Highlights of Mexico Urban Sustainability Forum 2016
Public Policy Priorities for Mexico’s Advancement towards Urban Sustainability
Enrique González Tiburcio, Undersecretary of Territorial Planning, eloquently opened 2016’s Urban Sustainability Summit with a presentation on Public Policy Priorities for Mexico’s Advancement towards Urban Sustainability. He began by welcoming all the attendees to the first urban sustainability event at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City, indicating the importance of the occasion to Mexico, and beginning to outline the objectives the authorities are committed to meet by 2020.
Mexico has seen disorganized expansion, especially in the capital city, due to rapid population growth. Expansion without control leads to lacking infrastructure, inadequate housing, insufficient mobility, and inequality in land distribution. González stated that 52.8% of land in Mexico is socially owned, 43.5% is privately owned, and 3.7% is federal property. In recent years, reorganizing land distribution has become more complicated. Therefore, laws to help mobility and housing are being developed.
One of the biggest challenges for urban planning, is the poverty that affects 41.7% of the country’s population. This has led to many capital city dwellers moving to locations not considered apt for housing. González makes a distinction between urban and rural poverty, as those living below the poverty line in built-up areas tend to lack access to food, among other amenities that are less abundant in cities with highly dense populations. He also compared how people used to change jobs no more than three or four times in their lifetime, whereas today, many change 15 or even 18 times throughout their career. This means that renting becomes more popular, as people move closer to their work. González explains that 8.2 million people live in a different municipality to that of their job, and while the majority commute between 16 and 30 minutes, 25% of the population spend more than an hour travelling to work. These commutes are largely in public transport or taxi, and such a large segment of the workforce using public transport merits a solid mobility program.
Within the 59 metropolitan zones, nine were strategically planned in 2015. González indicated that 60% of the 72.82 million Mexicans live in large cities, but that the conformation of the workforce and their living conditions are not planned, and tend to be disperse. However, several organizations are responsible for coordinating this planning and mobility, making it difficult to make decisions. The Secretariat of Urban and Rural Planning works to promote structured building and efficient mobility, which must take potential risk zones into account when electing land use. The law, government, and relevant authorities must contribute to the target of achieving significant nationwide improvements by 2030. Balancing land use has been complicated, due to changes in government. Continuity in grants, sanctions, and financial aid such as tax breaks is vital for the federal government to achieve its objectives. Moreover, said urban planning must respect natural resources and protected areas.
The Ministry of Finance funds metropolitan zones, and delegates this fund to each location fairly. González explains that the plan to harmonize cities, not only housing, but all the supporting infrastructure and services, is included within the objectives of the Secretariat of Urban, Rural and Agricultural Development (SEDATU) for the period of 2016 to 2018. This strategy involves sustainable growth, and will require investments from all parts of the economy, but will also generate employment in construction and all the peripheral suppliers in the country’s chain.
The key axels to SEDATU’s plan include dignified housing, land use, and sustainable mobility, all of which will be key topics at today’s event and the panels’ discussions. Mexico is the first country to develop a sustainable policy based on the NAMA Registry’s guidelines. The technological transition must happen in urban spaces, including eco-technologies, states González, and must be accessible to the public. The Secretariat must aim at creating sustainable, safe, and functional cities.
Partnership Opportunities for Sustainable Development
The speaker, Dolf Hogewoning, Ambassador of The Netherlands to Mexico, discussed the opportunities of cooperation with Mexico and companies through Partnerships for Sustainable Development. Hogewoning illustrated key issues, such as that in 2014, 54% of the population lived in cities and in 2050 the percentage is expected to reach 66%. Urbanization is moving millions of people toward metropolitan areas.
An important element for the Netherlands is climate change vulnerability, as negative consequences of global warming are becoming increasingly more serious. Rising sea levels are affecting the Ambassador’s country as land is consumed by the sea. The Netherlands has learned to adapt to climate change’s impact, stated Hogewoning, managing to reduce risk for the next 50 years. Additional space has been given to rivers and springs to protect the nation’s safety. A balance between green areas and construction has been found, and toxic emissions have successfully been reduced. Finally, efficient policy-making allowed the Netherlands to improve urban transportation.
