Trump’s wall threatens Mexican environmental progress

Trump’s wall threatens Mexican environmental progress

The US decision to leave the Paris Agreement is likely to affect the environments of other nations and the US-Mexico border wall is an example of what can happen.

Not counting the monumental environmental damage done by Mexico City, Mexico is not a high polluting nation. It only contributes an estimated 1.5 percent of global emissions. Furthermore, Mexico has been a leader in the fight to reduce the impact of carbon emissions. In 2012 Mexico became the first developing country to enact a national climate law. With this, it promised to curb emissions growth by 30 percent by 2030.

Mexico’s decision to reduce carbon emissions is striking given it depends on oil. A third of the Mexican economy comes from oil. While Mexico has promised to reduce its carbon output it has yet to create a practical renewable energy alternative. The push toward renewable energy has come from academia and not industries. “The amount of research into renewable sources has not been as great as in other countries. In other countries industry funds research but here we take our research to industries” said Dr. Antonio Del Rio Portilla UNAM Renewable Energy Institute director. To address this gap the Mexican government has promised to fund studies for Mexicans focused on environmental careers.

The border wall threatens Mexico’s green initiatives. The US’ choice to build a bigger wall may prove not only controversial but also destructive.

The Trump-promoted wall is not the first structure along the Mexico-US border. “Billions of dollars have already been spent on existing border fencing, with little to no environmental oversight,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. While the effectiveness of the current wall is up for debate, something that appears evident is its environmental effect. Today’s wall has led to erosion and flooding in border communities as well as a roadblock for the natural movement of wildlife. In the Tijuana River estuary 90% of the habitat, home to at least seven endangered species, was destroyed by pollutants from the wall’s construction.

Additions to the existing wall would add to the environmental problems. To begin, the source of the materials for the expansions to the wall will cause pollution. As Dan Millis, a program manager with the Sierra Club’s Borderlands project said: “The production of cement … is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.” Any building would cause some level of pollution, yet, the scale for this new wall is monumental. The new wall would be roughly 1,000 miles long, 40-feet-tall, 7-feet-deep, and 10-inches-thick.

The environmental repercussions of the wall have not been a top priority. And they don’t have to be. Oversight for the wall’s construction is under the Department of Homeland Security. And the Department is not accountable to the Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Trump’s reasons for building the wall have been for security and have not taken into account the environmental implications. But not everyone agrees on what constitutes safety. Raphael Sperry, president of Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility believes that: the wall will “Fuel climate change … and that it actually jeopardizes public health, safety, and welfare.”

Yet, Mexico does not have to be a silent victim to the potential environmental damage of the border wall. Fuelled by hostile diplomatic relations Mexico may choose to file a claim with the International Court of Justice as it has threatened to do in the past.

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