SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The North American Development Bank recently hosted the 25th Annual Border Environmental Forum.

Among those to attend were Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz and Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña.

Saenz told KGNS-TV he was pleased to meet the keynote speaker and ambassador of Mexico to the U.S., Esteban Moctezuma Barragán.

O’Caña told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service he attended to see whether the North American Development Bank (NADB) could help fund the Mission-Reynosa Madero International Bridge project.

The Border Environmental Forum was created and hosted by the Texas General Land Office in 1994 with the mission of bringing people together from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to exchange information about energy, economic development and environmental issues. 

Through the years, NADB has helped to grow and promote the event. In 2018, NADB began hosting the forum and, after its cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to expand it this year to include other environmental issues of relevance to the U.S.-Mexico border region.

NADB is a financial institution established and capitalized in equal parts by the United States and Mexico for the purpose of financing environmental infrastructure projects along their common border. It aims to develop environmentally and financially sustainable projects with broad community support in a framework of close cooperation and coordination between Mexico and the United States.

This year’s forum was held August 17 and 18, 2021 at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio were among the keynote speakers.

NADB Managing Director Calixto Mateos Hanel

In addition to Moctezuma, Nirenberg, and Castro, other keynote speakers included Norman F. Anderson, president and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure and author of Vision: Our Strategic Infrastructure Roadmap Forward; and Trinity Lloyd, energy transition and sustainability leader of Google Cloud.

NADB Managing Director Calixto Mateos Hanel said he was honored to have high caliber speakers and panelists. He said the experts and innovators covered a broad range of environmental topics. Their knowledge and initiatives, Mateos Hanel said, could be replicated throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region “to strengthen efforts to improve the environment and boost its economy in a sustainable and inclusive manner for all residents.”

Other panelists participating in the two-day event included: Noella De Maina, consul and foreign policy and diplomacy services manager of the Consulate General of Canada in Dallas; Luz María de la Mora Sánchez, undersecretary of foreign trade for the Mexican Ministry of Economy; Pia M. Orrenious, vice-president and senior economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Janie Barrera, president and CEO of LiftFund; Dr. Abner Adin, director and founder of Adin Holdings, an internationally renowned water reuse expert from Israel; Blas L. Pérez Henríquez, director of the California Global Energy, Water & Infrastructure Innovation Initiative from Stanford University; Gerry Schwebel, executive vice president of the corporate international division at IBC Bank-Laredo; and Dr. Steven Roop, CEO of Freight Shuttle Xpress.

The sponsors included Baker McKenzie, Cacheux, Cavazos & Newton, Holland & Knight, Ritch Mueller, Consulate General of Canada and BayWa r.e. Solar, IBC Bank and GEMCO.

25th Annual Border Environmental Forum review

Here is an in-depth write-up of the forum by Jesse J. Hereford, public affairs director for NADB:

Last month, the North American Development Bank (NADB) organized the Border Environmental Forum XXV in San Antonio. More than 140 attendees met in person and virtually to see the presentations of various experts on environmental, economic, sustainable and social inclusion issues with proposals to promote the competitiveness of the border region of the United States and Mexico along with practices and sustainable projects to achieve a transition to a green economy.

The forum began with the keynote speaker, Ambassador Esteban Moctezuma Barragán, Mexican Ambassador to the United States, who stressed that “our border is the backbone of the bilateral relationship.” In this context, he added, “NADBank is the result of an unprecedented collective effort to improve environmental infrastructure along two thousand miles of the border.” He concluded that “we need to create smart cities… and a smart border in this region and contribute to increase NADBank’s visibility and promote its regional achievements.”

The forum also included keynote speakers San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who presented the city’s climate action plan, U.S. Congressman Joaquín Castro from San Antonio, and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla from California, who reported on the legislative initiatives that are promoted at the federal level in terms of infrastructure and green economy.

Other participants of the forum included Trinity Lloyd of Google Cloud, who spoke about her company’s sustainable practices and the energy transition during a talk moderated by NADB Chief Environmental Officer Salvador López; as well as Norman Anderson, author of Vision: Our Strategic Infrastructure Roadmap who presented the critical role of infrastructure and what he calls “the fourth industrial revolution” with a “transformative technology explosion.” Anderson proposed a border region on the Mexican side with green manufacturing that would lead the North American economy.

Texas Commission of Environmental Quality Commissioner Bobby Janeka highlighted his agency’s collaboration with NADB to support the binational El Paso-Juárez air quality monitoring program.

NADB Managing Director Calixto Mateos-Hanel, in his welcome message, indicated that this year’s forum focused on the green economy and bilateral integration, “a relevant topic for the Bank” whose mission is to preserve, protect and improve the environment and the quality of life of the residents of the US-Mexico border.

The forum consisted of six panels focused on sustainable solutions such as innovation, sustainable mobility, smart cities, resilience to climate change, and environmental justice among other topics.

