On Friday, Mexico announced that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2030 and peak its emissions by 2026. It registered these commitments, among others, with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, making it the first developing country to formally submit its post-2020 emissions reduction goals.
Mexico’s announcement follows climate commitments from several other major economies. In October 2014, the European Union announced that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent or more below 1990 levels by 2030. In November 2014, China announced that it would peak CO2 emissions around 2030 and increase its use of renewable energy to account for 20 percent of energy consumption by the same year. The United States simultaneously announced that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
There is a common but misguided line of reasoning that the U.S. shouldn’t regulate carbon pollution because it would be ineffectual against a backdrop of unabated emissions from other countries. A variant of this argument recently emerged, for example, in reactions to the joint U.S.-China announcement. In submitting robust emissions reduction targets, Mexico provides further evidence that there is genuine participation from both developed countries and emerging economies in the effort to transition to a low-carbon world economy. Greenhouse gas emissions from China, the United States, the European Union, and Mexico — four of the ten largest emitters — account for almost half of emissions globally (see figure below).
Mexico’s submission also serves as a model while other countries prepare their own post-2020 emissions reduction commitments in advance of December 2015, when the parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meet in Paris to strike a new multilateral climate accord. The submission is clear — it quantitatively defines its business-as-usual baseline, to take an example — and at least some of its commitments, such as the 22 percent reduction and the 2026 peak, are not conditioned on the actions of other countries. It also elaborates on the policies that will make it possible to achieve its commitments.