Celebrations Link Emerging World of Clean Energy Generation with the Centuries-Old Mayan Caring for Nature and Natural Resources
Xcaret (Mexico) 5 June, 2009 - Echoing the 'Healing the Earth' ceremonies of Mexico's ancient Mayan civilization, President Calderón announced on World Environment Day (WED) his government's landmark plans to combat climate change alongside the establishment of new protected areas.
In a wide ranging speech, flanked by several key ministers including those from finance and the environment, the Mexican president said the country would voluntarily cut global warming gases by 50 million tones a year.
The announcement came as thousands of people around the planet celebrated World Environment Day, from remote villages to sprawling capitals. On every continent, children, companies, mayors and heads of state came together to unite to combat climate change under the banner of the UN event, heeding Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call that Your Planet Needs You.
Events around the world ranged from the massive to the local: from a major tree-planting drive across India organized by Tata Motors to a concert in Ecuador, a recycling drive in Seattle, and an 'educational picnic' on real grass in the heart of the gothic old town of Torun in Poland, alongside painting competitions, neighbourhood clean-ups and a multitude of awareness-raising events.
President Calderón said Mexico – the host of the main WED '09 celebrations – would double this cut under its new Special Programme for Climate Change if the right kind of financing arrangements are in place—by some estimates the announcement equates to an eight per cent to 16 per cent reduction in the country's greenhouse gas emissions.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said people from over 100 countries around the world were today sending a clear signal to their politicians and world leaders that action was urgently needed—Mexico had heard and responded to that call.
"If we are to neutralize the serious threats from climate change while seizing the opportunities for a low carbon, resource efficient economy, then governments must Seal the Deal at the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in just over 180 days," he said.
"The challenge in Copenhagen is to bring over 190 countries, at different points in their development together in common cause where each understands they are gaining rather than losing by combating climate change," said Mr Steiner.
"Some nations are indeed bringing forward creative and potentially unifying proposals that may set the world on course towards a 21st century Green Economy. Today, President Calderón underlined Mexico's rapidly evolving leadership on climate change—its determination too to be part of the solution despite the country having no formal, legally-binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol," he added.
"I am convinced that this announcement is just the kind of oxygen needed over the coming weeks and months—it has certainly made WED 2009 a very special day in a very important year," said the UNEP Executive Director who along with businessmen, scientists, ambassadors and young people was attending the celebrations in the Yucatan.
The Mexican leader, speaking in the themed park of XCaret on the site of a Mayan settlement, said that climate change was among his top priorities as it represented a "true danger to humanity".
Earlier Augustin Carstens, the Mexican Finance Minister, announced that Mexico had completed a report on the costs of inaction and benefits of action on climate change that mirrored a 2006 global assessment carried out by Lord Stern on behalf of the government of the United Kingdom.
Dr Carstens described combating climate change as an "excellent public investment" that would cost "less than the serious economic damage from a lack of action".
The report, compiled by the Autonomous University of Mexico with support from, among others, the Mario Molina Centre and the World Bank, estimates that unchecked climate change might cost the Mexican economy six per cent of GDP.
President Calderón said Mexico would act on household gadgets including inefficient fridges and air conditioning units under a scheme called "Change what is old for something that is new".
Other measures include boosting the efficiency of automobiles, replacing old incandescent light-bulbs, action on emissions from the oil and gas industry and a continuation of the government-supported Green Mortgage that offers home-buyers lower loans for installing items such as solar water heaters.
President Calderón urged governments on the international front to support Mexico's proposed Green Fund aimed at generating economic incentives for combating climate change.
On a day thick with announcements, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Juan Raphael Elvira Quesada, said the slogan for WED 2009 "Your Planet Needs You—UNite to Combat Climate Change" reminded citizens everywhere of the need to remember "our raison d'etre as human beings".
He said the events surrounding WED 5 June would be 'carbon neutral' with the government buying carbon certificates from 10 indigenous communities to offset the pollution.
Mr Steiner also praised Mexico for its support for the UNEP-led Billion Tree Campaign which aims to have seven billion trees planted around the world by the Copenhagen meeting.
President Calderón said Mexico was increasing its budget for forestry from 300 million peso a year to six billion peso annually from 2009 in order to restore deforested land.
He also announced five new protected areas including a biosphere for the whale shark in Quintana Roo.
Later in the day Mr Steiner was among guests taking part in a Mayan 'Healing of the Earth' ceremony held in the ancient Mayan tongue. Shamans conducted the healing while drummers and players of haunting wood instruments looked on with costumed, body-painted symbols of Mayan spirits in attendance. The ceremony ended with a traditional corn-based drink, designed to cure the earth of ills made with ingredients of honey and cinnamon.
Notes to Editors:
Details of the events in Mexico and from around the world can be found at http://www.unep.org/wed/2009/english/
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