November 21, 2022

Mexico Launches Unique Declaration Promoting Leadership by Landscape Partnerships and Local Governments to Fight Climate Change, Blunt Biodiversity Loss and Benefit Communities

Brianna Van Matre

Standing atop one of Mexico’s Sierra Gorda peaks, you can see lush green-covered mountains stretched from one horizon to the other. The sound of rushing water falling over rocks and into natural lakes rises all around. This beautiful mountainous region in the north-central state of Querétaro, the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, is rich in biodiversity and culture and also home to over 100 thousand people. To protect this special landscape, leaders here have developed a unique policy to fight climate change that also preserves its environment and feeds its people. Their approach offers a model for community-led climate action around the world. 

Inspired by this experience, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Querétaro state government officials and the local NGO Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda jointly drafted a national declaration seeking greater collaboration for climate action between local governments and local landscape organizations. This declaration is unique; no other country has yet put forward a nature-based policy led by local governments and communities to meet their country’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. 

On July 18, 2022, a virtual event presented this revolutionary declaration, “Climate Action to Recover Mexico’s Natural Heritage,” to promote regenerative management actions and solutions to address climate change, reduce emissions, minimize biodiversity loss, and combat hunger and poverty by looking at problems in the region holistically rather than issue by issue. 24 Mexican states sent representatives to the meeting. Shortly after the event, four states–Jalisco, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Baja California Sur– announced their intention to follow the declaration’s recommendations.

Dr. Sara Scherr, President and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners, was one of several speakers at the event organized by the Ministry to unveil the work. After the event, Dr. Scherr said she was excited to see Mexico championing a grassroots climate-smart landscape model for carbon sequestration. “I was super emotional,” she said. “I have seen many programs promoting carbon sequestration that is far too complex and risky for local communities or actually harms their interests. Seeing a local initiative landscape partnership, a state government and the Mexican government collaborating to mutually support their goals was really thrilling!” She continued, “This is a big deal because it shows how subnational governments and local actors can play a big role in addressing the climate crisis. It shows that landscape partnerships can be prominent leaders.”

Mexican officials Martha Delgado Peralta and Rodolfo Osorio noted during the event that it is essential to prepare local governments to join the climate change fight. This is not new news for the Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, which has been a pioneer in engaging rural landowners to farm and live with high biodiversity. Working closely with local communities, they co-designed land use systems that capture more carbon to fight climate change by restoring the forests, grazing lands, agricultural soils and biodiversity, which keep people, ecosystems and the local economy healthy. Queretaro’s state government financed the rural communities’ land investments through their State Planning Fund for Sustainable Development, paid for by a tax on vehicle ownership. 

“This model is highly relevant to landscapes all around the world,” Dr. Scherr said. “It shows how climate action must be adapted to the needs and uses of a specific area to be successful. Other groups around the world can learn from their experience.” 

Pati Ruiz Corzo, Director of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, said during the event, “There is still a long way to go, as there are so many climate funds without a community focus. However, we are finding that more and more are becoming receptive to the possibility that rural farmers and communities can recover forests and practice planned grazing with real climate benefits. We will continue to host workshops at all levels to reorient resources towards regenerative management.”

Richard Torres, Undersecretary of the Environment of Queretaro State, highlighted that in the state of Querétaro, an environmental agenda had been promoted to strengthen strategies and mechanisms to increase positive impacts and move towards a circular economy with low polluting emissions. “An example of this is the model we are presenting today, where the great work of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda is reflected in great results for our town and our country,” he said.

“Sierra Gorda has built this exemplary model, which shows how local solutions can help the global climate crisis and how local governments can integrate policies that efficiently respond to the ecosystem and local community needs. They are addressing their problems in a holistic way that is good for agriculture production and forest management, biodiversity and community welfare. It’s what we want to see–the triple win,” said Dr. Scherr. 

For more information, read the press release from the event and view a full recording here.

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