Latin America Green News: HidroAysén on hold in Chile, climate bill stalled in Costa Rica, Cabo Dorado critiqued in Mexico
Posted May 23, 2014
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
May 19th-23rd, 2014
In the presidential annual national address on May 21st, President Bachelet announced a plan to reform Chile’s Water Code, citing agricultural and environmental problems stemming from the status quo. She said that the problems are not only “water scarcity, aggravated by the long drought…, but also the overexploitation of the water basins and the misuse of water rights.” (Radio Universidad de Chile 5/21/2014)
Members of parliament from across the political spectrum submitted a bill to protect Chile’s glaciers by classifying them as public goods on Monday. The President of the Environmental Commission in the Chamber of Deputies pointed out that Chile has “82% of South America’s fresh water reserves” in its glaciers, and the Director of Greenpeace in Chile added that “more than 125 thousand people have clearly stated that they want a law for glaciers.” The parliamentarians hope to gain President Bachelet’s support in the effort. (El Mostrador 5/20/2014)
HidroAysén, the controversial massive hydroelectric proposal in Chile’s Patagonia, announced this week that it will put the project on hold until next year, when it will know more concrete details about the government’s long term energy plans. This announcement is a direct reaction to President Bachelet’s new Energy Agenda, which was released last week and pledged to create an energy policy in 2015 that will be “validated by Chilean society, through a participative and regional process.” The company said that despite halting all other work, it will follow the ongoing administrative appeals process—culminating in the June 10th decision by the Committee of Ministers about whether or not HidroAysén’s permits are legal—and it will continue to pursue the water rights needed for the dams. (Diario Financiero 5/20/2014, La Tercera 5/21/2014)
Experts from Cost Rica’s Green Building Council will develop a sustainable construction code for Costa Rica that will focus on materials and design features that help save energy and water. The document, which will have to be approved by the local federation of engineers and architects, could eventually replace the existing construction code. (El Financiero 5/16/2014)
Due to the increasing threat of poachers in beaches in Limón, the environmental unit of the National Coast Guard (SNG) has been rescuing around 200 leatherback turtle eggs per night. The poachers, some of whom are dangerous, are collecting the eggs to sell for profit. SNG comes during the night and removes the eggs from nests which are easily located and replaces them on more remote parts of the beach. (CR Hoy 5/20/2014).
Costa Rica’s bill to create a framework law on climate change is undergoing criticism from law makers and the environmental community. Originally proposed eight months ago, the bill has already been modified but has not made it past the second and final vote. Environmentalists say that the bill offers good intentions but no substantial actions or plans. (Inter Press Service 5/21/2014).
Leading scientists and academics reached out to the head of Mexico’s Environment Ministry to share information, analyses and critiques of the environmental impact statement for Cabo Dorado, the massive coastal resort proposed near Cabo Pulmo National Park. Over 1,350 additional experts have also backed the scientists’ assessment of the project’s impact statement. One of the documents the group of scientists provided to the ministry is a new study on the terrestrial biodiversity of the site where Cabo Dorado is proposed that would be at risk if the project moves forward. Meanwhile, the head of the Mexico’s National Commission on Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), revealed that among other things his organization’s technical opinion on the Cabo Dorado impact statement found that it lacked information on affected biodiversity (La Jornada 05/21/2014; EurekAlert 05/19/2014; La Jornada 05/22/2014)
During his first official visit to Mexico, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the solution to climate change is clean energy. His comments echo many local environmental groups that feel the recent energy reform and secondary legislation do not push renewable energy sources in a concrete way. Secretary Kerry did acknowledge Mexico’s Cleantech Challenge Project which has produced more than 200 cleantech companies, created 2,500 jobs, and reduced CO2 emissions by 22 million metric tons in the last five years. (Animal Politico 5/22/2014).
Health Secretary Mercedes Juan spoke about how climate change threatens public health to the World Health Assembly, which has representatives from over 194 countries. Juan detailed some of the effects Mexico faces due to climate change such as lower air quality, and the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and floods. The Health Secretary also mentioned the plethora of ways Mexico is creating solutions to climate change with public health as one of the main focuses. (Diario de Yucatán 5/20/2014).