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Mexico releases 'ambitious' renewable energy targets to fight climate change

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard hold a press conference at the COP27 climate conference in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard hold a press conference at the COP27 climate conference in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

Mexico announced Monday that it plans to dramatically increase the amount of power it generates from renewable sources of energy, deploying more than 30 additional gigawatts of annual electricity generation from wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower by 2030.

The new clean energy targets were made public at a news conference at the United Nations climate change conference, known as COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. By the end of the decade, Mexico aims to generate more than 40 gigawatts of power from wind and solar alone.

As of 2019, Mexico had 80 gigawatts of installed electricity generation capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The majority of that comes from natural gas, while renewables account for 10% and hydropower 7%, so the new target would represent a major shift toward a largely renewable energy portfolio if the country succeeds in meeting its new target.

John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate change, joined Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard at Monday’s news conference.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry speaks at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry speaks at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

"Secretary Kerry indicated his support for Mexico’s new renewable goal, and the United States intends to work closely with Mexico to achieve these ambitious goals, including through U.S. efforts to mobilize financial support and joint efforts to catalyze and incentivize investments into new Mexican renewable energy deployment and transmission," the U.S. Embassy in Mexico reported.

Mexico is the 13th-largest global emitter of greenhouse gases. It is one of the few countries that updated its plan to reduce emissions at COP27, pledging to reduce emissions by 35% from business-as-usual levels by 2030. The renewable energy targets are intended to help it meet that goal. Mexico also said it plans to double its spending on clean energy by 2030, protect more of its forests, increase electric vehicle usage and cut down on methane emissions from its oil and gas drilling sectors.

"This is a huge, significant shift from where Mexico was last year in Glasgow," Kerry told reporters on Saturday, in response to Mexico’s new emissions reduction promise and in reference to the last climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. Kerry added that he had negotiated extensively with his Mexican counterparts and said Mexico has "extraordinary availability of sun, extraordinary availability of wind power."

Earlier on Monday the U.S. and China achieved a diplomatic breakthrough when President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to restart stalled climate change negotiations.

The sun sets behind the sign showing the logo of the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort.
The sun sets behind the sign showing the logo of the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

Kerry has been working to persuade large developing countries to take new actions to decarbonize their economies and offering assistance to do so. Last week, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union countries committed to jointly mobilizing $8.5 billion to finance South Africa's deployment of electric vehicles and clean energy and a new low-carbon source of energy called 'green hydrogen.'" On Monday, Indonesia announced the planned retirement of a coal-fired power plant with assistance from the Asian Development Bank, and it is expected to announce on Tuesday a similar plan to South Africa’s.

Still, COP27 is not expected to produce significant changes in the global emissions trajectory, as the biggest emitters, such as the United States and China, have not lowered their planned emissions in this decade. But on Monday, in what climate change activists consider a sign of potential progress, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the two countries will put aside their differences over tense issues such as the fate of Taiwan and try to work together on climate change.