Youth Profile #2: How PIDES are working on practical solutions to climate change in Mexico

By Tierney Smith

Mexico is a country leading the way on climate change action.

Earlier this year it became the second country to pass comprehensive legislation to cut emissions.

As well as legally binding emissions goals, Mexico’s climate change bill, which was passed in April, encourages a voluntary carbon emissions trading market, and gives the energy ministry authority to establish policies and incentives to promote low-carbon technologies.

When the country held the G20 meeting last month, outgoing President Calderón insisted on the environmental agenda being a priority at the talks, which were held just before the Rio+20 summit.

In the second of the series RTCC is running on Youth Climate groups from around the world, we talk to Christopher Córdova, Director of PIDES International (Plataforma Integral de Desarrollo Sustentable) to find out what it is like to be part of the youth climate movement in Mexico.

What is your group doing and what areas of work do you focus on?

PIDES NGO is based in Mexico City but we have a team spread in 14 countries and we have developed many different projects. We have projects on climate change mitigation in Mexico for instance and now we have a very big project for testing an international theoretical model in different places – in Qatar and in Costa Rica.

We wish to test a theoretical model which tries to explain how the green economy transition can be fast-tracked, in the local, the national and the international realm.

This big project is led by PIDES International. PIDES NGO manages the project in Mexico and our branch of it PIDES International manages all the international projects, so the projects which are not based in Mexico. We also have a research centre – a youth led research centre which is called the Junior Observatory of Sustainability.

This research centre publishes reports and also special and also special research about climate change, about youth participation, about sustainable development, about the green economy transition etc. For instance we have this research now which is called ‘Paths to Sustainability in the Middle East’.

So we have many different projects, some theoretical and some practical on all of these issues – mainly youth, sustainability, green economy and climate change.

We have had representatives in COP16 which was in Mexico. We led a youth event at COP16 in Mexico – the Climate Village. We were the organisation that was leading that youth event, supported by Mexico’s government. Then we were in South Africa also, invited by the Mexican government too and we sent a person also to this year’s Rio Summit and shortly we will send another representative to Qatar for COP18. So we have been involved in those international negotiations processes.

But we also have these other projects. Our focus is on the practical projects rather than only following the negotiations and all of that. And also we have this focus on being a bridge of communication among governments and civil society. So we are not only interested in representing civil society before governments but being a youth led bridge, a youth led channel of communication. We really want to continue to strengthen our communications schemes between Civil Society and governments internationally.

What results have you seen from your work so far?

We are just finishing a project in Mexico this month called ‘Bet for Climate’ – it was financed by GIC, the cooperation institution of the German Government and the German Embassy in Mexico. That project was aimed to lower the carbon footprint of different High Schools in six states of Mexico. So by lowering the carbon footprint the students could bet to local governments that they could lower their carbon footprint faster and more efficiently than the local government itself.

So it was a very very good strategy for strengthening the idea of the power of organisation and the power of youth, building the confidence of those students and also helping them to organise practical projects aimed to lower carbon footprints no matter where they are.

It was in the schools this time but later on they can direct this carbon footprint lowering strategies in all of the institutions and the idea of building this bridge with government – with local government particularly – and also spreading this idea that it is not government alone that needs to lower the carbon footprint of a given country, a given state or a given province but that it is the whole of society that is responsible for that.

Also in terms of research and publishing we have published a lot of books by our research pillar and these books have reached what we consider a wide audience – other organisations are now using some of our categories, some of our theories. We have a theory of the notion of sustainability and now the theoretical model of the ICPS (Integral Cooperation Platform for Sustainability) model which has been designed and tested by PIDES International in collaboration with ISPA-NET Consulting (Integral Sustainable Policy Alternatives – New Economic Tools) which is the consultancy that we work with.

We have seen results also in our reach in lectures. We have lectured in 11-12 countries – I have personally presented lectures in nine countries – and have presented more than 70 lectures. And we have reached a wide public in those presentations – mainly students but there have also been policy makers, in particular local policy makers. That is another result that we can count as part of our permanent programme of training and capacity building.

And now with PIDES International with this pilot programme with the ICPS model for the National Integral Programme for Sustainable Development which is going to be tested in Costa Rica and in Qatar over the next two years.

What challenges have you faced in your work? What has or hasn’t worked?

The group hold lectures and talks in countries across the world

I believe that one of our biggest challenges has been to make our point to explain to youth, to civil society in general, to NGOs in different countries that it is not government’s responsibility.

It is everyone’s responsibility to transition to a low carbon world economy, to sustainable development and to implement all of those measures. I think there is some misleading information about who is responsible for our current unsustainable patterns of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

A lot of people from civil society think that it is all governments’ fault and they do not consider their own responsibility in consumption for instance. That has been a very hard part, maybe one of our greatest challenges, in trying to explain that it is everyone’s responsibility and trying to be clear enough in how to share that responsibility and what is to be done by government, what is to be done by companies and the business sector, what is to be done by civil society, what is to be done by youth etc.