The Ambassador believes that Mexico shares a similar international commitment to fulfill the Sustainable Development goals for the 2030 Agenda. The 11th goal in particular, focused on sustainable cities and communities, was highlighted in his presentation, as resilient and smart cities optimize efficiency and urban development. In Mexico, the Netherlands has created an alliance with the Secretariat of Agricultural, Land and Urban Development (SEDATU). Their relationship focuses on water supply with activities that help develop a sustainable use of public space. The Netherlands also intends to create alliances with entities such as the Secretariat of Agriculture and the National Water Commission, aiming to benefit both countries.
The Netherlands can learn plenty from Mexico’s management of its major obstacles such as natural disasters and challenges within Mexico City. On the other hand, the Netherlands shares its experience with effective water and territorial management, as well as specialized technology, investigation and training to help Mexico accomplish sustainability goals. The Netherlands has already begun to implement pilot projects in areas such as Veracruz, Puebla, and Cuernavaca toward creating intelligent cities.
Hogewoning stated that the Urban Sustainability Summit 2016 was an opportunity to unite efforts and highlighted the willingness of the Netherlands to cooperate with other players and authorities.
Mexico’s Urban Sustainability Ambitions and Challenges
Mariuz Calvet, Director of Sustainability at Banamex, began the panel by mentioning that the growth of the middle class and an increase in purchasing power results in a demand for larger infrastructure, yet urban planning is seldom carried out. With this in mind, large urban centers have to adopt thorough planning and turn it into a global trend. Marcos Pérez Calderon, Executive President of AALMAC, was the second speaker, who explained that as a Municipal President, he had a much clearer perspective on the importance of renewable energy and rescuing the concept of sustainable urban centers. “Esperanza is a municipality with 20,000 inhabitants, and to date most of its energy comes from a wind farm, making it the first municipality in sustainable energy use.” He said pollution was a serious urban issue because the techniques used to fight it limit the perspective on the problem. Municipalities also have an important cultural component, said Pérez Calderón, because the size of a municipality and its resources determine the strategies that can be implemented. In the case of the Hoy no Circula (No Drive Days) vehicle restrictions in Mexico City, Pérez Calderon mentioned that part of the frustration generated from the initiative came from the fact that Mexico City does not have enough public transport infrastructure to serve the people when this scheme was implemented.
The microphone was passed to María Elena Giner, General Manager of BECC, who said that during its 25 years of existence, BECC has invested close to US$7 billion in energy, and waste and water management projects on both sides of the border, giving the institution credibility among the Mexican authorities. Now BECC is working on rainwater. “Due to the prevalence of concrete in cities, rain water infiltration has decreased from 50% to 10%. Rainwater management has become using concrete to drive this water away from cities.” She noted that rainwater becomes heavily polluted on its journey through urban centers, ultimately affecting shared water bodies in the Mexico-US border. BECC is working on green technologies, which consist of using the environment to provide services, such as collecting rainwater and using it for urban infrastructure. For instance, a street’s central division can be concave so that it can collect water. “In order to promote this knowledge on both sides of the border, BECC is working on several fronts, such as the legal and the social ones. In the case of the latter, green technologies were implemented in Tuxcon, Arizona, because the local people demanded it.”
Miguel Breceda, General Coordinator of Green Development at INECC, shared the Institution’s view, saying that after talking with many specialists, the Institute concluded that a city cannot be sustainable, as many elements used in a city come from abroad. However, aiming at this unreachable goal is a positive approach. He points out that several metrics, such as the carbon footprint or the environmental footprint, are used to measure whether a city is sustainable compared to another one. Breceda urged authorities to address the issue of buildings, considering 70% of energy consumption in the northern hemisphere happens in buildings. Other important subjects that INECC works on include solid urban waste, air quality, mobility, industry, and energy. Breceda reiterated that land use in Mexico is rather disastrous, as SEDATU had already pointed out. “Statistics indicate 14% of social housing in Mexico is abandoned because the projects were built in remote places with no access to services.” He reminded the panel that for years, cities worked on densifying, which has resulted in problems already noted by the World Bank, such as congestion. “Now we should think about compact cities,” he told.