Panel One: Investment Opportunities in the Current Environment

Mateos-Hanel moderated the first panel that discussed the necessary components such as regulatory aspects, market conditions, and financing compliance that involve environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues for promoting investment opportunities on both sides of the border.

During this panel, Pia Orrenius, from Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, spoke about the United States economy and particularly the Texas economy and the border, with positive projections for growth and job creation after a recession, but with inflationary pressures. Benjamín Torres Barrón, an attorney from Baker McKenzie, spoke about investment opportunities in the context of the factors that drive them within the concept of ESG, which in his opinion has an important trend in the market since it allows risk management and profit maximization. Claudio Rodriguez Galán from Holland and Knight said that globally, countries and companies are looking at “how we can collaborate with financial institutions, companies and the public sector… to build the common good” and this was analyzed in the context of the opportunities that occur in the Mexican market.

Panel Two: USMCA – Integration of Greener Economy

On the topic of integration toward a green economy in the context of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Luz María de la Mora, Undersecretary of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Economy, said that one year after the implementation of this agreement, the integration of North America is a reality that makes the countries stronger as partners. Gerry Schwebel from IBC Bank discussed how trade has positively impacted the border economy as well as the U.S. and Mexican economies since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and now with USMCA. He discussed how international trade is the lifeblood of the Laredo and border economy. José Maria Lujambio from Cacheaux, Cavazos and Newton, noted that future discussions between the three countries will include the transition to energy integration.

Panel Three: Mobility and Urban Development

NADB Deputy Managing Director John Beckham, who moderated the mobility and urban development panel, said that at the bank “we focus on quality investments, a green economy, and economic opportunities.”

On this topic, María Guadalupe Peñuñuri Soto, from the Hermosillo Municipal Institute of Urban Planning (IMPLAN), highlighted her city’s efforts to apply smart and sustainable solutions to create a circular economy to improve the competitiveness of the city. Stephen Roop, from Freight Shuttle System, referred to El Paso-Juárez binational project to create an intermodal system that connects both rail terminals with a stand-alone monorail powered with electric power and zero emissions to transport cargo through a system sustainable and financially feasible. Rogelio Rivero, General Director of Road Development of the Secretary of Communications and Transportation, referred to different border crossings that the secretary has in its portfolio, such as Otay Mesa II, as well as road projects in Juárez and Monterrey, aimed at strengthening the USMCA competitiveness. Maria de Lourdes Romo, a researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, spoke about the municipal planning and inclusion in a post-Covid scenario and how we are going to interact, especially in the recovery of public spaces and integrated transport, with initiatives focused on the most vulnerable groups.

Panel Four: Innovation and Emerging Opportunities

Blas Pérez Henríquez, Director of the California Global Energy, Water and Infrastructure Innovation Initiative at Stanford University, said that sustainability depends on organizations and creative individuals to offer innovative solutions that support safe, resilient, and clean economies on the border and in North America in general.

Hugo Salinas, President of the Cluster of Information Technologies of Baja California, through a pre-recorded video, indicated that among the challenges of the border is the digital transformation linked to the concept of smart cities. Bart Bohn from Pecan Street Inc. presented a project that is being developed in Austin, Texas with the application of data research on how energy is used to offer sustainable energy solutions. On the topic of emerging investments, Diego Castillo from Accenture Strategy proposed an innovative urban mining scheme for the recycling of high-value metals from electronic devices creating a circular economy for their disposal and use. Soll Sussman, the Texas representative for the International Dark-Sky Association, made recommendations for the efficient use of artificial light in homes and the promotion of friendly lighting in communities, in an effort to reduce light pollution.

Panel Five: Environmental Justice and Social Inclusion

This panel included important reflections aimed at ensuring that the population served by infrastructure projects is protected and properly included. Gustavo Alanís, from Mexican Center for Environmental Law, recognized that in social participation the Mexican legislation is solid but is improperly implemented and noted that investments must be respectful of social capital and the rights of the communities. On the same topic, Héctor Garza, partner at Ritch Mueller in Mexico, emphasized the importance of ensuring that project proposals certify that they are not destructive to the environment and that communities are adequately informed about their objective. LiftFund President and CEO Janie Barrera spoke about the importance of supporting small businesses while leveling the financial playing field for the underestimated entrepreneur.

Panel Six: The Climate Challenge for Water

During the last panel on the climate challenge of water, Avner Adin, an international and recognized expert in water from the University of Jerusalem, reported on the progress of his country, Israel, in the hydraulic field, with 65% of its supply of desalinated water and the reuse of 85% of its treated wastewater in municipal uses. Oscar Ibáñez, General Director of the Chihuahua state water agency, Junta Central de Agua y Saneamiento (JCAS), noted the hydric stress that is experienced on the border due to the drought in its two shared basins, the Colorado and the Bravo. He reported on the initiatives that his institution has promoted in water planning, green infrastructure in storm drainage in Juárez and rainwater harvesting in the marginalized communities of the Sierra Tarahumara.

For video access to complete sessions of the Border Environmental Forum XXV, visit NADB’s YouTube page at the following link: