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New Sustainability Agreement for Yucatan Peninsula Provides Model for Collaboration

by

Rane Cortez

Chief of Party for the Mexico REDD+ Program at The Nature Conservancy

December 2016

Ocean spray as the Caribbean Sea crashes against the rugged coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Photo © Ami Vitale
Ocean spray as the Caribbean Sea crashes against the rugged coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Photo © Ami Vitale

Six years ago, the world came together in Cancun at the 16th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP 16) to negotiate the climate agreement that would eventually become the Paris Accord. At that event, on their home turf, the three states of the Yucatan Peninsula signed a key agreement to work together to confront climate change. In recognition of the importance of their shared resources – Mexico’s largest intact swath of tropical forest, its broad natural shoreline, and the unique cultural legacy of the Mayans – Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo joined forces in order to better tackle the issues that threatened the whole Peninsula. It was one of many big announcements made by governments during that COP. What sets this agreement apart from many other such announcements made there, however, was that they actually achieved it.

Earlier this year, the three states of the Yucatan Peninsula announced that they had completed the commitments in that agreement, including finalizing strategies on REDD+ and climate adaptation, establishing a joint Commission on Climate Change and a Peninsula-wide forest monitoring system, as well as creating the Yucatan Peninsula Climate Action Fund. The three states, by committing to joint action and following through, have positioned themselves as world leaders in sustainable, low-emission, development. But they’re not done yet.

This December, the world gathers in Cancun once again - this time at the 13th Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 13). The three states of the Yucatan Peninsula will use the home-court advantage to make a big announcement – echoing their pledge at UNFCCC COP 16. Having laid the foundation over the past six years by undertaking analyses, creating governance bodies, consulting with stakeholders, and strengthening the necessary institutions, they are now ready to commit to large-scale action to transform the development pathway of the region into a sustainable, productive, competitive model for the world to follow.

On December 10th, the three Governors will announce the Yucatan Peninsula Framework Agreement on Sustainability for 2030 (ASPY 2030 for the acronym in Spanish).

ASPY 2030 promotes inter-institutional coordination at the state level, among the states, and with the national government, private sector, academia, financial institutions, civil society and international bodies to achieve low emissions growth and the successful implementation of existing sustainability strategies (REDD+, biodiversity, restoration, and coastal resilience, among others).

The 2030 goals of ASPY are ambitious:

  1. Achieve net-zero deforestation by 2030 (decrease by 80% by 2020).
  2. Restore 2 million hectares of degraded land, including:
    • Sustainable intensification of cattle ranching on 250,000 hectares
    • Sustainable intensification of agriculture on 250,000 hectares
    • Reforestation and forest restoration on 420,000 hectares
  3. Put 50% of the terrestrial and coastal territory of the Yucatan Peninsula under conservation and/or forest management schemes.
  4. Promote Mayan biocultural landscapes on 5,484,000 hectares.
  5. Attract resources from private and/or international sources that represent the equivalent of public resources currently earmarked for activities that promote the green economy.
  6. Restore 20% of the reef crests (54 kms) and 30% of the beach-dune systems altered by human settlements (80 kms) that protect human communities, beaches, and infrastructure.

Achieving these goals will require involvement not only of the government, but of the private and financial sectors and partner organizations like The Nature Conservancy (TNC), among others.

As a key facilitator of ASPY, The Nature Conservancy has played a critical role by providing essential data and tools, by piloting sustainable practices, and by helping bring diverse sectors together around shared goals. Going forward, TNC is uniquely positioned to help shape the implementation of this agreement given the organization’s history as a major player in integrated landscape management, creation of supply chain engagement strategies and strategic partnerships within the agriculture sector. The Conservancy’s strategy and vision for Latin American Lands is to help meet the growing demand for food and other agricultural products with minimal impact on lands and waters. Through sustainable intensification on already cleared or degraded lands and using scientific and economic tools that make producers also protectors of land, TNC’s experience in this sphere will add to the chances of success of this cross-sector agreement.

ASPY consists two inter-linked agreements:

  1. Collaboration Agreement between the 3 states of the Yucatan Peninsula
    The Agreement between the three governments aims "to set common goals and coordinate strategies to achieve the sustainability of the Yucatan Peninsula, recognizing the value of biodiversity and the need for sustainable rural development so that communities and ecosystems can thrive.”
  2. Private Sector Declaration
    The Declaration of the Private and Financial Sector for the Sustainability of the Yucatan Peninsula is a voluntary statement that emanates from the desire of companies to move towards a responsible operation with the environment and communities in support of the Yucatan Peninsula Framework Agreement on Sustainability signed by the three State Governments of the Yucatan Peninsula (ASPY). In it, the companies declare "We support and seek to contribute, within our areas of action, to fulfill the goals that the three states of the Yucatan Peninsula have proposed Yucatan Peninsula Framework Agreement on Peninsula (ASPY)" and defines concrete lines of action. Over 50 companies have signed on.
The Nature Conservancy has worked with partner Organizacion de Ejidos Productores Forestales de la Zona Maya S.C., to support sustainable forest management and income-producing activities. Photo © Erika Nortemann/The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy has worked with partner Organizacion de Ejidos Productores Forestales de la Zona Maya S.C., to support sustainable forest management and income-producing activities. Photo © Erika Nortemann/The Nature Conservancy

What’s next?

The launch of this new agreement by the three states of the Yucatan Peninsula and the private and financial sectors can serve as a model for other regions throughout Latin America and the world on how to achieve green growth.

Should the agreement be successful in implementation, it will bring growth to the region that protects, restores and conserves natural capital, encourages green supply chains and helps communities to achieve sustainable livelihoods while also actively working on conservation. The goals are very ambitious, but given their track record, and the involvement of many new actors, I am very hopeful that they will achieve them.