(1) Introduction In contrast with the preceding year, 2016 was marked by subtler activity in the legislative field, but more actions were taken to address climate change and biodiversity agendas. Among the most important were an increase in the area occupied by monarch butterflies (February); announcements related to the Vaquita porpoise depletion numbers (May); approval of the Paris Agreement by Congress and ratification by the president of Mexico (September); the declaration of four new national natural protected areas (NPAs) (December); and the Convention of Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties (COP) (December). Other matters of interest include the suspension of Congress debates on a new water legal framework (March) and the publication of new air quality standards for megacities (June–August). (2) Legislation In January, the new Hydrocarbons Crime Law (Ley Federal para Prevenir y Sancionar Delitos Cometidos en Materia de Hidrocarburos) was published. The new law is aimed at preventing and prosecuting gasoline theft in pipelines and road transportation. Events in the past years have led to ecological catastrophes. As a result, Article 20 of the new Hydrocarbons Crime Law raise sanctions by 50 percent when the crime causes damages to natural resources, flora, fauna, ecosystems, water quality, or soil contamination. Harsh penalties include a twenty-five-year prison sentence, excluding aggravating circumstances such as environmental damage. (3) Climate Change Following the treaty approval process in Mexico, the Senate passed the Paris Agreement on 14 September 2016, leaving the door open for ratification by the Mexican president. The instrument ratifying the Paris Agreement was deposited by the minister of the environment and natural resources, Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, on 21 September, during the seventy-first UN General Assembly. Upon ratification, one of the first tasks is to implement actions in order to meet with the nationally determined contributions to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG). Reaffirming its commitment to comply with the Paris Agreement, Mexico outlined its strategy to reach a 50 percent GHG reduction towards 2050—taking 2000 as the baseline year—at COP-22 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech in November. Also, Mexico underscored its commitment to reach a 25 percent reduction of both GHG and short-lived climate pollutants by 2030 as well as a 51 percent reduction of black carbon emissions. In November and December, Mexico City held the sixth biennial C40 Mayors Summit. Representing over 650 million people, the C40 is a network of ninety of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. During the meeting, the mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, and Athens announced that diesel vehicles would be banned from their streets by 2025. C40 also announced that it was joining the BreathLife campaign, along with the World Health Organization and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, to halve 6.5 million deaths related to air pollution by 2030. (4) Biodiversity (A) Species In February, the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas) reported that monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) almost tripled the area occupied during their Mexican wintering sites. The commission reported an increase of 255 percent with respect to the areas reported in December 2014. Monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico migrate up to 4,200 kilometres from Canada and the United States to set up their colonies in the temperate fir and pine forests along the boundary between Michoacán and the state of Mexico. Despite these promising numbers for monarch conservation efforts, the species suffered a loss of nearly 7.4 percent of their population (about 6.2 million butterflies) in March when an unprecedented winter storm hit the El Rosario sanctuary in the state of Michoacán. In May, the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita) (CIRVA) reported during its seventh meeting that the extinction of the vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) is ‘imminent.’ According to the CIRVA report, results showed about sixty vaquitas left after an emergency two-year gillnet ban was issued by the Mexican government. According to an acoustic monitoring program implemented by CIRVA, results show an average annual decline of 34 percent between 2011 and 2015, prior to the emergency gillnet ban. The report indicates that there is a 98 percent probability that the vaquita has decreased at an annual rate of 20 percent. CIRVA recommended that the Mexican government ‘immediately implement and enforce a permanent ban on all gillnets in the vaquita distribution region. The report also considered ex situ conservation but, recognizing that this involves a level of risk to individuals, agreed unanimously that capturing all remaining individuals is not a feasible conservation strategy. (B) Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB) COP-13 in Cancun Mexico held COP-13 to the CBD on 4–17 December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico. During COP-13, the parties agreed on actions to integrate biodiversity in forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism sectors and to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Also, the parties agreed on specific actions regarding protected areas, ecosystem restoration, marine biodiversity, biodiversity and health, synthetic biology, traditional knowledge as well as on strengthening capacity development and the mobilization of financial resources. Future work by signatories will be focused on translating the COP-13 declaration into legislation, policies, and actions to meet commitments on areas of capacity building, pollinators, natural protected areas, restoration, biologically significant marine areas, and climate change geo-engineering, among others. Also, a number of special events in the margins of COP-13 took place, including Mexico’s declaration of four new natural protected areas; the Cancun Business and Biodiversity Pledge, which calls attention to the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for businesses; the Múuch’tambal Declaration, which mainstreams the contribution of traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable use of biodiversity; and the position paper of the Youth Forum, which includes recommendations to addresses biodiversity challenges. (C) NPAs In the margins of the Biodiversity COP in Cancun, the government of Mexico declared four NPAs in December: (1) the Baja California Pacific Islands (Islas del Pacífico de la Península de Baja California), consisting of the seawaters west to the Baja California peninsula (about 1.2 million hectares); (2) the Pacific Mexican Deep Waters (Pacífico Mexicano Profundo), consisting of a maritime strip that is 800 metres in depth running in the Pacific waters west to the states of Chiapas and Nayarit and surrounding the Revillagigedo Islands; (3) the Mexican Caribbean (Caribe Mexicano), consisting of seawaters