Mexico has pledged to unilaterally peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2026 in a detailed climate change plan that is the first of its kind among developing nations.

The target unveiled Friday, which also calls for cutting carbon 22 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2030, will become Mexico's official contribution to a global climate change accord. That agreement is expected to be signed in Paris in December and include, for the first time ever, carbon-cutting measures from developed and developing nations alike.

The White House praised the Mexican government for "setting an example for the rest of the world" with its climate plan.

"In particular, Mexico's target to peak its emissions by 2026 and drive them down thereafter is a landmark step in the global transition to a low-carbon economy," the White House said in a statement. "We hope that Mexico's actions will encourage other economies to submit [plans] that are ambitious, timely, transparent, detailed, and achievable."

Tomorrow marks the first informal deadline for countries to come forward with their plans, dubbed "intended nationally determined contributions," or INDCs, in U.N. lingo. The United States and European Union had pushed for major emitters—and particularly governments of G-20 nations—to unveil their plans by the end of March. So far, though, only the European Union, Switzerland and Norway have joined Mexico in doing so.

China has vowed to peak its emissions by 2030, but several people close to the Chinese delegation say the government's more detailed plan has likely been pushed back to this summer.

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern has said the United States' submission will be released by tomorrow. While the targets are already known—Obama has vowed the United States will curb carbon by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025—the plan will offer more details about how the administration will achieve the goal.

According to two people familiar with parts of the U.S. submission, it will lay out a wide range of regulatory efforts that go well beyond the Clean Air Act, under which Obama is currently using executive authority to demand curbs of power plant emissions. From Department of Energy efficiency regulations to state-level initiatives, sources said, the INDC will send a message to the international community that the U.S. climate plan does not rely on President Obama alone.

It will also make the case that the target is fair and ambitious but will not reference a global carbon budget or concepts of equity based on historic emissions. Instead, sources said, the plan will repeat much of what Obama said publicly when he first made the 2025 pledge—that it doubles the pace at which the United States is reducing greenhouse gases.

Mexico: 'We stand by our words'
Mexican officials told ClimateWire they felt it was important that their country, despite contributing only an estimated 1.5 percent of global emissions, submit early. Mexico has been among a small but growing group of developing countries that have urged other emerging nations to take on more responsibility for fighting climate change.

"We are trying to show that what we say in the negotiations, we stand by our words. Second, we want to show that it is feasible," said Roberto Dondisch Glowinski, Mexico's lead negotiator to the U.N. climate talks.

Mexico in 2012 was the first developing country to enact a national climate law. The legislation called for the country to curb emissions 30 percent below business-as-usual growth by 2030 and 50 percent by midcentury, but those targets were conditional upon international assistance.

The new plan says the country will cut 22 percent no matter what the rest of the world contributes, while also cutting 51 percent of emissions from black carbon by 2030. The White House on Friday also announced a joint U.S.-Mexico task force to help the country achieve its goals (ClimateWire, March 27).

Another failed promise?
Environmental activists said Mexico's announcement marks a major turning point for developing nations. As the first developing country to submit a plan, several people said, the government is showing other emerging nations that they, too, can lead on climate change.

"As a country that enacted a groundbreaking, comprehensive climate change law in 2012, Mexico clearly understands the threat of climate change and the economic benefits of smart action for its citizens and is now going further. Other countries should follow Mexico's lead and present robust action plans very soon," said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the World Resources Institute's climate team, in a statement.

She and others noted that the "devil is in the details" of Mexico's plan but called the promise of a peak by 2026 "inspiring."

Critics of the international climate negotiations process were less impressed. Frank Maisano, a lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani in Washington, D.C., who represents energy-industry clients, said plans don't count as much as action.

"Maybe they get around to doing it, maybe they don't. The fact of the matter is, we are going to hear a steady stream of 'Oh, look at what we're going to do.' But this is no different than when we were in Buenos Aires; this is no different than when we were in the Hague; this is no different than Copenhagen," Maisano said, referencing the sites of key U.N. climate summits over the past two decades.

He argued that countries have made scores of promises at these climate meetings that have gone unmet. "I've been at the rodeo before, and I'm skeptical. I will be skeptical until people actually start to do what they say they're going to do," he said.

Activists and diplomats maintained that Paris is shaping up to be fundamentally different than the climate promises that have come before. Whereas in the past developing countries set targets contingent upon how much money the industrialized West would deliver, under the new deal, nations will be expected to curb emissions regardless of monetary aid.

"We want to show that it can be done. As a developing country, we have to participate," Glowinski said. "It's very complicated for an economy that is still growing. ... Believe me, these numbers are not going to be easy for us, but we are committed."

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500