Finally, Enrique Vargas del Villar, President of ANAC and Municipal President of Huixquilucan, intervened. He began by talking about solid waste, “a costly issue from a government perspective even if citizens cannot see this. The main issue I see is the fact that we have not been able to generate power from garbage yet.” He added that sustainable development demands a cultural shift, also using the example of Hoy no Circula restrictions and the outrage generated while the main problem, pollution, is overlooked over the right to use private transportation. “Mobility is a problem resulting from geographical extension, which is something the authorities continuously work on. We need to work hand in hand with public transportation operators who are resisting certain changes and technologies, such as implementing gas-powered vehicles.” Vargas del Villar commented that municipalities are the last link in resource distribution, a situation that has to change. “Resources do not reach municipalities effectively, and these entities are in charge of providing public services. Without the best public services, we cannot become sustainable.” Calvet summarized the panel by returning to the need to coordinate all three government levels, issue guidelines that lead to sustainable development, and promote green infrastructure among municipalities.
Smart Cities: Technology as a Driver of Sustainability
The moderator, Francisco Cienfuegos, Mayor of Guadalupe and President of Smart Cities Association of Mexico, started the panel by defining his biggest challenges as mayor, encompassing limited budgets and resistance to change. He works towards breaking paradigms and opening paths for sustainable innovation. Cienfuegos explained that Smart Cities in Mexico began with a reunion of governmental authorities, as the plan must include public service efficiency and improving quality of life. The Smart Cities Association of Mexico official started in February and is pushing government authorities to adopt new platforms. The Mayor considers the implementation of more sustainable financial plans to be important, as money and time can be saved through long-term sustainable budget allocations. Cities can become more intelligent without an excessive amount of technology or financing, but by simply rethinking structures to meet the needs of citizens.
Francisco Torres, Building Technologies Manager at Siemens, stated that the biggest challenge that the government and private sectors face is creativity. Projects and cities are in need of urgent radical changes. He shared his experience working with the government to recover public spaces that his company was responsible for, and developed the idea of creating more public park and spaces through the underground electricity stations, an example of the of the fact that it takes imagination to envision an ideal city and create strategies to reach it.
Diana Valadez Rovelo, President of IEEE Guadalajara, explained that her organization consists of volunteers that follow international norms, and that synchronization is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. “Great ideas and software can be implemented, but citizens still need to know how to take advantage of a Smart City and its services. Efficiency goes hand in hand with technology to improve public programs and sustainability.” She emphasized that Guadalajara is the first of ten municipalities that will be participating in the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative. The program found that studies are essential to develop tailored solutions that satiate the needs of the city and its people. Their goal is for cities around the world to provide information about their journey toward sustainability on the Smart City website. She stressed the importance of the initiative because cities are expected to have a steep spike in population as countries become increasingly urbanized. Torres added that a common mistake among those that wish to create intelligent cities is to copy and paste strategies from other cities that have been successful. However, this is doomed to fail, as smart cities need solutions that are adapted and customized to the needs of residents based on accurate data.
The Business Unit Director for Telco and IP at Telmex Technology, Julián Garrido, added an important point by clarifying that technology does have the ability to assist authorities by providing information in real time of issues occurring within spaces, and this data helps create better solutions. There are many existing apps that users appreciate such as Waze and free public Wi-Fi, but without synchronicity, connections cannot be made between the scattered impacts they accomplish. By uniting the efforts of all these programs, better solutions can be created for the city.
The Executive Director of CESPEDES, José Ramón Ardavín, stressed that a true commitment from the city is needed before implementing strategies to assure the continuation of projects, along with a well-designed plan that optimizes use of public budget. “Mexico is one of the few democratic countries in the world that does not allow re-elections and this is an obstacle for long-term strategies. Alliances with the private sector can be beneficial as long as guidelines are established,” he highlighted, adding that CEMEX and Banamex are a great example of alliances that have developed a project to create more net-zero energy buildings. A prototype is being built with the hope of standardizing a model that can be used by other projects.
