the present and right. As he seeks to make good on his campaign trail pledge to create a level of energy hegemony for his country, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has bucked all conventions. The increasingly urgent aim of preventing disastrous climate change is to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and curb the extraction and combustion of dirty fuels, especially coal.
In order to prevent the temperatures of the planet from rising higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages, the threshold set by science to stave off the most worst consequences of climate change, we will need to reduce oil consumption by 37 percent and gas usage by 25 percent to cut out oil entirely by 2030. Simply put, for the survival of our planet, this decade will make all the difference.
This is why it is especially worrying that caution and a decent amount of carbon dioxide have been tossed into the wind by a massive economic and manufacturing power like Mexico and doubled its anachronistic commitment to ramping up the coal industry at the very moment when other nations are seeking to phase out the particularly dirty fossil fuel.
“Instead of thinking of a transition from coal and fossil fuels, he’s thinking of using more coal and petroleum,” Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, director of climate change organization Iniciativa Climática de México, was quoted by the Guardian. “No other G20 country has such abnormal or retrograde energy policies as this government,” he added. “It’s not going to advance us toward our climate goals.”
The populist Mexican president has publicized his plans to purchase almost 2 million tons of thermal coal from small producers around the country. Making matters even more concerning, at the same time that López Obrador is bringing coal plants back online, he’s also downsizing clean energy initiatives.
These moves are just the latest part of a years-long campaign led by López Obrador to restore Mexico’s energy autonomy. Although his predecessor Enrique Peña Nieto enshrined certain energy overhauls into the constitution, such as allowing foreign investment in Mexican oil and welcoming competition with Mexican state-run oil and gas company Pemex for the first time in nearly a century, López Obrador has quietly found quasi-legal ways of pushing those players out.