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Updated Jun 5, 2024, 12:04pm EDT
North America
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Semafor Signals

Mexico’s new president inherits López Obrador’s troubled climate legacy

Insights from Wilson Center, Khora Institute Mexico, and World Politics Review


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Claudia Sheinbaum
REUTERS/Raquel Cunha
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The News

Mexico’s new President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum is the country’s first female and Jewish leader, but she is also the first former climate scientist to take charge of the country.

It is too early to tell to what extent her academic background will guide the country’s energy and climate policy during Sheinbaum’s presidency, but experts agree that she is inheriting an oil-dependent state that has slowed progress toward its renewable energy goals under her predecessor and mentor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Sheinbaum has been left with oil debt and a lack of resources for green transition

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Source:  
Wilson Center

The economic and financial hurdles Sheinbaum has been left to deal with will complicate any ambitions to expand renewable energy and green tech production. With more than $100 billion in debt, Mexico’s state oil company Pemex “won’t be able to address Mexico’s needs for cleaner and renewable energies” because oil production is the only feasible way to escape that debt, Wilson Center researcher Diego Marroquín Bitar told Semafor. And though Mexico’s proximity to the United States could make it ideal as a green tech production hub for the continent, more foreign investment is funneled to countries like Brazil because “Mexico does not have the energy to secure these investments,” Marroquín Bitar said. Domestically, Mexicans frequently experience blackouts, and there is not enough spare energy for semiconductor or EV production.


MORENA’s corruption allegations could shape Sheinbaum’s opportunities

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Sources:  
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review, World Politics Review, Wilson Center, Khora Institute México

Sheinbaum’s climate research focused on expanding Mexico’s indigenous community’s role in the green transition. But whether that background will inform her administration is unclear, experts said. Of particular concern is the Yucatán Peninsula’s Tren Maya: López Obrador’s signature rail infrastructure project that saw him restrict journalists and NGOs from investigating the archaeological and ecological impact of construction. Sheinbaum now has a “really good opportunity” to do differently, since she is not rushing to finish construction, said the Wilson Center’s Marroquín Bitar. But the project is drowning in corruption allegations, linked to both López Obrador and his MORENA party, and it will be “very hard for Sheinbaum to distance herself” from these scandals, Mariana Miguélez, director of the Khora Institute México, told Semafor.

Isolationism and Washington could challenge Sheinbaum

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Sources:  
Khora Institute México, New York Times, Reuters

Outgoing President López Obrador shunned private investment into mining precious materials such as lithium, a key component of electric vehicles, creating “confusion” in the industry and deferring Chinese investments, Reuters reported. Sheinbaum has indicated she will continue favoring state-owned companies, a move that could significantly slow down the country’s clean energy transition as it is strapped for cash. The United States is also using southern gas export terminals in Mexico as a means to export to Asia, increasing global emissions, the New York Times reported. Whether Mexico moves towards a more climate-friendly energy policy will depend on the US’s own transition and its willingness to work together after the US’ own election in November, Miguélez, director of the Khora Institute México, told Semafor.

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