Sony Saba, Director of Productos Salomon and Representative of CartoDB in Mexico City, reiterated the importance of accurate data, as true change cannot happen without a proper analysis. Data allows cities to accurately perceive their current position and analyze possible future directions. CartoDB created a database that allows cities to study the connection among variables, so that resources can be better managed. Waze has also been able to help areas like Buenos Aires by informing citizens of dangerous areas that have problems such as car theft. Ardavín signaled another urban challenge that can be solved by real time databases. CFE, CNA, TELMEX, Cablevision, and other players that work in construction are unsynchronized, a lack of communication causes them to block each other’s work and the user can be left without access to services.
Cienfuegos complemented the latter by sharing the success of the platform, alcaldeenlinea.com. “Previsouly, if a citizen wanted to create a report, they would have to spend many hours in government offices. The app improves efficiency by allowing people to create online reports, and the government is benefiting from receiving more information, as citizens are increasingly motivated to report incidents at the comfort of their home or office,” he stated The moderator concluded by affirming that the Urban Sustainability Summit 2016 is valuable as it provides a space to share experiences and break barriers, so that more advances can be developed.
Energy Efficiency, System Thinking, and Distributed Renewable Energy Generation
César Contreras, the Coordinator of Advisors of the Undersecretary for Planning and Energy Transition, began with a presentation explaining the impact of Mexico's energy transition on urban sustainability, present environmental situation in Mexico, and how the Energy Reform should contribute to reduce global warming. “The reform will lead to greater resources thanks to investments and new markets generating competition. Furthermore, a reduction in harmful emissions will happen following further integration of renewable energy sources,” said Contreras. Through diagnoses in 32 different states, the Ministry of Energy has identified several ways to contribute to specific regions, commented Contreras, and to investigate and integrate new technologies into the country’s energy supply.
He moved on to introduce Alejandro Peraza, Head of the Electric Systems Unit at CRE, who opened the panel on Energy efficiency, system thinking, and distributed renewable energy generation explaining the importance of having laws that promote sustainability. “Good news”, he began, “industrial processes in energy sector are evolving, and we are seeing distributed energy generation for each person’s individual consumption.” Distributed generation in Mexico is quickly gaining ground, growing 100% every year that it has been further implemented. This means that energy has become more reasonably priced, and more widely accessible, said Peraza. “Abundant solar generation of electricity is available in zones across the city, and recent developments have been satisfactory. CRE are aiming to produce Intelligent Electric Networks (REI) to increase efficiency in electric systems and distribution, and to reduce losses.”
Vladimir Sosa, PAESE Coordinator at CFE, commented on the systemic value of smart cities. He also touched on the idea of REI and distributed generation. CFE is substituting expensive and damaging energy sources for cheaper, more competitive energy sources. The power company is also working to reduce technical and non-technical losses. The latter includes reducing electricity being stolen through illegal adapters on wires, and advising those that are not aware that they are using an illegal electricity source in this way before helping them connect legally. “Within the city and with the support of the Ministry of Economy, CFE is implementing a program to promote electric cars and charging points, ultimately to reduce carbon emissions. We must ‘electrify’ the city, while increasing cleanliness of fuel generation,” Sosa states.
Pierre Comptdaer, President & Director General of ABB Mexico and Central America, succinctly presented the problems ABB faces in terms of energy and electricity to create a better world. “The transmission of energy must be made more efficient, as losses occur during transmission,” he told the audience. “New windfarms have been created in Mexico, but the transmission of this energy must be designed with technical losses in mind.” In terms of water, Comptdaer told us that 50% to 60% of losses are through leaks. ABB has technology to measure and supervise water sources, to help detect leaks, and Comptdaer commented on his company’s developments to improve engine efficiency in the automotive industry. However, he pointed out that only 10% of engines are transmissions engines, thus they are less efficient. “We presented a smart sensor that can be installed in any motor to detect temperature and efficiency, to upload information to a cloud for us to compile new technology needs.” Chargers must be made faster, he urged, therefore ABB developed a charger that loads in 15-30 minutes, which has already been installed along Omnibus electric bus networks in Europe.
Santiago Desentis, Vice President of Sales at SolarCity Mexico, cited Henry Ford who was called crazy for his automotive invention. “SolarCity is not afraid to create new inventions that may seem unreal,” he said. Technology advances has allowed his company to reach Mexico with more reasonable distributed generation technologies, and create a policy that will promote long-term investments in this system that reduces energy loss. “We have been working with several authorities to install systems amounting to 4GW, which are operating in houses in California thanks to a small generation network”. Desentis stated the need for government policy to support companies that are investigating electricity alternatives. “CFE’s prices are heavily subsidized, which means that it is much more difficult to compete. An open market would allow the market to grow in participants, and push all players to become more efficient,” he told.
Sosa spoke for CFE, pointing out that the utility company cannot change the electricity tariffs. The information surrounding natural monopolies shows that there is plenty of competition in distributed generation. It presents an interesting market, he said, meaning the consumer gains, as competition reduces prices. Policies will include increasing public stations, which are being installed in supermarkets, universities, and public spaces. Although these would be much cheaper than gasoline, the cost will be covered by the hosting establishments. The second focus will be on installing gages so that electric car users will be able to charge their vehicles without incurring extra costs on their electricity bill.
Water and Waste Management: Opportunity Rather Than Challenge
Salomón Abedrop, General Subdirector of Planning at CONAGUA, greeted the audience on behalf of his institution. He described Mexico’s geographical conditions, pointing out that it is the 14th largest country in the world. “Being a diverse country, Mexico experiences rain levels below 500mm per year in the north, while the southwest can get 2,000mm of rain annually.” The hydrological diversity has created different relationships between populations and water resources. Abedrop pointed out that the country’s hydrological pressure levels are inverted. Therefore, water is not a condition for economic development, even though it is a crucial component in social development. “One third of the national territory is home to 75% of the population, which generates 75% of the GDP, in regions that hold one quarter of the country’s water resources. Conversely, a quarter of the territory contains three quarters of the water resources, and houses the 25% of the population, who generates 25% of the GDP.” Given the fact that 78% of Mexico’s population lives in urban settings, placing great stress on water resources, managing this is indispensable for the development of sustainable cities.
Abedrop said the authorities are facing two challenges regarding water management: climate change and accelerated population growth. The former leads to intense meteorological phenomena, such as floods and droughts. Population growth increases the demand for water, generates pollution, overexploitation, and competition over the resource. Migration from rural to urban areas can also be added to the equation. Therefore, the Executive Power instructed CONAGUA to base the country’s water management on certain factors, including adequate and accessible water services, water use for food security (70% of the country’s water is used for agriculture), responsible water use given the resource’s impact on economic development, and hydro security.
Regarding drinking water, Abedrop said it is important to look for alternatives that guarantee supply, such as new technologies and desalination systems. In addition, the authorities have to prepare to bring water from increasingly remote locations, entailing heavy investments for large infrastructure projects. “Over the past years, 2,500 hydraulic projects have been developed in the country, and 2,100 sewage works have been built during this administration. However, these developments are becoming increasingly elaborate and deep. The tunnels now require not just hydraulic studies, but also geologic ones,” he explained. New projects should consider reusing water, as well as having a financial scheme for maintenance and other expenses.
The CONAGUA representative said the Agua Prieta water treatment plant in Jalisco processes 6.5 m3/s, and it produces 100% of the energy it uses to operate from biogas that is generated in the process. The treated water, he clarified, is used at a nearby power-generation facility, allowing the recovery of the polluted Santiago River. Abedrop also mentioned the Atotonilco water plant, which will be the largest in Latin America. “It will process 35 m3/s, treating 60% of the residual water coming from the Valley of Mexico, and it will generate 80% of the energy it will need to function.” He stressed the importance of managing treated water in order to foster the population’s health. “This resource is a key component that will allow us to continue pursuing economic development, thus its administration is crucial. However, water management falls under the responsibility of all three government levels and citizens, not just a few entities,” he concluded.
