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Moving forward the interface between policy-making and evidence-based research and knowledge for supporting climate action in cities

The project identifies the existing institutional capacities for environmental-climate action within the attributions and sphere of influence of local governments that comprise the Mexico Valley Metropolitan Area (MVMA). It seeks to enable and foster, from the (co)generation of knowledge, novel opportunities for local planning and action in coordination with other levels of government, including the parliamentarian sphere.

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The case study covers an area of ​​7,866 square kilometers and is inhabited by 20.89 million inhabitants, according to 2015 data. Its economic structure is mainly of services and generates approximately 25% of the national GDP, which according to the OECD, is about 5% lower than other metropolitan areas with a similar population such as London or Paris. Despite being the main economic hub of the country, the incidence of poverty reaches 51.1% in Mexico City and 73% in the State of Mexico,  according to EVALUA. EVALUA estimation of poverty is higher than the one of CONEVAL because of methodological differences. Poverty would affect instead, following CONEVAL estimations for that same year, 38.3% and 51.4%, respectively. In any case, it is evident that poverty and exclusion, among other related issues, are key challenges for MVMA as recognized by the current status of the SDGs in both entities, particularly the State of Mexico.

The MVMA comprises, as stated by SEDATU, 76 municipalities, 16 of them correspond to Mexico City, 59 to the State of Mexico and one to the State of Hidalgo. Of the total municipalities that conform the MVMA, 52 are "central" or what is considered the "central city". The outer municipalities are instead demarcations whose relationship is established, either by various statistical and geographical criteria or urban planning and policy notions. While the latter relates to what is considered by the Land Use National Strategy and the National Program for Urban Development and Land Use, the former considers instead issues such as distance (no more than 15 km away from the central city), functional employment integration (at least 15% of its population is employed in central municipalities); percentage of population working in non-primary activities (equal or greater to 75%), and average urban density (of at least 20 inhabitants per hectare).

The diversity that characterizes MVMA's municipalities translates into both, institutional and administrative complexities, which in turn challenges the coordination of public policies and actions. This is a reality that, as recognized by the OECD, is aggravated due to the lack of regional and metropolitan strategic frameworks, adequate financing and robust institutional capacities at the local level. Furthermore, the heterogenous political forces operating in the MVMA reinforces the aforementioned challenge, especially in view of the arrival of new political forces (see map of current MVMA’s political landscape).

MVMA’s environmental-climate challenge

According to Mexico City's Emissions Inventory – 2016, the metropolitan area generated 62.3 Gt of greenhouse gases (GHG), of which 22 Gt corresponded to Mexico City.

In addition, the metropolitan area emitted other air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds totalizing 728,561 tons/year and 416,089 tons/year, respectively.

To this situation, which derives from a substantial vehicle fleet and the presence of polluting productive activities, other challenges are added, especially in relation to waste and wastewater management, but also to preservation of protected natural areas, state parks, or similar areas of environmental value. Such spaces, which concentrate a good part of MVMA environmental services, present multiple irregular settlements, illegal disposal of waste (including those of special handling such as tires and construction debris), as well as clandestine logging processes, among other unwanted processes.

The challenges are multiple, complex and spatially diverse, as are the existing institutional capacities at the local level, which in turn translate into differentiated capabilities to cope with current and future challenges, the later expected from a business as usual scenario of greater environmental degradation and climate change impacts.

It can be argued that despite Mexico City has a Risk Atlas, a Strategy and a Climate Action Program, and that its Constitution incorporates elements of sustainability (see especially its Third Title), and even when the State of Mexico has a State Program of Action against Climate Change and a Risk Atlas against Climate Change, in general terms there are no robust local capacities, neither an adequate coordination in the field of climate-environmental action at the metropolitan level. This can be noticed, for example, by the limited existence of climate action programs at the municipal level (of the 76 municipalities that comprise the MVMA, only 14 have one; see map) and the lack of transparency on the progress achieved by those programs.

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The Megalopolitan Environmental Commission, a political coordination entity established in 2013 with the purpose of planning and executing actions on environmental protection, preservation and ecological restoration within the megalopolis, including the "fight against climate change", so far has limited its action to air quality improvement, essentially through vehicle inspection within the megalopolitan area, which includes the 76 municipalities of the MVMA and 164 surrounding municipalities of the State of Mexico, Hidalgo, Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala. Accordingly, and despite it implements other measures related to technical standards, monitoring of emissions from fixed sources, improving cargo and public transportation, among other issues related to urban solid waste management, there are still ample opportunities for further actions, mostly thru a further coordination of local efforts.

The purpose of this project is to generate a baseline assessment of MVMA’s institutional local capacities as they certainly are key pieces of climate-environmental governance, although not the only ones. In fact, other equally relevant actors are, besides other levels of government (including entities for metropolitan and megalopolitan management), the organized civil society, the private sector and even international institutions.

With the support of the International Network for Government Science Advise (INGSA) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), this project developed a Climate-Environmental Local Institutional Capacity Index (ICI-CLIMA, in Spanish), which gathers diverse documental information and generates field quantitative and qualitative information and data. A "live" database is therefore part of the project’s main outcomes.

The 2019 ICI–CLIMA assessment is presented at the metropolitan level as well as for each of the local governments of Mexico City and the MVMA municipalities of the State of Mexico and Hidalgo. The results obtained have been validated through a dialogue exercise with decision-makers and parliamentarians in charge of the environmental and climate agenda within the MVMA. The workshop of parliamentarians and decision-makers "Towards a coordinated climate-environmental action agenda for the MVMA" was part of such a process.

Project outcomes


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Lead-researcher and author: Gian Carlo Delgado Ramos. Maintenance and programming of the website: Manuel de Jesús Chimal Hernández. Technical assistance: Rodolfo Ortega León. Database collaborator: María Fernanda Mac Gregor Gaona. Review of environmental issues in digital and printed media for the area of study: Cinthia Hinojosa (until August 2019) and Isack Lara Martínez. Graphic design: Rodrigo Muñoz Montiel