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World Energy Congress in South KoreaWorld Energy Congress in South Korea
Mendez speaks during a session of the 22nd World Energy Congress at Exco Hall in Daegu, South Korea.Jeon Heon-Kyun — EPA/Corbis
Mendez speaks during a session of the 22nd World Energy Congress at Exco Hall in Daegu, South Korea., Jeon Heon-Kyun — EPA/Corbis
  • Title
    Head of Climate Change Policy
  • Affiliation
    Uruguay
  • Age
    55

In the 1970s oil generated half of Uruguay’s electricity. Now renewables provide 94.5%, making this South American nation of 3 million a guiding light in how to decarbonize your economy. As national director of energy, Méndez oversaw the transformation, capitalizing on the nation’s blustery weather to build wind farms and tapping hydropower and biomass. “The decisions Uruguay took benefited the climate yet also made economic sense,” says Joe Thwaites, research analyst at the World Resources Institute. Méndez’s next ambitious goal: an 88% cut in carbon emissions by 2017.

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