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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Latin America Green News: a glacial flood in Chile, sustainability in Mexico, coffee and dengue in Costa Rica, COP20 in Peru

Denée Reaves

Posted February 7, 2014

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Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

February 2nd-8th, 2014

Chile

The southern city of Punta Arenas –gateway to the stunning Torres del Paine national park— joined the towns of Chile Chico and Pucón in banning the commercial use of plastic bags in an effort to reduce this source of aesthetic and environmental pollution. The ordinance states that Chileans use approximately 200 plastic bags per person per year, which in Punta Arenas alone totals 26 million plastic bags annually. Businesses will have one year to phase out their use of plastic bags, and violators will be fined up to $360 per offence. (Santiago Times 2/6/2014)

On February 1, a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) on Patagonia’s Baker River left members of the Colonia Sur area completely cut off from their neighbors in the town of Cochrane. The flood happened when glacial melt-water that had been building up in Lake Cachet 2 for days suddenly rushed downstream, submerging the transportation raft that local residents use to connect to the rest of the region. (Cooperativa 2/6/2014)

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has fallen from the 5th to 54th spot on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index. The country’s lower score this year reflects the addition of new categories in the index: energy and climate and waste water treatment. Costa Rica scored particularly low on waste water treatment, earning only 0.9 points out of a possible 100, and placing 125th out of 178 countries for the category. According to the lead author additional challenges include a reduction in forest cover and addressing an increasing trend in carbon intensity. (El Financiero 02/4/2014; CostaRicaLimpia.org 2/6/2014)

Dengue and coffee rust are just two of the pests that are spreading in Costa Rica due to changing climate conditions. Dengue mosquitos were historically found in warmer, humid areas at altitudes below 1,000 meters. In recent years, however, they have also been found in the country’s central region and even in some mountainous areas. In addition to impacts on coffee and health, there also cases of pests affecting banana, palm, orange and chayote. (El Financiero 2/4/2014)

Mexico

During the C40 Cities Climate Leader meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Head of the Mexico City Government, Miguel Ángel Mancera, detailed all the work his city has done and will do to create “Smart Cities, Livable Cities.” In 2013, Mexico City doubled the existing bikeways by constructing 28.5 more kilometers of cycle infrastructure. Last year was also the second cleanest year in the last few decades for the city, which was recognized by the C40 Air Quality Award. Ángel Mancera also plans to install five new black carbon monitoring stations this year. La Paz in Baja California Sur is another city that is making changes to boost sustainability, including the construction of one of the largest solar plants in Latin America. The park, which includes 130,000 solar panels, will substitute some of the fossil fuels used by the city and eventually will help inject power into the Federal Energy Commission’s electric system. The plant will also help reduce CO2 emissions by 60,000 tons. (Aztecas Noticias 2/6/2014, Suelo Solar 2/4/2014)

In addition to marshes, rivers, coral reefs and oases, Mexico is home to 5% of the world’s mangroves, and the country ranks 4th largest out of 125 countries that have this type of ecosystem. Mexico’s mangroves are home to a wide variety of life and as such the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is making it a governmental priority to preserve and protect these ecosystems. (Crónica 2/2/2014)

Gerardo Ceballos, a professor of ecology and conservation of wildlife at National Autonomous University of Mexico, calls for Mexico to have an environmental reform as the country has already spearheaded fiscal, energy and educational ones. The two biggest environmental issues he mentions are deforestation and conservation of wildlife. Mexico has lost 400 thousand hectares per year of forests and jungles, so Ceballos posits a reforestation plan that will prevent further deforestation and produce jobs in rural areas. He also highlights that Mexico is home to a large number of endemic creatures, such as the vaquita, that the country needs to help preserve. (Hoy Tamaulipas 2/4/2014)

Peru

A United Nations technical mission visited Peru to meet with Ministry of Environment staff and discus plans for the next round of international climate talks scheduled to be held in Lima this December. According to Peru’s Vice minister of Strategic Development and Natural Resources, the Lima climate summit (COP20) will be key in “transforming the issue of climate change into a factor for a sustainable economy.”  He also noted that discussions about the REDD+ program to reduce emissions from forests are expected to conclude at the summit. (Andina 2/3/2014)

Regional

During the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held in Cuba, the group’s 33 member nations noted that climate change is one of the gravest problems of our time. The nations re-affirmed the need to work together internationally to meet the challenge and called for a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Prensa Latina 2/5/2014)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America Green News archive or read our other International blogs

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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