Mexico’s president-elect brings climate science background to office

Mexican President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum, the nation’s first woman president and first Jewish president, has a background in environmental policy that includes work for the Nobel-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Sheinbaum earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in energy engineering before serving as secretary of the environment for Mexico City under then-Head of Government Andrés Manuel López Obrador, now the outgoing president, from 2000 to 2006. After leaving that role, she worked as a researcher at the IPCC and is listed as coauthor on its 2007 and 2014 assessments.

On the campaign trail, Sheinbaum supported the transition to renewables, but also emphasized the need to maintain fossil fuel infrastructure. At a campaign event in Mexico City, she said state-owned oil company Pemex “has to face climate change head on and enter other markets” and “not just in oil and gas, which are indispensable, but also in permitting entry into renewable energy sources.”

She has called for investing more than $13 billion in renewables but has also vowed to continue anti-privatization policies enacted under Obrador that would likely block American investment into the country’s energy sector.

Sheinbaum is seen as a close ally and protege of Obrador, but her work on climate change and her support for renewables is in contrast with the Obrador administration’s advocacy for expansion of fossil fuels. Obrador has sought to increase Mexico’s energy independence through oil and gas development, telling a crowd at the opening of a refinery in 2022 that Mexico has “ignored the sirens’ song, the voices that predicted, in good faith, perhaps, the end of the oil age and the massive arrival of electric cars and renewable energies.”

Obrador, a center-left populist, has framed his advocacy of fossil fuels in economic nationalist terms, seeking to roll back neoliberal policies that increasingly opened the country’s oil production to private investors.

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