One of the key areas of the Mexican Energy Reform is the environmental reform. The Mexican Government has changed its philosophy in relation to this area and is set to improve current regulation.

As part of such Reform, the Hydrocarbons Law was enacted on September 2014, providing the authority for the Mexican Government to create Safeguard Zones in specific geographical areas where hydrocarbon exploration and extraction activities will be prohibited.

On 7 December 2016, the Mexican Ministry of Energy announced the establishment of various Safeguard Zones:

I. Coral Reef in the Mexican Gulf and Mexican Caribbean Sea: This is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest worldwide. More than 500 fish species, among other species such as whale sharks, sea turtles, manatees and other endengared species can be found in this area:

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The protected area is located in the states of Campeche, Veracruz, Quintana Roo and Yucatán and its total surface is 6,172.04 km2. 

II. The Lacandona Jungle (“Selva Lacandona”) Region: The “Selva Lacandona” region is a famous tourist destination with important archeological landmarks. This region is located in the state of Chiapas and has millions of domestic and international tourist visits per year. Chiapas is ranked among the five Mexican states with greatest number of tourist visits.

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III. Yucatan´s Peninsula and the Mexican Caribbean Sea: This Safeguard Zone is divided into 24 protected natural areas, 22 Ramsar Sites, 22 priority mangrove sites, 20 priority marine sites and 347 priority land sites. There are several archaeological sites associated with the Mayan civilization located in this region.

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This Safeguard Zone is located between the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán and covers an area of 219,011.91 km2.

IV. Californian Gulf - Californian Peninsula of Southern Californian Pacific Sea: This Safeguard Zone is another famous tourist destination. Preserving this area will benefit the local ecosystem by protecting endangered species in 12 regions, 29 Ramsar Sites, 36 priority marine regions and 18 protected natural spaces.

This protected area extends along the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora and Nayarit, and covers an area of 691,757.61 km2.

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V. Mangrove Zones and Ramsar Sites: In Mexico there are around 81 Mangroves of biological importance and ecological rehabilitation needs. In addition, there are 142 Ramsar Sites that, due to their ecological, botanical, zoological and hydrological characteristics have been classified as sites of international importance. 

CMS in Mexico and Environmental MattersV. Mangrove Zones and Ramsar Sites: In Mexico there are around 81 Mangroves of biological importance and ecological rehabilitation needs. In addition, there are 142 Ramsar Sites that, due to their ecological, botanical, zoological and hydrological characteristics have been classified as sites of international importance.

It is crucial to establish Safeguard Zones in Mexico, particularly because most of these areas contain oil and gas reserves and it is important that these are preserved and exploration is carried out in a sustainable manner. In line with these initiatives, Mexico ratified the Paris Agreement on 21 September 2016, but even before this Mexico has been taking encouraging steps towards a low-carbon economy. The reform and modernization of Mexico’s electricity sector in 2015 has the potential to transform and disseminate clean energy initiatives. Conscious of the need for sustainable development, CMS has a dedicated environmental law practice and is at the forefront of these issues in Mexico through its association with leading local law firm in Mexico City, Woodhouse Lorente Ludlow S.C. (“WLL”), providing commercially focused legal advice in relation environmental law and climate change issues.

We advise on areas of environmental impact and risk; hazardous materials and waste; land contamination; land use; general waste; water concessions and permits and federal maritime and land zone; forest permits; as well as licenses and permits regarding emissions.

Co-authored by Ricardo Masferrer Oliveira, trainee solicitor.