We have found that the best way to overcome this is by completing the circle that goes from research, from theory to practice. That is why we are not an NGO that only focuses on practical solutions or implementing solutions but also about theorising and generating ideas that we think are integral and also sustainable and through creating first the theory in the paper, in the document, publishing it, spreading it through a lecture, getting the feed-back from the public, publishing again and then closing the circle by implementing that solution in a particular project.

What support have you seen for your activities?

Thanks to this idea of having both theory and practice in the same organisation and also being open to collaboration with governments and companies I think we have seen quite a lot of support and we are very grateful. Through embassies, individual diplomats, companies, universities, research centres and cultural institutions, national governments, local governments environmental agencies etc we have seen quite a lot of support because we have offered this alternative of bringing both theory and practice within the same solution.

They have seen that we are, yes, young people and, yes, civil society but we know what it takes to produce a public policy for instance. So governments see that we understand their language. And young people understand that we understand their language. It is a very nice scheme that has worked for us.

What are the impacts you are seeing in your country and local area from climate change?

Yes there are many. I will just mention two which are most representative. Mexico is a big country with a huge climate diversity and a huge ecosystem diversity and biodiversity too. It is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in terms of biodiversity in the world. So it is very complex.

In the south there is a lot of water and there is a more humid climate. Both have been changing quite a lot. The rain for instance in the province of Tabasco in the past – 50 years ago – it could rain almost all year round and now there is a rainy season. So that has definitely changed the ecosystems. Also there are hurricanes in the south of Mexico which seem to be stronger every year and this causes huge damages to the coastlines of the south of Mexico.

Mexico is already feeling the impacts of climate change (Source: tjschloss/Creative Commons)

On the other hand in the north, at the beginning of this year there was a huge shortage of water and a big, very intense drought. It was very severe for food production in the north. The north of Mexico is much more arid, and has a lot less water than the south, but this year it was very very intense. It was way more intense than expected and it really impacted food production and some isolated communities really had a lot of problems in terms of food security.

What is your vision for 2050? How do we get there?

We are seeing at the very centre of the climate problem, the climate reality there is the issue of climate financing. The thing is we are not getting even 10% of the resources that we need to mobilise in order to really tackle climate change, so that is a huge thing. And our current mechanisms are never going to produce the amount that we require to really stop climate change. So initiatives like AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States [a coalition made up of those states imminently threatened by climate change], it is really like a desperate call for the international community to start acting in a really comprehensive way on this and at the very centre is the issue of finance.

So by building this strategy of the ICPS model we aim to start discussing seriously the issue of financing. Because as many experts have stated this is not an environmental problem. This is a political problem. And the political problem is resource allocation and before that actually getting enough resources. That is why we are developing this model intended to produce international solutions as well as producing the required resources financing those solutions.

What we are saying is that by 2015 we need to have a solution for financing. That is the most important part.

What would help your group moving forward in the future?

For our strategy for the ICPS model we will actually require – we do not require it now because we are just finishing the preparation process. But we will require it as soon as it is launched officially, we will require two things.

One, once the strategy is finished, we will need $5 million in order to create a world awareness campaign in media which will be celebrity led. We will ask celebrities all around the world to lead this media campaign in order to get the 3% of global GDP that we need to finance sustainable development and to eradicate extreme poverty.

In order to get to that we are seeing that the world needs a voluntary tax on most of its goods and services but with full operational rules which include full transparency in the resource allocation ands also the governments should not be in charge of allocating the resources.

So in a few months we will be looking for this $5 million and we will be looking for exposure – a lot of exposure internationally in order to foster our strategy of the IPCS model because we think that it is a model which will really help to transform the economy.

Why did you get involved in the climate movement? What do you think youth groups bring to the debate?

Since 2008 the group has been working to raise awareness for climate change

On the institutional side PIDES has been working for three years and we are totally passionate about these issues of sustainable development. It has been a very rich process because one thing has led us to the other. Our research has brought us to the point of applying solutions. And from implementing the solutions we have got the feedback from thousands and thousands of people, very valuable feedback which has inspired us much more.

Form the personal side. I did my first lecture when I was 14 and my first book was published when I was 15 so I was involved in all of these issues from a young age. Since then I have had this beautiful opportunity of travelling the world, presenting my books. I am very grateful for the governments who have supported by work and who have invited me to come to their countries to present – Indonesian government, Mexican Government, Moroccan Government.

I think there are two aspects. Firstly youth will inherit the world, they will inherit the world of the future. But I think there is a deeper aspect and that is that we were born and we are reaching adulthood in the age of information. That makes us one state ahead of the other generations before us. In the age of information, it is proven to be far more valuable than any other resources. Information is so important and it is the youth who are use to it and are used to accessing it. This gives us the possibility of really transforming reality – we are the insiders of the information era and the previous generations are the outsiders.

But the problem is that rather a lot of young people out there who do not have this access. The gap between the young who have access to information and those who do not is even wider than those separating different generations. Unless we close that gap it will be bad for the future. We have to reduce these inequalities. We have to share information and share the opportunity of accessing information – but it is huge challenge to close that gap. We have to strive to bring information tools – along with better living standards – to those who still live without this access.

Related Video: Members of PIDES talk to RTCC at the Durban Climate Talks about the work they are doing in explaining the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation to youth in Mexico…

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