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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Latin America Green News: Chilean coal plant gets green light, cutting emissions in Costa Rica, Mexico's renewable energy sector grows

Denée Reaves

Posted January 24, 2014

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

January 19th-25th, 2014

Chile

Upcoming mining and photovoltaic solar plant projects in Chile’s northern Antofagasta region have a total value of $60.3 billion. Mining projects represent over 61% of that total. Codelco, the state copper mining company, is the largest single investor with $12.8 billion planned in various mining projects and a new sulfide plant called Radomiro Tomic. Twenty-seven photovoltaic and thermo-solar power projects in the region also represent a significant investment of $12.3 billion. (Estrategia 1/22/2014)

The Supreme Court gave a green light to the proposed controversial $1.4 billion Punta Alcalde coal-fired power plant, deciding that the plant can be built but that it must include strict emissions control measures. Environmentalists and fishermen argue that the plant will devastate local marine wildlife and add to already-high levels of air pollution near the town of Huasco. Endesa Chile, owner of the 740 MW plant, says they will begin construction in 2015, with operations to begin in 2019, and that the emissions controls will not impact the plant’s budget. (America Economía 1/17/2014; Santiago Times 1/20/2014; Economía y Negocios 1/23/2014; La Tercera 1/23/2014)

Costa Rica

Working from home could help Costa Ricans lower their greenhouse gas emissions. A study by Ernst & Young found that on average Costa Ricans must travel 25 kilometers per day for work which can mean 2,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year if they commute by car. The study concluded that with just two days of tele-commuting, greenhouse gas emission in the San José metropolitan area could drop by 60 percent by removing approximately 138,600 vehicles from circulation. In addition to lower emissions and reduced congestion, tele-commuting would help cut the nation’s oil bill. (El Financiero 1/24/2013)

Leatherback turtles are at risk of being caught in fishing nets after laying their eggs on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast beaches. Scientists tracking 80 female turtles realized that after leaving the Playa Grande nesting beach, the turtles make their way to the Galapagos Islands. Their path coincides with an area currently frequented by long-line fishing boats. This new data could help efforts to zone marine space to reduce turtle bycatch. (La Nación 1/23/2014)

The construction of new roads often fragments wildlife habitat and animals trying to adapt by using electrical wires to cross over the roads are at risk of electrocution. To reduce wildlife mortality, a number of groups in Costa Rica started to install special monkey cross walks – blue nylon ropes that provide a safer alternative. The first ropes went up in 2000 and a recent study found that 96 percent are successfully being used by endemic squirrel monkeys and 11 other species. (La Nación 1/23/2014)

Mexico

The US Department of Commerce (DOC) predicts that Mexico’s renewable energy market will increase to approximately $27 billion by 2020, twelve times greater than last year’s market of $2 billion. This growth will be fueled in large part by importing products, technologies and services: Mexico’s renewable sector imports already increased by 16.3% from 2012 to 2013. As such, the US government is encouraging businesses to invest in this growing sector. According to the DOC, Mexico is one of five countries with a relationship to the US that is perfect for investment in the renewable energy market. (America Economia 1/21/2014)

A commission made up of national, state and local environmental officials announced a decision to invest 9.2 million dollars in modernizing pollution monitoring technology in the “megalopolis” – the six states in central Mexico. Of this amount, 3.7 million will go towards installing 11 new environmental monitoring stations, while the remaining 5.5 million will go toward improving existing stations. The improvements aim to help identify solutions to improve the region’s environment including strengthening and modernizing public transportation to reduce contamination and improve air quality. (Spanish.China.org 1/21/2014)

President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the creation of the National Hurricanes and Severe Weather Agency, which will be in charge of monitoring these weather phenomena.  At the 50 year anniversary celebration for the National Water Commission, President Peña Nieto announced that 170 million dollars would be invested toward modernizing the national weather services, 105 million of which came from the World Bank. The President is also accelerating the construction of 10 regional weather monitoring stations in order to have more accurate and timely data. (El País 1/16/2014)

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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