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Latin America Green News: Chile's HidroAysén at risk, Costa Rica's ecosystems at risk, and Mexico's Cabo Pulmo at risk

Denée Reaves

Posted March 21, 2014

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

March 16th-22nd, 2014

Chile

The Bachelet administration’s Committee of Ministers –Chile’s highest administrative authority—made headlines this week by annulling the final decision of the previous committee, which had convened in the final days of the Piñera presidency. That decision had called for two additional studies to be conducted about the impacts of the controversial HidroAysén power plant, before the committee would issue a final ruling. This new decision from the new Committee of Ministers effectively cancelled those studies, and promised to rule on the project outright within 60 working days. Reactions to the new decision were mixed, with opponents of HidroAysén praising it as “the first steps towards rejecting” the project, while supporters of HidroAysén arguing that without the dams the country will have to get its energy from costlier and dirtier sources of energy. Both the Energy Minister and the Environment Minister stated that the project, as it currently stands, “is not viable.” (El Dínamo 3/19/2014, Economía y Negocios 3/19/2014, Reuters 3/19/2014, Revista Electricidad 3/20/2014, El Divisadero 3/17/2014, Chilevision 3/20/2014)

Energy Minister Máximo Pacheco spoke to Congress about this administration’s energy agenda this week, listing five key “pillars”: 1. strengthening the role of the state in the country’s energy planning; 2. territorial planning or zoning; 3. encouraging renewable energies and advanced technologies; 4. energy efficiency; and 5). addressing the present concentration in the energy market by promoting competition. Mining Minister Aurora Williams also spoke about her ministry’s priorities, which include reforming the National Mining Company (Enami) and addressing the sector’s energy needs. (Pulso 3/20/2014, Revista Electricidad 3/17/2014) 

Costa Rica

Thirty percent of Costa Rica’s ecosystems are under some kind of threat, according to the new “Red List of Ecosystems” report prepared by experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE). The primary threat to ecosystems is land use changes. (El País 3/20/2014)

Costa Rica needs an additional 300 civil servants to adequately meet the needs of the country’s various conservation areas, according to the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC). Hiring the additional employees to address illegal logging, poaching, forest fires and sea turtles would mean an additional budget of 7 billion colones (approximately US$12.8). SINAC officials plan to meet with the next government to discuss their budgetary needs. (CR Hoy 03/17/2014)

The number of companies in Costa Rica that have been certified as carbon neutral by the Ministry of Environment is now up to fifteen. The most recent companies to receive the “C-Neutral” brand include a clinic, a pension fund operator, the Costa Rican chamber of exporters, and travel and hospitality firms. (El Financiero 03/21/2014)

Mexico

La Rivera Desarollos presented an Environment Impact Statement to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) for a new coastal development project, Cabo Dorado, which would be adjacent to the Cabo Pulmo National Park. The proposed project would entail the construction of eight hotels and multi-family residences, two golf courses and a pipeline that would extract 4.8 million cubic meters of water from a local aquifer. The Mexican Center for Environmental Law will be formally submitting a request for consultation and public information to Semarnat so that people are informed of the potential environmental and social consequences this project may cause. Scientist Octavio Aburto from Scripps Institute of Oceanography responded to the project’s presentation with concern due to the potential impacts on Cabo Pulmo. He noted that earlier this year a group of scientists requested that the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation asked that Mexico ensure transparency during impact evaluation processes and include input from scientific experts. The proposed project site is home to 26 species at risk, of which ten are endemic to Mexico and three are endangered. (BCS Noticias 3/20/14, Milenio 3/19/14).   Read more about this issue at NRDC’s blog.

The recent meeting of the Forum of Environment Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean, hosted by Mexico has helped strengthen the region’s coordination heading into the next climate negotiations (COP20) to be held in Lima, Peru later this year. At COP20 Latin American and Caribbean region will call for cuts from major emitters and support for small insular states to respond to the impacts of climate change. Mexico and Peru agreed to work to design and create a program on regional cooperation on climate change  as a framework for regional South-South cooperation and to define areas of interest for the region. (El Universal 3/14/14).

Mexico City will host Globe International’s World Summit of Legislators on June 6-8th, where about 400 lawmakers representing a multitude of countries will work together on actions to protect the environment. The meeting will be attended by the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, and other notaries and will focus on law, legislation for forestry programs, and natural capital, all in preparation for the 2015 climate negotiations when a new international agreement on climate is expected.(Veracruzanos 3/18/14).

Due to Mexico and Latin America’s vast resource potential, they can be the largest renewable energy producers in the world, attracting investments, equipment suppliers and technology according to American Council on Renewable Energy’s President and CEO Michael R. Brower. However, in order to encourage additional investment, stable public policies and regulations need to be in place to provide certainty, and misconceptions about the high costs of renewable technology need to be dispelled. (El Universal 3/17/14).

Regional

The IDB will add twelve additional municipalities to its Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative which provides technical assistance on environmental, urban and fiscal sustainability in the region.  The new cities include Bridgetown (Barbados), San José (Costa Rica), Tegucigalpa (Honduras), Florianopolis, Palmas and Vitoria (Brazil), as well as cities in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and Peru. (BNAmericas 03/20/2014)

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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