The Future of Urban Mobility in Mexico
J. Arturo Zapata, CEO and President of the Board of Corporación Zapata, warmly introduced the speakers of the panel to discuss the Future of Urban Mobility in Mexico. Laura Ballesteros, the pioneer of the current mobility regulation, via her position as Undersecretary of Planning at SEMOVI, launched the discussion with the topic of the 21 million commutes that take place throughout the capital city every day, and the need to coordinate different municipalities and their authorities to ensure a complete mobility solution. She touched on urban planning and housing, and appealed for a change of city living, so that we can reach an alternative solution to workers living hours away from their workplaces. She also advised the need to integrate parking in any urban planning. “More investment is needed, to create several options other than private vehicles for capital city citizens to travel.”
Jorge Jiménez, General Manager of Maintenance at the Metro Public Transportation System, referred to Ballestero’s introduction, and reiterated the need for policies and regulations that drive change and innovation in metropolitan planning. He admitted that incorrect decisions, through uncoordinated decision-making, led to disorganization. Jiménez said that mobility must be integrated, through private and public transport, ultimately to reduce commute times, to improve the population’s quality of life. His invocation of the metropolis showed how the city developed by uniting what was previously several smaller towns, demonstrating the reasons for the disorganized capital city.
Francisco Sordo, General Manager at UBER México, cited Uber’s transformation of the use of a privately owned vehicle. The company met a need that no other transport option could cater to. His mention of UberPool stipulated out how the app has been able to reach zones in the city that public transport did not, and is much more accessible in terms of price for the average citizen.
Diego Solórzano, CEO and Founder of Carrot, explained how many cars are only used during 10% of their lifetime, and suggested that all the time spent parked, not being used, is wasted money. As a further complementary service to mobility, Solórzano’s company fills a need as an alternative to Uber, where users can drive themselves, and also use the brand’s cars to leave the city on longer trips and only pay for the commuting time.
Rather than stating the need for reduced car use, Ballesteros indicated that car use must be more responsible. “Despite having all seen that even creating second levels to certain main roads in the city was not a solution, 70% of mobility’s budget has still been spent on grey infrastructure, rather than other mobility options. The 5.5 million cars in the city account for only 20% of the population,” she told the panel, but still results in unavoidable traffic, and she cited the Metro and Metrobús as where the investment should be destined. Ballesteros describes capital city dwellers as multi-modal transport users, defending the need for the average pedestrian to be able to choose out of several options of intelligent mobility. She partly blames the design of the city being targeted toward much more sparsely populated cities. “The two issues rely on excessive motorization, and on unplanned, rapid densification of previously empty spaces.”
Jiménez returned to the topic of the five years of our lives that are spent in private vehicles, as they offer the most comfortable, door-to-door transport. However, he reminded the audience that more infrastructure for cars will result in more cars, and that the alternative should be, as Ballesteros says, investment in the transport that can take many more people at a time than private cars. Sordo agreed that we need to find alternatives to excessive private car ownership. The Uber General Manager said that the company wants citizens to recover their city, through better use of cars and putting more people in fewer cars, especially through the car sharing option of UberPool. Although this is not the same as an increase in buses and retains the use of private cars, it maximizes the use of city infrastructure.
“Multimodal transport already exists in the city, but few people are willing to give up their cars, or to pay for the improvement of the transport system,” claimed Solórzano. Having pointed out that the implications for each person means that Mexico City’s citizens do not take responsibility for their part in the mobility issue, he recognized that the initiatives that would improve the traffic system would require unpopular political decisions. Ballesteros agreed that resistance to change is crucial, and that citizens need to alter their mentality to think of a street being efficient based on the number of people using it, rather than the number of vehicles. The final point, made by Jiménez, alluded to the issue concerning global warming, and mentioned the electric Metro network as an improved alternative to the high-sulfur diesel used in many cars, as well as the suspected high-sulfur gasoline currently being sold in Mexico. Zapata closed pointing out the distance that still has to be covered to reach an acceptable alternative to the private car for the middle classes is immense. “The intrinsic need to own a car does not originate in the distance they must travel, necessarily, but rather in the quality and reach of existing public transport.” Zapata concluded by stating that people need to change, not the ownership, but the use of cars, and the type of cars.
