In a sprawling city, a series of “green” initiatives has an environmental leader “pleasantly surprised.” Photo: Flickr

Mérida, Yucatán — The Latin American director of the Climate Reality Project said she was “pleasantly surprised” at the White City’s sustainability plan.

City officials met with Beatriz Bugeda Bernal recently to tell the environmental group she represents that they are on board with clean-energy goals.

Although criticized recently for habitually paving over green spaces, the city presented a master plan that addresses sustainable urban growth.

Mexico was the first developing country to join the Climate Reality Project, an international nonprofit started 11 years ago by former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore. The group has official venues in Australia, Indonesia, India, South Africa, Central Europe, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada and Mexico.

And in March, Mexico became the first developing country pledging to reduce its global warming pollution by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 22 percent and black carbon by 51 percent by 2030.

The Climate Reality Project board met with Mayor Mauricio Vila Dosal and the director of the Sustainable Development Unit, Sayda Rodríguez Gómez, to learn what this sprawling, fast-growing city has done to recognize climate change.

The Plaza Grande’s mix of green and cement. Photo: Flickr

Afterwards, Bugeda expressed satisfaction at the city’s long list of initiatives.

“We are pleasantly surprised at all that has been achieved in the Yucatecan capital in such a short time,” she said after learning that Mérida is the only city in Mexico, with Guadalajara, to have a study of greenhouse gases and a green infrastructure plan, a public spaces management program and an ongoing promotion of bicycle use. The city also unveiled a plan recently to encourage hotels to use solar-powered water heaters.

Mayor Mauricio Vila also underlined his commitment to continue working on the environmental issue and to join the international agenda in the fight against the effects of climate change.

In addition, the Municipal Police added four electric patrol cars and another 12 electric vehicles for cleaning and garbage collection in the Historic Center.

He also said that 140 parks are increasing their green spaces by 50 to 80 percent.

The City Council applies a 15 percent discount on property taxes for homeowners who use solar panels, which are already in use at the Municipal Palace and its wastewater treatment plant.

Under Mérida’s Green Infrastructure Plan, Vila Dosal said that since its implementation, more than 53,000 trees have been planted throughout the city.

Bugeda said that a point in favor of Mérida is that many young people are interested in environmental actions and participate actively, as in the case of the Kybernus Yucatán Collective, which invited her to give a workshop on the subject.

She also said that she had visited the Yucatecan capital on previous occasions and this time she was surprised by the refreshed facades and the cultural atmosphere of the Centro Histórico.

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