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Mexico City's Green Referendum

This article was written by Adrian Muller in October 2007. We're republishing it here as part of our month-long editorial retrospective.

Mexico%20City.jpg In June, the residents of Mexico City had the opportunity to participate in a green referendum promoted by the government. The exercise, together with an analysis carried out by public authorities, served to prepare Mexico City’s Green Plan: a body of strategies and actions to ensure the sustainable development of the city. The referendum also served as a communications mechanism for citizens to learn, in a simple and lively way, about the government's sustainablity targets.

Presented two months ago by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, the Green Plan is a living instrument that will constantly be evaluated and enhanced. The plan is divided into seven major areas: land conservation, public spaces, water, mobility, air, waste, climate change and energy. Each area has its own set of objectives and strategies proposed to achieve them.

Public participation is one of the key drivers behind the plan. In the words of Mayor Ebrard,

Everybody in the city will have to do something if we really aspire to improve things, people can not expect the government to do this on its own. Change is a team effort and it’s in all of us to start making a difference.

Among the different strategies outlined in the plan, the ones that have earned particular attention include:

  • Swapping the city government car fleet in its entirety for environmentally friendly vehicles. (Similarly, 5000 of Mexico’s micro-buses will be replaced with less polluting alternatives.)
  • Extending the "day without a car" program to Saturdays. Currently the program limits car use by one day during weekdays.
  • Evaluating the creation of a green tax to pay for the services offered by the ecosystem.
  • Requiring a "Clean Building Label" for all new construction.
  • Launching a new social housing model that incorporates green areas, public spaces and environmental design.
  • Building 300 kilometers of bicycle highways by the year 2012 that will help reach the mark targeted by the government of at least 5 percent of person-trips to be done by bike.
  • Developing green corridors that will expand the amount of green space in the city to nine square meters per inhabitant.
  • Enforcing the use of school buses for all private school students by the year 2012. 34 pilot schools will begin using the system in 2008.

The government is aware that if the plan is to succeed, it will need not just public acceptance, but also require complementary strategies across different competencies and areas of government to guarantee the resources needed for its execution:

  • Financing via varied mechanisms, so that the plan’s actions have the resources needed for their execution.
  • Legal framework: some of the proposed strategies outlined in the plan will require updating and modifications of the city’s laws and regulations.
  • Environmental education that will motivate citizens to participate.
  • City participation: being a living instrument, the plan requires active participation during its' execution and follow-up.
  • Regionalization: Mexico City is part of a larger megalopolis that includes neighboring states; the city will need reach cooperation agreements with these states.
  • Transparency & accountability: citizens have to be certain that the economic and human resources used for designing and executing the plan are being put into good use.
  • Evaluation & follow-up: Mechanisms must be designed and put in place to monitor and evaluate the actions outlined in the plan. Milestones must be reached and an evaluation commission will be set up.
  • Internationalization: a city with the dimension and importance of Mexico City must consider its policies and actions in the context of globalization, both to inform the efforts of other cities and to learn from international best practices.

Indeed, even if only some of the strategies proposed by Mexico City’s Green Plan succeed, it will still provide a good reference point for other cities with similar sustainability issues, plans and goals.

Image: Mexico City. Credit: flickr/Pulpolux

The Green Plan: An integrated sustainability strategy for Mexico City is part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on October 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.

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