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Latin America Green News: Chile needs more trees, Costa Rica bans shrimp trawling, Mexico reforms its energy policies

Denée Reaves

Posted August 9, 2013

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

August 4-9, 2013

Chile

Endesa Chile, owner of the Punta Alcalde proposed 740 MW coal-fired power plant, announced this week that it would look to the Supreme Court to reverse a recent decision by the Santiago Appeals Court to uphold injunctions against the project’s approval. Local environmental authorities rejected Punta Alcalde’s environmental impact assessment in June 2012, but the Committee of Ministers, Chile’s highest administrative authority, reversed the decision in December, allowing the project to move forward. The Santiago Appeals Court’s ruling in favor of the injunctions effectively stopped the project. The CFO of Endesa Chile expressed his frustration this week saying that the country suffers from “environmental paranoia.”  (Santiago Times 8/8/2013, CNN Chile 8/6/2013, Radio Bíobío 8/8/2013, Diario Financiero 8/8/2013)

The latest monthly report from Chile’s Renewable Energy Center, shows that more than 9 GW of renewables projects have received their environmental approvals and are waiting to move forward. In addition, there are 407 MW of renewables projects under construction, and 3,816 MW undergoing their environmental reviews. (CER 8/7/2013)

The National Forestry Corporation, CONAF, announced this week that it will be planting more tree species throughout the Metropolitan Region after finding that the region only has 1.1 trees per capita. The World Health Organization recommends four trees per inhabitant. CONAF also determined that the trees are unevenly distributed in the region, with some areas such as Vitacura having 3 trees per person, while others, like Pudahuel, have zero. (La Tercera 8/6/2013)

Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court has banned shrimp trawling on the grounds that this fishing technique harms the ocean floor, threatens species, and impacts the economic stability of artisanal fishermen. Trawling consists of dragging a net along the ocean floor and can result in the capture of unintended species. In its finding, the court ruled that the articles in the Fishery Law that permitted this technique were unconstitutional. The court’s finding is in response to legal action taken by 16 conservation and artisanal fishery groups. (El Financiero 8/8/2013)

Costa Rica’s local carbon market could start operating as soon as 2014, once a presidential decree comes into force. Once the market is operational, companies will be able to purchase carbon credits to offset their emissions. Each “Costa Rican Carbon Unit” will cost approximately $3 and will represent one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). Meanwhile, a carbon emission verification process has already allowed 8 companies to reduce their CO2 emissions by 20,143 tons in one year. This is approximately 3% of the country’s total emissions. (El Financiero 8/7/2013)

Costa Rica has started updating its National Biodiversity Strategy for the 2014-2020 period by carrying out a diagnostic of the current status of the country’s biodiversity, including genetic resources used in agriculture. The goal of the strategy is to ensure Costa Rica meets its international commitments under the Convention for Biological Diversity. The convention promotes the conservation of biodiversity resources, their sustinaible use and the equitable distribution of their benefits. (Revista Summa 8/7/2013)

Mexico

The administration of Enrique Peña Nieto will present its proposed initiative to reform the Mexican energy system, next Wednesday instead of the original release date, August 7th. Peña Nieto’s administration has already discussed that it will seek to open up the energy sector, including deep water exploration and shale gas exploitation, which would require constitutional changes. The Vice President of the National Association of Solar Energy, Alberto Valdés Palacios, has noted that the reform should consider all sources of energy and not just focus on oil, citing Mexico’s lack of solar power use despite the country’s high potential. Currently 80% of Mexico’s energy is still coming from fossil fuels, while only 3.4% come from renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal, solar, and biofuels. He goes on to say that there are many profitable and sustainable energy sources that the reform needs to explore. (CNN Expansión 8/8/2013, El Economista 8/7/2013).

Cancún, Mexico will be hosting the fifth reunion of the Global Environment Fund (GEF), where 183 countries will discuss solutions to financing projects to better the environment. The 183 countries are represented by various prominent environmentalists, parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, scientists, and social organizations. GEF, which will be celebrating 25 years on May 30th 2014, is the largest source of funding for environmentally friendly projects all over the world, donating 11,500 million dollars to finance more than 3,200 projects in over 165 countries. Mexico has received over 450 million from GEF for projects such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the Protected Natural Areas program, and the Sustainable Production and Biodiversity system. (Terra, 8/7/2013).

The Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) has investigated two fishmeal manufacturing companies due to 20 pelicans being found covered in fish oil and 4 dead. The first company has stated that the 20 pelicans flew into the trucks, without roofs, which transport fish and got covered in oil through those means. All of the pelicans, except for one which is receiving medical treatment for a broken wing, have been treated and returned to their natural habitat. Profepa has given recommendations to the two companies on better practices to protect these birds, and urges them to follow the guidelines given to protect pelicans set out in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources’ NOM 159. (Uniradio Informa, 8/7/2013).

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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