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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Latin America Green News: Contaminated Communities in Chile, Conservation in Costa Rica, and Misrepresented Mega-Resort in Mexico

Denée Reaves

Posted May 9, 2014

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

April 27th-May 10th, 2014

Chile

President Bachelet, who will make public her administration’s energy agenda next Tuesday, is reviewing the draft of the plan that Minister of Energy Máximo Pacheco delivered this week. The Minister has stated that the agenda will not be critical review of the current situation, but will rather include clear areas to improve the status quo. According to Chilean media, the eight pillars of the agenda are: generation and LNG, territorial planning and zoning, improving transmission regulation, strategic environmental evaluation, energy efficiency, renewables, simplifying permitting processes, and compensation and water use policy. (La Tercera 5/9/2014)

The OECD released new projections for Chile’s growth, estimating the economy would grow at a rate of 3.6 % this year and 4.2% in 2015. The organization – of which Chile is a member – said the government will be required to make reforms to its energy infrastructure in order to help improve growth. (Pulso, via Futuro Renovable 5/6/2014) 

The government is planning a wood stove exchange program for 16 of Chile’s cities in the central-southern region in order to address the grave public health threat caused by the air pollution from inefficient, old stoves. Over five months last winter, the three cities of Coyhaique, Temuco and Osorno had a combined total of 97 days in which environmental emergencies were declared due to high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from wood burning stoves used by many for heating and cooking. The government will grant a subsidy to people who turn in their old stoves for new ones in Temuco, Valdivia, Osorno, Tortel and Cochrane, among other cities. (Leña.cl 5/6/2014)

Ten years after the areas near Chañaral were declared free of pollution, communities nearby are still suffering from the impacts of the 360 millions of tons of copper mining waste that were dumped on the coast. A 2012 analysis by the Universidad Católica of 162 local citizens aged 18-65 found that 46.6% suffer respiratory problems associated with the copper waste – twice the national average. Currently the company Copper Bay is in charge of cleaning up the copper tailings from the beach, but the company is still waiting for financing and permits to begin the work. (El Mercurio 5/6/2014)

Costa Rica

The United Nations Global Environment Fund approved a conservation and sustainable use program for eleven protected wetlands in Costa Rica. The UN will devote 3.7 million dollars to the program and the Costa Rican government 17 million dollars. (CR Hoy 05/02/2014)

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Costa Rica is one of the countries with the best air quality in Latin America. The concentration of PM 2.5 and PM10 particulates is 17ug per square meter. The WHO report looked at 1,600 cities in 91 countries and found that only 12% of the population lives in cities with optimal air quality. (El Financiero 05/08/2014)

Mexico

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), the Ecology Institute of The Autonomous University of Mexico, WWF and two leading scientists find that the proposed Cabo Dorado mega-tourism project is unsustainable. It was decided that the submitted Environmental Impact Assessment was not based on current environmental analysis, did not adequately catalogue potential environmental effects, and lowered the number of species that could be affected.  Semarnat has stated that the proposed project will have short, medium and long term negative effects on the protected coral reef, the available water supply and the surrounding ecosystems in the area. A multitude of specialists and scientists will be signing on to this decision in support of Semarnat. (Excelsior 5/7/2014).

Ex-Vice President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore salutes Mexico in its efforts to combat climate change. Gore stated that Mexico has taken the necessary first steps to incite a new renewable energy market in the country, and encouraged businesses to get on board with the environmental levy on tax reform approved in November 2013. Gore also cites the three major contributors to climate change: the disproportionate population growth, new technologies contributing to carbon emissions, and the continuing disbelief of some people about the existence of climate change.   (Vanguardia 5/8/2014).

Mexican filmmaker and Oscar-winning director of “Gravity,” Alfonson Cuarón has proposed three televised debates on the new energy reform to President Enrique Peña Nieto. Cuarón has detailed ten questions that he would like answered in the debate, and states that a publicly accessible debate is essential, especially around the largest reform to hit Mexico is seven decades. The debate would feature experts from all arenas, economics, legal, technical, environmental and social, and would serve as a platform for open discussion on the environment and energy reform for the country. (América Economía 5/5/2014).

Nissan’s signature electric car, the LEAF, will be available for sale in Mexican markets this year. The Japanese company began its introduction to Mexico with the building of the first electric car charging station in a strip mall and in Latin America, and a contract for the first electric corridor between Mexico City and Cuernavaca, Morelos. With bourgeoning sales in both the United States and Norway, Nissan expects great success in Mexico, especially since many of Mexico’s cities are already engaging in transforming their taxi fleets to electric cars. The company hopes that with success in Mexico, they can then launch the LEAF in other Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina. (Vanguardia 5/5/2014).

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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