Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 12/3 - 12/9/2011


HidroAysén made the proposed route for its 1,200 mile-long transmission line public this week, releasing the route to the media and initiating conversations with 20 of the affected communities. The line would require 1,500 - 1,700 high tension towers to carry electricity from five dams in Patagonia up to the main electric grid near Chaitén. (La Tercera 12/5/2011) Civil society groups in Patagonia and throughout the country criticized the line and the company’s handling of the information. (CNN Chile 12/6/2011, Diario Aysén 12/6/2011, La Tercera 12/9/2011) At the same time, the Commission of Ministers ruled against HidroAysén’s appeal to suspend the environmental conditions placed upon the company in the May 2011 resolution approving its five dams. (Radio BioBio 12/9/2011)

A new study by the Center for Scientific Studies in Valdivia revealed that the Jorge Montt glacier is the fastest-shrinking glacier in Chile. Using a series of photographs taken from February 2010-January 2011, the research team found that the glacier receded over half a mile during that year. Head researcher Andrés Rivera says that this is an abnormally fast melting rate, and that more studies are needed to fully understand the effects of climate change on Patagonia’s glaciers.  (Santiago Times 12/7/2011)

Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Japan signed a memorandum of understanding under which the two countries will explore the feasibility of jointly developing a new geothermal plant in Costa Rica. During the signing ceremony in Japan, President Chinchilla highlighted the potential for expanded renewable energy development in Costa Rica. (El País 12/7/2011)

The Costa Rican Constitutional Court reinforced the mandate that the government is obligated to protect and manage wetlands when it ruled that two decrees were unconstitutional because they conditioned the designation of a “wetland” on whether or not that area had been declared a protected area. In its ruling, the court reaffirmed that irrespective of whether or not a wetland has been declared a protected area, it is part of the nation’s Natural Heritage. The court also called on the government to move forward with identifying and classifying the country’s wetlands in order to provide adequate protection and management. (El País 12/9/2011)

The marine conservation group, MarViva, announced the launch of a new public-private conservation trust that will support marine conservation in Costa Rica. The $2 million dollar trust, created in partnership with the private firm Aldesa, will help strengthen monitoring and research activities around Coco Island, one of the worlds’ richest marine habitats. (El País 12/5/2011)


Senators from the PRD Party are urging the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), to suspend the Cabo Cortés project, which the company Hansa Baja Investments proposed in Baja California Sur, for threatening the area’s ecosystem and violating Mexican and international standards. The Senators are also requesting that the Secretariat of Public Function present the results of its research on Cabo Cortés’s authorization issued by SEMARNAT, to punish all public officers who are responsible for issuing permits that contravene environmental legislation. ( 12/4/11)

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, said the government of Denmark will provide Mexico with $9.5 million in financial support for the foundation of the Mexican Centre for Sustainable Economy. The agreement was announced as part of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) in Durban, South Africa, where the head of the SEMARNAT and his Danish counterpart stressed Denmark’s interest in increasing technical cooperation with Mexico and defining public policy efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as the use of renewable energy, a sector in which the European nation is among the most advanced in the world. (SEMARNAT 12/8/11)

During his contribution at the COP17, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, announced his hopes that Mexico will soon pass climate change legislation. This bill was approved by the Senate and is in the process of being passed to the Chamber of Representatives. This, Minister Elvira said, will translate into a state policy that will go beyond the six-year plans and provide Mexico with various solutions to mitigation and adaptation problems that can be managed by the Federal Government. (SEMARNAT 12/7/11)


During the Durban climate negotiations, member countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA) called for the launch of a Green Climate Fund which would allow the region to begin to adapt to the extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change. In recent years, Central America’s agricultural sector, the primary economic driver for many of the region’s countries, has been hit hard by droughts and flooding. The region has also seen thousands of deaths due to extreme weather events.  (La Nación 12/9/2011)

Brazil’s Senate passed a controversial new Forest Code which critics say will make it more difficult for the country to meet its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The code decreases the size of buffer areas around rivers and the amount of land property owners must leave forested. It also offers amnesty to prior deforesters if they agree to ecological restoration plans. Before becoming law, the forest code must also pass the lower house of the congress and be signed by the president.  (BBC News 12/7/2011)

Protests against a gold mine in the highlands of the northern state of Cajamarca caused Peruvian Presiden Ollanta Humala to declare a 60-day State of Emergency, restricting civil liberties for residents in the area and permitting arrests without warrants. The Conga mine, owned primarily by U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corporation, is the country’s biggest investment. But protesters – including local elected officials and the state’s governor—say that the project would endanger the fresh water supply in the area and affect thousands of people. (Yahoo News 12/4/2011)