Introduction to Mexico

Located in the southern part of North America, Mexico has a population of 126.7 million1 , of which 19% is rural.2 Mexico is the second largest Latin American economy and amongst the world’s 15 largest economies in the world in terms of nominal GDP.3  The coastal nation has a range of climate zones, with hot desert climate in the west coast and central-northern highlands, both hot semi-arid and monsoon influenced temperate oceanic climate in the central mountainous regions, and tropical monsoon climate in the southern parts.4 With an extensive coastline along the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to the east, Mexico faces severe threats from tropical cyclones and hurricanes.5 Additionally, economic disparity in the country shapes how such climate impacts are felt. In 2018, 41.9% of Mexico’s population lived below the national poverty lines, which increased to 43.9% in 2020.6 Further, Mexico serves as a transit route for migrants and refugees fleeing to the United States from conflict, poverty, and the climate crisis in many Central and South American countries. Following U.S. pressure7 ,  Mexico has increasingly militarized its southern border8 , further endangering the lives of millions of vulnerable migrants. With climate disasters becoming more severe, 17.1 million people are projected to be internally displaced in Latin America by 2050.9 the number of climate migrants within Mexico and those fleeing to the country is expected to escalate.

Mapping Major Climate Events and Climate-Induced Displacement

Mexico is vulnerable to climate events, ranking 54 out of 180 countries in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021.10  Within Mexico, flooding and storms are the major causes of climate-induced displacement, resulting in the internal displacement of over 2.3 million people between 2008 and 2022.11 Over the last forty years, the country has been experiencing increasingly severe and frequent climate disasters. While the country experienced 8 separate years of floods and 12 separate years of storms between 1980 and 2000, the numbers increased to 14 and 18 respectively between 2000 and 2020.12 In 2020, Mexico was hit by Tropical Cyclone Cristobal and Hurricane Eta, resulting in flood, landslides, widespread damage, and casualties.13 Two years later, Hurricane Roslyn displaced 90% of the residents in the municipalities of San Blas and Santiago Ixcuintlaand, and damaged power-generating facilities leaving 100,000 people without power across the country.14 An estimated 10.5 million people are expected to migrate to urban centers in Mexico and Central America by 2050 due to such climate impacts, especially in the absence of effective urban planning, environmental policies, and mitigation strategies.15

Mapping the Costs of the Climate Crisis

With a GDP of $1.27 trillion16 , Mexico has a diversified economy with the service sector contributing the vast majority of the GDP, followed by industry and then agriculture. Even though the agriculture sector contributes to only 3.9% of the GDP, itemploys over 7 million people.17 With 70% of the agriculture dependent on rain-fed management18 , extreme temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns have a profound impact on agricultural productivity, particularly in regions with inadequate irrigation infrastructure. Over 25% of Mexico’s population faces moderate or severe food insecurity, and with crop yield impacted by climate hazards, the food crisis is at risk of further worsening.19 Additionally, between 1990 and 2017, the agricultural sector has borne the brunt of 80 percent of Mexico’s financial losses from weather-related events.20 Extreme weather events and sea level rise due to climate change also threatens Mexico’s coastal regions.  The country has more than 11,000 km of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, supporting tourism, fisheries, and port activities.21 The coastal regions are extremely susceptible to tropical cyclones and hurricanes originating from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.12 In 2013 and within a span of 24 hours, two storms struck both the coasts of Mexico leading to a staggering $5.7 billion in damages.22

Mapping Resilience and Mitigation Pathways

Ranked twelfth globally, Mexico is one of the largest producers of crude oil and the second largest exporter of the fossil fuel to the United States.23 The country also ranks as the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses (GHG) within Latin America and the Caribbean24 , with fossil fuel energy sources overwhelmingly dominating25 its energy supply. However, in its updated Nationally Determined Contribution, Mexico has made a commitment of unconditionally bringing down 35% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to business-as-usual levels, and a total of 40%  with external support and funding.26 In addition, the country has established an unconditional and conditional target of reducing black carbon emissions by 51% and 70%  respectively by 2030. Currently, 29.5% of Mexico’s power is generated from clean energy sources and according to its Climate Change Mid-Century strategy, Mexico has a target of achieving 50% clean power by 2050.27 Mexico's adaptation and resilience priorities include promoting sustainable and resilient food production systems, conserving and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services, and protecting strategic infrastructure from the effects of climate change.

Necessary Changes

With the number of climate migrants expected to increase in Latin America, it is crucial for Mexico to adopt a comprehensive approach that integrates climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and migration policies to adequately prepare for and manage climate migration. In addition to facilitating legal pathways for climate displaced people, it is critical for both Mexico and the United States to reassess their asylum procedures to ensure the provision of protection, care, and shelter to migrants fleeing conflict, climate disasters, or economic crisis. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to recognize and address the harm resulting from neoliberal globalization and inequitable free trade agreements, such as the former North American Free Trade Agreement (now United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement), which led to widespread inequality, diminished food sovereignty, and displacement of workers across Mexico.28 Finally, given Mexico’s high greenhouse gas emission, implementation of renewable energy-friendly policies, while urgently curbing its reliance on environmentally detrimental and extractive industries such as the country’s petroleum industry, is imperative. The escalating consequences of climate change on marginalized communities in Latin America, particularly their heightened vulnerability to displacement, underscore the urgent necessity for a just and equitable transition.