in front of the state of Quintana Roo (about 5.7 million hectares); and (4) the NPA Tamaulipas Sierra (ANP Sierra de Tamaulipas) with about 305 hectares. Mexican government announcements totalled 65 million hectares of new protected areas. Also, as part of the national effort to protect areas from oil and gas exploration, the Mexican government banned hydrocarbons exploration in the following buffer zones in December: the coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean; the Yucatán Platform and the Caribbean along the coasts of Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and north of Campeche; the Baja California peninsula (the Sea of Cortés and the Pacific coast); the Lacandon Forest Buffer Zone (Zona de Salvaguarda Región Sierra Lacandona), and, finally, 142 mangrove sites listed in the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (8.6 million hectares). In contrast with NPA declarations, the Mexican ombudsman issued a recommendation to the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) and the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas) to develop and implement management plans for seventy-five NPAs, representing 42 percent of the protected areas in Mexico. Required by law, management plans are policy instruments for NPAs that foster their sustainable use. The absence of such plans leave NPAs vulnerable to threats from infrastructure and commercial and tourism projects. (5) Natural Resources and Environmental Protection (A) Environmental Impact Assessment A highly controversial tourism development project approved approximately eight years ago was subject to public controversy in early 2016. The tourism development known as Tajamar, located in the Cancun tourism development coast, began the removal of nearly fifty hectares of mangrove in January. The developer, the National Fund for Tourism (Fondo Nacional de Turismo), is a federal entity charged with promoting tourism development projects. The project faced a lawsuit against the development of this mangrove area and was suspended by the Second District Court in Quintana Roo in February until a firm sentence is issued on the case. In April 2016, SEMARNAT denied the environmental impact authorization applied by a submarine mining project to be located in the Gulf of Ulloa in the state of Baja California. This region has been recognized for its high biological productivity since 42 percent of the state’s fisheries take place in the Gulf of Ulloa. Scientists and environmental organizations have requested that SEMARNAT guide its decision using the precautionary principle since submarine mining is considered a new technology in which the impacts are not yet well understood. Construction of the new international airport for Mexico City is underway. Despite the approval of the project in 2014, a freedom of information request was filed in December before the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data (Instituto Nacional de Transparencia, Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos Personales). The federal institute ordered SEMARNAT to make publicly available the environmental impact statement and all of the associated restoration and mitigation programs that were put in place as a result of the environmental impact assessment authorization such as the GHG monitoring program, hazardous waste management, and water management plans, among others. (B) Natural Resources (i) Water Legislative activity was underway in early 2015 to publish a new General Water Law (Ley General de Aguas); however, given the lack of consensus and strong opposition from environmental organizations, discussion of the law was suspended in March. When approved, the General Water Law will replace the existing National Waters Law (Ley de Aguas Nacionales). However, during 2016, several citizen law initiatives emerged as alternatives to the government bill, and it is unclear when discussions will resume at the Mexican Congress. (ii) Air quality This was a very dynamic year in terms of air quality, fuel standards, vehicle emissions tests, and air pollution contingencies. It was the first time Mexico City has issued an air pollution contingency alert in eleven years. More alerts were issued in 2016 than have been issued since 1992. The Environmental Commission for the Megalopolis (Comisión Ambiental de la Megalopolis), which was formed by several local and federal authorities, issued the first alert in March, followed by another nine. Back in 2015, experts anticipated that a reform to the Hoy No Circula program (No-drive-day program) could place more motor vehicles in Mexico City streets and potentially cause more air emissions (see the 2015 edition of this Yearbook). While some measures to address this problem have been being prepared for some time, the air quality situation in Mexico City early in 2016 catalyzed several regulatory actions by federal and state actors. In June, SEMARNAT announced a new emergency vehicle emissions procedure applicable to the six cities forming the megalopolis: Mexico City, Hidalgo, State of Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala (Doc. NOM-EM-167). The emergency norm standardized vehicle emissions procedure tests in all six cities, incorporated new procedures to detect emissions in progressive and rapid acceleration, and addressed allegations of tampering in verification centres. In September 2016, SEMARNAT published Regulation NOM-041, a new vehicle emissions standard that incorporated dynamic testing for gasoline motor vehicles. In Mexico, transportation is responsible for 18 percent of GHGs, while automobiles release nearly 80 percent of nitrogen oxides and half of carbon monoxide emissions. The new regulation for maximum permissible levels of air emissions from gasoline-fuelled vehicles will face a significant challenge in its enforcement, as it may prove to be difficult to implement in most cities in Mexico. According to the renewed standard, verification centres have up to two years to implement the measures in their emissions testing, and cities operating the static test will have up to three years to fully implement dynamic testing described in the norm. This situation may leave car owners without accredited centres to certify their cars, and, thus, one slight adjustment in the norm allows for used Mexican vehicles to pass the test in the United States, which may relieve some pressure in border cities in northern Mexico. Finally, in August 2016, the Energy Regulatory Commission (Comisión Reguladora de Energía) published Regulation NOM-016, a new standard establishing stricter quality parameters for gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas, diesel, and turbosine, among others. Regulation NOM-016 banned the use of ethanol in gasoline sold in metropolitan areas since the former results in higher ozone concentrations. Air emissions control in Mexico City is an evolving situation, and it is likely that the result of policies implemented in 2016 will be reported in the years to come. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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