U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Climate John Kerry. Photo: Google

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

When Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) received U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Climate John Kerry in the southern state of Chiapas on Monday, Oct. 18, López Obrador was hoping that it was a sign that President Joe Biden was going to give the go-ahead for the United States to finance his ambitious Sembrando Vida tree-planting scheme.

But much to AMLO’s chagrin, Kerry, while tactful congratulating the Mexican head of state for his reforestation initiative, had an entirely different agenda, and it had nothing to do with tree-planting.

(Kerry diplomatically omitted any reference to the Sembrando Vida program’s dismal record of encouraging farmers to chop forests to plant new seedlings that in more than half of the cases die within the first six months.)

From the very onset of the one-day visit to the ancient Maya ruins of Palenque, Kerry made it clear that energy — clean energy — was the main issue he wanted to discuss, and that Biden was none to happy about AMLO’s proposed electricity reform, which would not only violate existing contracts with foreign energy suppliers, but would also plunge Mexico into a pro-carbon energy system that would prioritize dirty sources over clean.

Although AMLO would later try to spin the facts to make it look like Kerry was impressed with his controversial (and possibly unconstitutional) energy plan, the former U.S. secretary of state told López Obrador flatly that wind and solar energy were the only way to go.

“Taking action in all sectors of the economy and moving to a zero-emissions economy offers opportunities and is the best for our lives,” Kerry said bluntly.

“I firmly believe that the United States, Mexico and the world must act together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade if we hope to limit global warming, and in so doing, stave off the worst impacts of climate change. As one of the world’s 20 largest economies, Mexico has a critical role to play.”

Kerry went on to add that a transition away from carbon-based fuels represented a “bigger change than the industrial revolution.”

Reiterating Kerry’s message, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar chimed in by saying that Kerry’s “leadership on the world stage and pioneering work on climate change will help chart a plan where the United States and Mexico can tackle the challenge through actions that create jobs and conserves our planet for future generations.”

Did Kerry’s message fall on deaf ears?

Probably.

But even if AMLO is still pigheadedly insisting on going ahead with his doomsday energy reform — despite the fact that it will set Mexico back at least half a century in terms of environmental conservation and economic growth, not to mention spurring an onslaught of both national and international lawsuits (which the Mexican government will undoubtedly lose) and possibly endangering the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — he certainly understood that Washington is not going to bankroll his pie-in-the-sky ideas to plant trees across Mexico and Central America, and, more importantly, that Biden doesn’t take orders from him.

 

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