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Green Referendum for Mexico City
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by Adrian Muller

Mexico City is one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, home to nearly 21 million inhabitants. About four million cars travel every day through the city, causing serious pollution and congestion problems. Mexico City’s Major Marcelo Ebrard, who goes to work on a bike at least once a month, is committed to adopting and adhering to environmentally friendly practices to improve the sustainability of the city.

Mr. Ebrard recently joined other leaders of the world’s largest cities and CEOs of international corporations to pursue joint efforts to combat global warming while ensuring economic benefits for cities. The occasion was the C40 Large Cities Summit, a gathering of Mayors dedicated to reducing carbon emissions and to developing infrastructure that encourages more efficient use of energy. His objective was securing $200 millions of external funding from Bill Clinton’s recently crated Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program.

The Program aims to reduce carbon emissions by outfitting city-owned buildings with green technology. Under the umbrella of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), 16 cities around the world (among them, Mexico City) will receive more than $1 billion worth of financing for renovation projects such as: making roofs white or reflective to deflect more of the sun’s heat; replacing lightning, heating and cooling systems with energy efficient technologies, etc.

During the event, Major Marcelo Ebrard, who also happens to be one of the masterminds behind Mexico City’s successful ‘One Day Without A Car Program,’ announced the city will conduct a green referendum on issues relating to the environment. It will serve as a reference point for policy makers to design the environmental strategy of the city. Ebrard argues that citizen consultation is crucial, since some of the initiatives he wants to promote require their direct involvement.

Questions residents of Mexico City (including children) will find in the referendum include:

» Should the government continue building second decks (as an alternative to reduce car congestion) to Mexico City’s freeways?
» What characteristics must the new subway line have?
» Should hybrid and electric cars be subject to a special regulation?
» How can public transportation be reformed and upgraded?
» Should the government invest more in unmotorized movement corridors (specifically designed for bikes)?

Coinciding with World Environment Day, the process will be held the 5th of June and will be organized by the Citizen Observatory, a recently created organism formed by academics from different prestigious universities and institutions. The green referendum will provide the residents of Mexico City with a unique opportunity to exercise their opinion on the sustainable direction they want for their city and for themselves.

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Public consultation has become very popular in municipal environmental planning over the past few years. It would be interesting to see more on this. Both Calgary (Canada) and Durban (South Africa), for example, have carried out radically participatory public planning excercises that go far beyond the referendum approach mentioned above. I'd love to see a WorldChanging piece that focused participatory and consultative approaches to governing the urban environment.

Posted by: Alex Aylett on 29 May 07



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