The New President of Mexico is a Climate Scientist. That Might Be Good for California

The New President of Mexico is a Climate Scientist. That Might Be Good for California

LOS ANGELES— Officials in California are happy about Claudia Sheinbaum’s win as Mexican President-elect because it is good for the state’s climate.

“Having an engineer who has worked on climate change before is a big deal,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from California’s inland border region who was in Mexico City with Sheinbaum’s team on Sunday to see her huge win.

Californian and Mexican politicians already get along well and have agreements to work together on several climate problems, such as drought, land conservation, recycling, and truck emissions that cross the border. Californians, on the other hand, hope that Sheinbaum, who is an engineer by training and worked on reports for the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will make the problem seem more important, especially when it comes to clean energy and transportation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom was one of the California leaders who shared pictures of themselves with Sheinbaum on Monday. Sheinbaum is a former mayor of Mexico City and has ties to California. In the 1990s, she worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for four years as a Ph.D. candidate to study how energy was used in Mexico’s transportation industry while her husband, Carlos Ímaz, went to Stanford to further his education.

Newsom has been focusing a lot of his efforts on climate relations with Mexico. Since he took office in 2019, the state has signed four climate deals with Mexican officials.

“Sharing already strong historical, cultural, environmental, and economic ties with Mexico, California looks forward to continuing its fruitful relationship with President-elect Sheinbaum,” Newsom said in an email.

Sheinbaum is close with the outgoing leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and is likely to keep pushing for Mexico to become energy independent and protect its state-owned monopolies on oil and electricity. But she has made it clear that she doesn’t agree with him on investment in clean energy. While López Obrador emphasized fossil fuels as a key part of energy freedom, his deputy wants to spend $13.6 billion to build out wind and solar power and the networks that will send it.

Gil Tal, head of the University of California, Davis’ Electric Vehicle Research Center, works with Mexican officials on heavy-duty fleet electrification, charger build-out, and trade in used EVs. “It was a slow change when it comes to the environment and climate change,” he said. “We hope that environmental goals will get a little more attention.”

Josué Medellín-Azuara, an environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Merced, said he wanted to work with others more on water infrastructure and being able to handle droughts in particular.

“There’s been some sharing of information and meetings between the two countries, but support for science in Mexico has dropped a lot,” he said on Monday from Temporal in Mexico. “We may see some more prominent place in the agenda in terms of climate science.”

As chair of the Assembly Select Committee on California-Mexico Bi-National Affairs, Garcia is holding a hearing on Wednesday about education and economic opportunities. He said that he sees a chance to work together more on electric cars, especially when it comes to making lithium. Sheinbaum has pointed out that Sonora’s lithium-rich clay reserves are ready to be mined.

“I could see a partnership in that area,” Garcia said. “That could be between the U.S. and Mexico or between California and the state of Sonora.” Garcia’s district includes the Salton Sea, which Newsom wants to become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.”

“Many things can come out of this partnership under this new leadership.”

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