Latin America Green News: Chile protests whaling, Costa Rica tracks traveling turtle, Mexico advances energy reform
Posted July 12, 2014
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
June 22rd – July 11th, 2014
During meetings in Washington, D.C. at the end of June, Chilean President Bachelet and U.S. President Obama signed agreements for the two countries cooperate on energy issues, including energy efficiency and shale gas. Afterwards, the Chilean Minister of Energy, Maximo Pacheco, and several leading Chilean businessmen traveled to Texas to meet with representatives of the shale gas industry and to learn about the potential for Chile to import U.S. shale gas once exporting terminals begin operating. These discussions raising awareness of –and concerns about— the potential for shale gas exploration and exploitation in Chile’s far south, as well. The state petroleum company, Enap, has made exploring Chile’s shale resources on the Tierra del Fuego Island a strategic priority. (Diario Financiero 6/30/2014; Energy Press 7/11/2014)
Cities in Chile’s central and southern regions have now registered 330 days of critical air pollution levels. A recent air quality report from the Environment Ministry measured the amount of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in these urban areas and cited the capital city of Aysén, Coyhaique, as the worst offender. Rancagua came in second, followed by Talca and Chillan. The problem is attracting international attention, as a new study from the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that 4,000 people die annually in Chile from cardio-pulmonary complications that result from air pollution and that fine PM2.5 costs Chile $670 million per year in lost working days, health impacts and other related costs. As a result of that study 13 senators from across the political spectrum recently submitted a proposal requesting the creation of a special commission to study the country’s air pollution problems. (La Tercera 7/11/2014; El Mercurio 6/27/2014; El Mercurio 7/1/2014)
Members of Chile’s Parliament confirmed this week that they requested President Bachelet to send a letter to her Japanese counterpart to protest Japan’s whale hunting practices, as the whale hunting season in Antarctica opens. After meeting with Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz, the legislators pointed to the fact that hunting whales violates international agreements, and said there is no reason for killing whales for scientific purposes with current advances in technology. They also recently met with Japan’s ambassador to Chile to express their concerns. (El País, 6/25/2014)
Since June 11, dozens of dead birds have been found in Chile’s northernmost region of Arica. Dead pelicans, cormorants and other types of birds, as well as sea lions, have appeared in the area from Las Machas beach to the Río Lluta wetlands, close to the Peruvian border. The head of the Arica municipality’s environmental office, Yenny Soto, believes the phenomenon could be a result of El Niño. “The birds could have died from starvation, given that their principle food is the anchovy, a fish that, under the current climate conditions, is migrating to deeper waters where the fish do not go.” The Agriculture and Livestock Service will conduct tests on some of the animals to try to identify the cause of the deaths. (Bíobío Chile, 6/23/2014)
Energy efficiency made headlines when Energy Minister Pacheco unveiled the government’s new energy efficiency plan, which is a part of the Energy Agenda the Bachelet administration released in May. In this new plan, Pacheco committed to giving the Chilean Energy Efficiency Agency a budget of $3.5 billion pesos (approx. US$6.3 million) this year and $10 billion pesos (approx. US$18 million) in 2015. He said the government would follow up in early 2015 by presenting and Energy Efficiency Law to Parliament. Professor Roberto Román, an engineer from the Universidad de Chile, commented that although he believes the plan is important, it failed to address a key sector that drives energy demand in the country: mining and industry. (Radio U de Chile, 7/7/2014)
The Costa Rican government has just published a directive stating that public sector businesses must stop using inefficient appliances that increase energy costs. The government has also provided a list of appliances and suppliers that should or should not be used. This directive’s purpose is to save money and reduce reliance on unsustainable energy sources. There will be a second phase for this directive focusing on reducing the use of inefficient appliances in the general public. (CR Hoy 7/6/2014).
Government officials approve the financing of three geothermal projects, located in the outskirts of the Rincón de la Vieja Volanco in Guanacaste. Each project will have the generation capacity of 55 megawatts and cost $958 million. The main investors are the International Cooperation Agency of Japan, the European Investment Bank and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute. (La Nación 7/2/2014).
For the first time ever satellite data has tracked the migration of a green turtle all the way from Costa Rica’s Coco Island to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The turtle, nicknamed ‘Sanjay’, completed the historic journey in fourteen days after being tagged with a satellite transmitter that tracked and mapped the turtle’s migratory route. The new data helps provide scientific information about how the two protected marine areas are connected. According to scientists running the project, the new data also highlights conservation of threatened seat turtles must also consider their migratory route. (6/22/104)
A recent study shows that rising temperatures are affecting the hatching of female Leatherback turtles. Temperature decides what sex the egg will be and female turtles hatch 84.2˚ Fahrenheit or below. Due to climate change, temperatures are consistently rising, and if action isn’t taken, the species population will become affected. Conservationists have proposed a temporary fix, which is to re-locate the eggs to ensure more female hatches. (CR Hoy 6/29/2014).
Mexico’s energy reform continues to move forward. The Energy and Legislative Studies Commissions of the Mexican Senate have finalized their analysis and discussion on the energy reform’s remaining secondary legislation and are now scheduled to begin a final debate and vote session next week on the package of proposals. The legislative proposals have 338 changes so far to the original drafts sent by the Administration in April. The proposals that will be put up to a vote before the plenary of commissions include reforms to laws on fossil fuels, foreign investments, mining, electricity, geothermal energy and water. While voting is scheduled to begin next week, there is the possibility that the Permanent Commission may call for a an extraordinary session to continue to go through the proposed bills.(Radio Formula 7/11/2014; Excelsior 7/11/2014)
Mexico and Denmark have signed a cooperation agreement on energy and climate issues that will be implemented over the next two years. Under the agreement, Denmark will provide funding for a work plan that will focus on boosting renewable energy, energy efficiency and mitigation actions through exchange of public policy best practices, capacity building, and building and industrial efficiency among others. (La Jornada 6/26/2014)
The World Bank will assess 32 cities in Mexico to evaluate their sustainable energy options in street lighting, water and sanitation pumping systems, and municipal buildings. The diagnostic will be carried out using the Trace tool developed under the Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance program which uses 28 indicators for public lighting, water and sanitation, buildings, transportation, waste management, electricity and heating. (Sipse.com 6/26/2014)
Officials announced the route of the highly controversial proposed canal in Nicaragua that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The company behind the project, the Chinese company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. (HKND), has said the $40 billion project will take five years to complete. While proponents argue that the project could help lift approximately 400,000 Nicaraguans out of poverty in the next four years, many are worried about the project’s environmental impacts as well. (Tico Times 7/8/2014; Newsweek 7/8/2014; BBC.com 7/8/2014)