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Latin America Green News: air pollution clouds Chile's cities, new law protects Costa Rica's wildlife, and solar power brings energy to Mexico's mountains

Denée Reaves

Posted May 13, 2013

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

 

May 4 – 10, 2013

 

Chile

 

The Chilean government has approved new legislation to regulate emissions from the country’s mining smelters. The new law aims to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and arsenic by 53% and 37%, respectively. The regulated companies will have up to five years to implement new emissions abatement technologies in their plants, adjustments that are expected to require approximately US$1.5 billion in new investment. (Fundación Terram 5/4/2013)

 

Power generation capacity from non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) in Chile exceeded 1,000 MW at the close of the first trimester of 2013. Of this, 41% corresponds to biomass, while small hydro and wind account for 30% each. Solar power generation remains the small portion of the total NCRE matrix, with just 2.5 MW of installed capacity. According to government projections, another 300 MW of NCRE capacity will be added by the end of this year. (Diario Financiero 5/6/2013)

 

Chile’s Energy Ministry has obtained US$50 million in international financing for the development of solar energy projects in the country. The funding, which comes in the form of concessionary loans—soft loans given at below-market rates—will be used to promote photovoltaic power generation for the country’s northern and central electric grids. The loans are provided through the Clean Technology Fund, which is managed by the Inter-American Development Bank. (Diario Financiero 5/6/2013)

Representatives from Chile’s electricity industry are calling on the government to speed up implementation of state policies and guidelines that would define concrete steps toward greater energy efficiency and encourage the adoption of the “Smart City” concept in Chile. The conditions to promote such projects already exist, claims Luis Cuezzo, CEO of Indra Chile, the challenge is finding committed partners at the ministerial level to develop and implement successful initiatives. (Emol 5/6/2013)

The municipalities of Temuco and Padre Las Casas in the country’s southern region of La Araucanía have been declared “saturated zones” due to daily air pollution levels that have exceeded 50 micrograms per cubic meter, principally due to the burning of firewood. The label is given to areas that surpass ambient standards for air pollutants such as particulates, ozone, and carbon monoxide and will allow the municipalities to develop a forma decontamination plan over the next four months. (24 Horas 5/7/2013)

Costa Rica

 

Seizures of illegally-captured wildlife are increasing in Costa Rica with the entry into force of the reformed Wildlife Act, legislation that bans sport hunting country-wide and extends existing laws barring the keeping of captive exotic wildlife as pets. The seized animals, which include parrots, parakeets, and agoutis, are housed in temporary shelters and will eventually be returned to the wild. Reforms to the Wildlife Act passed in late 2012 but only went into effect in April of this year. (La Nación 5/6/2013)

 

“Geothermal development in national parks, segregation or permission?” is the topic of a new opinion piece published by Rolando Portilla Pastor in La Nación. Arguing that permitting development in a national park sets a dangerous precedent, the author instead backs proposals to modify park boundaries by substituting zones to be developed—ideally, those that have relatively low ecological and tourist value—with equivalent areas of ecological importance. The current debate stems from proposals to develop geothermal projects in the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. (La Nación 5/8/2013)

 

Mexico

 

Mexican and Spanish authorities are partnering on a program to provide solar energy to remote communities in the mountains of Oaxaca. The four-year program—an effort that combines both public and private resources—aims to bring electricity to 9,500 households, extending to each four hours of light and several electrical outlets. Up to 50% of the cost of equipment will be donated for free, while the rest will be covered by the beneficiaries through a microfinance mechanism. (Crónica 5/8/2013)

 

New reforms to the Mexican Renewable Energy Law will generate more than 30 million pesos (close to US$2.5 million) for the country’s economy, announced Jacobo Mekler Waisburd, President of the Mexican Hydroelectric Association. The reform, which adds power density as a criterion to assess whether small- and medium-sized hydroelectric projects qualify as renewable, raises the total power generation potential of small renewable hydro projects from 300 MW to 2,000 MW. (La Jornada 5/6/2013)

 

The Government of the Federal District and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources have announced the allocation of federal funding for several environmental projects to be developed in the Mexican capital during 2013. Close to 130 million pesos (approximate US$10.8 million) will be channeled to the restoration of the San Juan de Aragon Forest, rescue of the Xochimilco and Tláhuac lake area, creation of 12 thousand square meters of green roofs in the region’s public hospitals, and soil conservation programs in Tlalpan, among other initiatives.  (El Universal 5/8/2013)

 

Regional

 

Because it facilitates access to electricity, renewable energy is a key instrument for social development in Latin America, claim experts at the Second Global Sustainability Forum held in Madrid earlier this week. Several countries in the region have already committed to reducing energy poverty by expanding access to renewable energy. Peru, for example, is developing a photovoltaic project which aims to extend electricity to 98% of the population by 2016. (AméricaEconomía 5/7/2013)

 

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

 

This week’s news was compiled by Maria Belenky.

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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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