Sustainable Cities™

Mexico City: Successful environmental management

In a newly published Green City Index for Latin America, Mexico City is recognised for its efficient environmental management which, among other things, is based on the city's constant environmental surveillance, a broad environmental policy mandate and a high degree of public participation and engagement in environment-related issues.

The inhabitants are actively involved in the city's environmental initiative. Car-free-sunday is one of the initiatives. Photo: Maria Nørlyng Leal. Nov 2, 2010

Mexico City is not a place you usually associate with model environmental management, although since 1992, when the city was given the doubtful title of the most polluted city on the planet, initiatives to improve the Mexican capital's environmental health has come on the city's political agenda. The quality of Mexico City's environmental management is well above average compared to other cities in Latin America. In the early 1990s, a number of alarming pollution problems pushed the environment issue to the top of the public and political agenda and over the last two decades the city has made a tremendous effort to improve its environment record. The city's environment secretariat has been praised, among other things, for its proactive approach to environmental management.

The city's monitoring programme is also unique and works extremely well. The city has had the capacity to adopt its own environmental legislation. In 2007, the municipality of Mexico City implemented a green management initiative and drew up and published a 15-year cross disciplinary Green Plan (Plan Verde) to run until the year 2021. The plan, which has the backing of the World Bank and the United Nations, consists of 26 strategies and 113 special focus areas distributed on seven columns, e.g. public spaces, waste handling, land use, mobility and sanitation. All have the purpose of improving the city's sustainability. Some USD 1.2 million is being set aside every year for the project, the equivalent of 8% of the city's annual budget.

The environment administration is focusing, among other things, on getting polluting traffic out of the city. Through its Green Plan, Mexico City's environment politicians, led by the mayor, have introduced a number of initiatives focusing e.g. on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing traffic-related problems and preserving and cleaning the city's water resources. The initiatives enjoy broad backing, even though considerable investments will be necessary before Mexico City can expect to derive any benefit from the project. When the plan was last revised in mid-2009, three quarters of the focus areas had been initiated and 7% of them had already been concluded.

                                                    Buses, cars and trucks that are sources for air pollution are removed from the city center. Photo by Maria Nørlyng Leal, Nov. 18, 2010

'The size of Mexico City's population and its economic circumstances make the city a substantial contributor to the climate problem. However, it is at the same time an active player in the fight against climate change, the symbolic value of which should not be underestimated', Mexico City Environment Minister, Martha Delgado

Mexico City also wants to have a strong profile as regards the climate. The Mexico City Climate Action Programme was published in 2008 within the framework of the Green Plan and a series of municipal programmes. The action plan defines new initiatives as a supplement to already existing efforts. Simultaneously, 10 'actions' to address climate change were defined and presented in November 2010, while the city was hosting the World Mayors Summit on Climate Change. Finally, the city's mayor's chairmanship of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change (WMSC) is an expression of Mexico City's commitment to the climate debate.

Mexico City has chosen to lead with its environmental administration, even though planning is long-term, the initiatives and decisions are costly and results are not just around the corner. At the same time, Mexico City faces considerable challenges considering its large population. However, as seen previously in the city, citizen participation in municipal decisions is substantial. The same applies to public participation in environmental projects. As a result of the ambitious environmental administration and the joint effort it can be expected that the citizens of Mexico City will be looking forward to a cleaner future.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014