Latin America Green News: efficiency for Chile's mines, manatees for Costa Rica's symbol, debate in Mexico's Senate, carbon from everyone's tropical forests
Posted July 18, 2014
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
July 12th – July 19th, 2014
The heads of Chile’s major mining companies, representatives from the Mining Council, and the state mining company Codelco all joined the Minister of Energy to sign an agreement to improve the mining industry’s energy efficiency. Minister Pacheco stated that the most important initiatives coming out of the agreement would be implementing energy management systems and energy audits to meet international operating standards. “We want energy efficiency to be the rule and not the exception,” said Pacheco. The mines are the first private sector to sign such a measure with the government, and they have a lot to gain by becoming more efficient: electricity is currently 20% of the mines’ operating costs. (Revista Electricidad 7/15/2014)
Chile’s ongoing air pollution problem persists this week in the southern city of Coyhaique, where the capital city of the Aysén Region has reached a historic high of 78 “critical episodes in just seven months” and 36 environmental emergencies this year so far. Estimates say that, due to the high consumption of firewood for heating, this is the worst winter –smog-wise—that Coyhaique has ever seen. Six consecutive days in the past week qualified as environmental emergencies because the high level of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) never abated. (El Mercurio 7/16/2014, via Terram.cl)
Congress had its first vote to designate the manatee as the new national symbol of Costa Rica. The vote came as a result of a Limocito school’s initiative to save the endangered species. Manatees will become the national symbol to help in their protection and to encourage more children to fight on behalf of endangered species. In addition, some legislators believe that resources should be evaluated to determine the feasibility of creating a protected marine park for the manatees. (CR Hoy 7/16/2014).
Chirripó is the first National Park to sign an agreement with local communities for them to take over tourism services from the park rangers. This agreement is mutually beneficial in that the communities will have more opportunities for jobs and a profiting local economy, and the park rangers will have more time to work on their main goal: conservation. The hope is that this example will serve as a model for other national parks. (La Nación 7/15/2014).
The Spanish Company, Acciona Energía, just launched its first wind farm in Chiripa. The park, is operated by the local group Ecoenergía, consists of 33 wind turbines each with a capacity of 1.5 MW and atop a 80 meter-high tower. The park has a total capacity of 49.5 MW and its energy will be sold to the Costa Rican Electricity Institute according to their 20 year contract with Acciona Energía. (América Economía 7/17/2014).
Following over thirteen hours of debate, Mexico’s Senate gave general approval to the first bill of a package of secondary laws that would reform the country’s energy sector and open it up to private investment. This first bill includes the new Hydrocarbons Law and details the new types of contracts available for oil and gas exploitation. While the general outline of the bill is now approved, there are still dozens of articles that must be individually debated and approved. Over the coming days, the Senate will also debate and vote on three other bills related to the energy reform, including restructuring the electricity sector. (Milenio 7/18/2014)
Meanwhile, critics are pointing to other proposed laws that were excluded from the package of secondary legislation the Congress is considering. The Mexican Alliance Against Fracking, a coalition of 16 NGOs, presented senators with over 10,000 petitions asking for approval of a general law to prohibit fracking due to potential risks to the environment and water resources. The proposal to ban fracking had been presented to both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, but ultimately was not included in the package of energy reform bills. An Energy Transition Law to boost clean power was also inexplicably left out. Proposed in June by the PAN party, this bill would have set a renewable energy generation target of 35% by 2024, set energy efficiency goals and called for the 6,000 MW of roof-top solar generation on 400,000 homes. (Pulso 7/18/2014; El Economista 7/17/2014)
Three protected areas along the Baja California Peninsula will finally have management plans by the end of the year, according to Mexico’s National Commission on Protected Natural Areas (CONANP). The three sites are Espíritu Santo, Balandara and Ojo de Liebre lagoon. In addition, existing management plans for other protected areas, including Cabo Pulmo National Park, will be reviewed. Cabo Pulmo’s management plan has not been reviewed in over five years. If the review finds no updates are necessary, the plan will be renewed. (BCS Noticias 7/14/2014)
Brilla México is an initiative focused on empowering the general population to work towards a more sustainable future. The initiative would accomplish this task by educating the population on the widespread benefits of energy efficiency and alternative and sustainable methods of daily life. Along with providing information to the population, Brilla México would offer simple ways in which each citizen can change things in their daily lives to promote energy efficiency. (La Crónica 7/12/2014).
A recent study revealed that tropical forests absorb two billion tons of CO2 annually, which correlates to a fifth of global emissions. Protecting these tropical forests is critical because if they are cut down, the two billion tons of CO2 they absorb will be released. Forests in Central and South America, Africa and Asia were analyzed. The main drivers of tropical deforestation are illegal logging, clearing forests for grazing or for growing biofuels, and burning. (El Financero 7/17/2014).
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