Technology Trends That Facilitate the Transformation of Urban Mobility
The CEO of CTS Embarq, Adriana Lobo, began by talking about the correlation between air quality and mobility, highlighting the role of technology in leading efficient urban mobility. Along this line, Alejandro Morales, Director General of Econduce, told us that his company was partly created to promote a responsible use of vehicles. “Econduce now has 30 charging stations and has provided over 50,000 trips. Since we cover trends such as the shared economy and electric vehicles, we decided to cover the whole chain and offer scooters and chargers simultaneously,” he detailed, highlighting the company’s focus on technology. “We invest in technological development, including data bases that allow us to increase connectivity, as we do not see Econduce as a stand-alone mobility solution.” Morales commented that new alternatives to privately-owned cars should not just be used in case of environmental contingencies, but rather incorporated into daily mobility.
Lobo proceeded to ask Jorge Vallejo, Director of Exports, International Affairs and Governmental Relations at Nissan Mexico, about the industry’s perspective on the changing role of cars, given their environmental impact. He began by stating that many hopes of slowing down climate change are being placed on the automotive industry. “The authorities are desperate and they saw a quick way to reduce carbon emissions by limiting the automotive industry. However, the outcome is producing different results to those expected. Vehicles are not the only or main source of air pollution, and that just became evident.” Vallejo told the audience and panelists that Nissan has been exploring new technologies for more than 70 years, working to make clean vehicles accessible to everyone. However, cost is not the main variable, as private vehicles are seen as a sign of status in Mexico. Therefore, the adoption of cleaner technologies must undergo a change of paradigm.
Lobo intervened asserting that sales have not decreased in the automotive industry. In her view, the main issue does not come from the industry, as it is a matter of rethinking car use. She introduced Scania’s Director General, Enrique Enrich, who began by pointing out that the vehicle park is a key cause of pollution, thus fleet renovation is crucial. “Transportation has to be made inclusive, accessible, and environmentally friendly. However, it needs a responsible framework that supports people, particularly those that use the public transportation system.” He said public transportation in Mexico has plenty of room for improvement in order to become accessible. In addition, it should seek to be sustainable, keeping a balance between the economic and the environmental aspects.
Afterwards, Claudia Gutiérrez, Director of Sustainable Transport at DINA, touched upon the subject of transparency, claiming there are no clear public policies on mobility. “I do not see an interconnection between different government entities and cities,” she lamented. In her view, the next step would be to shift to gas-powered vehicles, and the needed infrastructure is already being built. “We need public policies with long-term vision that will not be affected by changes in the administration. Let us keep in mind that transparency in public policy provides certainty to the industry.”
Jorge Suárez, Director of Electromobility at VOLVO, echoed Gutiérrez’ concern, saying he does not feel certainty of the existence of a strategy. Instead, the industry moves according to what it is selling at that moment. “The main problem in the city is the fact that there are 4.5 million vehicles, plus the heavy-duty vehicles that come and go, 18,000 microbuses that were made before 1994, and 5,000 combis. Mexico City is addicted to vehicles.” He claimed Mexico City is facing a considerable challenge because public transportation is the most used form of mobility, as well as the most hated one. “In line with the country’s emission reduction goals and climate change actions, more Metrobús lines are planned, which will prevent the emission of 2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent gases.”
Lobo said she does see some goals, but that they do not have an assigned budget. With this in mind, she asked where the main barriers to change were. Gutiérrez insisted on the lack of proper policies or program continuity. “The main barrier is that there are no incentives for the industry. Turning to gas-powered vehicles would increase technology costs by 35%, Euro 6 will increase by 25%, and electric cars cost four times as much. Mexican carriers are moving from drivers to business people, and as such, they seek to reduce costs. However, this will only be achieved through international assistance.” Vallejo said that although the barriers exist, there is a lack of willingness to change. He compared Mexico to countries where electric vehicles experience high sales. “The automotive industry is more than willing to change, which is evident when you look at the areas where we are investing. In order to make self-driving vehicles a reality, restrictions have to be removed and programs implemented.” Enrich noted that it is easy to criticize the authorities, but manufacturers do have a share of the responsibility. “The industry is not doing its best job at informing. For instance, people believe hybrid technologies pollute less than natural-gas powered engines.” In his critical intervention, he stressed that public resources should be used responsibly, so before making the vehicular park entirely electric, the authorities should invest in schools and hospitals.
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