Latin America Green News: Chile's sun shines on a rural school, Costa Rica tackles carbon neutrality and windy Mexico region helps cut carbon emissions
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
November 4-9, 2012
Environmentalists are preparing for the next round of decisions from the Committee of Ministers, the highest administrative authority in Chile. During its third session, the Committee will look at the cases of three separate projects that were rejected by the environmental review process. Proponents of these projects –Chilean pulp and paper giant Celulosa Arauco, European-owned energy company Endesa and the North American mining company Rockwood-Litio— are all appealing the rejections and hope for reversals; environmentalists are calling for the committee to uphold the rejections. (Radio Universidad de Chile 11/5/2012) The following group of cases for the Committee of Ministers will include the much-anticipated ruling on the HidroAysen appeals. Environmentalists and members of the “Patagonia sin represas” campaign are already gearing up for the decisión. Leaders of the campaign have already sent letters to Environment Minister Benitez, who chairs the committee, asking for transparency and public participation in the process. (El Ciudadano 11/9/2012)
The 26 students of the El Romeral school in northern Chile will have electricity for the first time thanks to the energy supplied by 16 new solar panels that are currently being installed. “We didn’t have light. The students knew nothing of the internet… Now we have light starting early in the morning, and we can listen to music. These are common things for others. But here we couldn’t even imagine it,” said Margarita Marin, teacher and director of the school for 28 years. (La Tercera 11/5/2012)
Chile’s native Bullock frog, or Nahuelbuta mountain frog, is facing extinction due to growing human impacts on and encroachment into its habitat. Found in just 193 square miles of the south-central Biobio Region, the 20 million year-old Bullock frog has become of focus of concern for biologists. Hydroelectric proposals and unsustainable forestry practices threaten to alter the conditions of the land and forests the Bullock frog needs to survive. “They are an important biological indicator of the health of the environment or ecosystems,” said Claudio Soto, regional chair for the Amphibian Specialist Group division of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “If an environment does not have amphibians it means that it is not a healthy environment.” (Santiago Times 11/5/2012)
In its summary of the results of Chile’s municipal elections, held on October 28, Americas Quarterly argues that “everyone loses, but the ruling coalition loses more.” The disappointing results for the center-right Alianza coalition, to which President Pinera belongs, could lead to setbacks in the presidential elections next year. (Americas Quarterly 11/1/2012)
Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy launched a new Action Plan for the National Climate Change Strategy. The plan will promote specific actions on water resources, energy, transportation and agriculture in order to meet the goal of carbon neutrality by 2021. Some of the specific measures included in the plan include substituting thermal plants with renewable energy and creating incentives for companies that reduce their carbon emissions. The public vehicle fleet will also be modernized to include vehicles that run on LPG, electricity or are hybrids. Costa Rica will also plan seven million trees near coffee farm and cattle ranches. (El Financiero 11/7/2012)
Low rainfall and a growing vehicle fleet caused Costa Rica’s fossil fuel use to grow in 2011. While over 70% of the country’s electricity is produced by hydropower, a low precipitation year meant Costa Rica had to produce 9% of its electricity needs with its Garabito bunker fuel plant – a 15 year high. The nation’s vehicle fleet also grew by 19% meaning fossil fuel use by the transportation sector was even higher. (El Financiero 11/7/2012)
Costa Rica’s brand new vice ministry of water and ocean released its six-pronged strategy to protect the nation’s fresh and marine water resources. The vice ministry will coordinate implementation of the national maritime monitoring strategy, promote sustainable coastal development, and coordinate wetland and fresh water source management. It will also work to prevent environmental degradation, ensure compliance with international commitments related to water and oceans, and promote research and education on water and ocean issues. (El Financiero 11/5/2012)
President Calderón and representatives of the Ministry of Energy and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) inaugurated the La Yesca dam this week after four years of construction. With a 1.329 billion cubic meter reservoir, the $768 million La Yesca will have an installed generating capacity of 750 MW. It is one of the five highest altitude dams in the world, and joins the Aguamilpa and El Cajón dams to form a hydrological system along the Río Grande Santiago that is essential to the hydroelectric efforts that Calderón’s administration prioritized. (América Economía 11/05/2012).
Tamaulipas, a renewable energy pillar in Mexico, will be home to two new wind parks next year. El Porvenir plans to construct 30 turbines, each with a capacity of 1.8 MW in Reynosa, as well as a transformer substation to enhance the energy before it is sent out for use. Energía Renovable will be constructing its wind park in Llera, with the potential for 50 MW of wind energy. Both parks aspire to be functional by 2014. Representatives from the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment (SEDUMA) and government will be meeting to decide whether or not to sell this energy directly to consumers or to pass it through the Federal Electricity Commission. The use of these two wind plants will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 90.976 metric tons, sulfur dioxide by 442,400 metric tons and nitrogen oxide by 189.7 metric tons annually. (Reve 11/06/2012).
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) presented the “Strategy for Sustainable Production and Consumption” to encourage the creation of new markets and models of responsible sustainable consumption. This new policy intends to produce a researched set of actions that, when put into place by consumers and producers, will reduce negative environmental impacts. The policy also requires that producers adopt environmentally friendly practices in the creation of their products. The team that contributed to the strategy was comprised of representatives from the general public, higher education, business, non-government organizations, and international cooperation agencies. (Biosfera 11/05/2012).
Germany has committed to supporting Ecuador’s Yasuni Ecological Project, or Yasuni-ITT, with $50 million, the largest amount from any European country to date. The Yasuni-ITT is an initiative proposed by the Ecuadorean government, in which it commits to not allow drilling for the 840 million barrels of petroleum in the Yasuni National Park, thereby avoiding 400 million tons of CO2 emissions, in exchange for at least $3.6 billion in financial aid from industrialized countries, to be managed by the UN. The Yasuni-ITT has raised $200 million so far this year. (Deutsche Welle 11/6/2012)
The Latin American Water Tribunal held sessions this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to hear disputes about various water-related conflicts in the Andean and Southern Cone regions. One of the main issues discussed was the controversial Pascua Lama mining project in Chile and Argentina by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold. Other cases came from Peru, Mexico and Argentina. (Radio Universidad de Chile 11/5/2012)