Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 1/30 - 2/3/2012


 In the last three months, Chile’s government has raced to achieve its goal of obtaining a national energy matrix that consists of 20% alternative energies by 2020. Today only 3% of Chile’s energy comes from non conventional renewable energy while the demand for energy output is projected to grow by 50% over the next eight years. Thus in the past three months Chile has approved over US$1,052 million in projects to produce 435.6 MW of additional energy from wind, solar, and hydropower projects (Diario Financiero 3/31/2012). Despite a 5.9% increase in electricity generation in 2011, hydropower was still underrepresented in the energy matrix due to declining rainfall. Recent data further shows that 34% energy  generated is distributed to the mining sector while 23.7% goes to industrial, 14.3% to residential, 15.3 % to agriculture and other sources, and 12.4% to trade (La Segunda 1/30/2012).

 After two years of postponed construction, Chile’s First Chamber of the Court of Appeals gave to permission to commence construction of the port that would supply the Castilla thermoelectric project in the Atacama region. The Castilla project would create six power plants and desalination facilities on the coast of the Atacama region, 150 miles from a marine conservation site. The court upheld that the environmental impact assessment passed in 2010 is sound and legal despite the controversial response it received from environmental groups. (Emol 2/2/2012).In Chile’s Region V, plans for another thermoelectric project, a gas cogeneration plant proposed by Copec and Enap, are also moving forward again based on new natural gas price forecasts.  The project requires a $300 million dollar investment and will now aim to produce 160 MW of power. This projection is a significant decrease from its original goal of 579 MW. (Mundomaritimo 1/30/12)

 Lake Cachet in Chile’s Capitán Prat Province is experiencing an alarming water level decrease. According to the lake’s satellite monitoring system, the water level has dropped at a rate of 5.3 meters in the past 28 hours. A team of representatives from the Regional Ministerial Secretary of Public Works and the Regional Water Management group confirmed that the lake has begun the process of emptying. This is a recurring event in the lake’s history due to an environmental phenomenon known as GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood). GLOFs can be attributed to any number of factors including erosion, water pressure build up, avalanche, or seismic activity. (Radiosantamaría 1/31/2012)

 In the South of Chile, officials have arrested a man for stealing glacial ice from the Jorge Montte Glacier. It is estimated that the man intended to sell the ice to upscale bars and restaurants to make gourmet ice cubes. The ice, taken from Chile’s fastest retreating glacier, had an estimated value of over $6,000 dollars. (BBC News 2/1/2012)

Costa Rica

A recent report prepared by the Comptroller General of the Republic highlighted the continued neglect of Costa Rica’s wetland territories. Under the Ramsar Convention, 12 of Costa Rica’s 350 wetland territories are protected habitats. But the analysis showed that the Terra-Sierpe Wetlands lost 179 hectares of coverage even after gaining protection under the Ramsar Convention. On the other hand, the wetlands of Palo Verde recovered 3,405 hectares between 1984 and 2005. Overall, the report highlights the drastic lack of funding and manpower necessary to carry out adequate wetland protection despite the positive developments in Palo Verde. (Semanario Universidad 1/25/2012)

The Earth University of Costa Rica has launched the Research and Development Center or Renewable Energies with the goal of spreading knowledge through education on clean energy technology. The unique initiative is funded by Germany’s Ministry of the Environment through a program called “Climate Change Initiative” in an effort to reduce CO2 admissions through strategic training and education. (Costa Rica Hoy 2/2/2012)


 Environmental experts wrote to Mexican President Felipe Calderon demanding that plans for the construction of the proposed tourism resort, Cabo Cortes, be terminated. The mega tourism project would develop 3,800 hectares of fragile lands, increase pollution, and intensify water scarcity while threatening the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Reserve. The letter requested not only that the project be cancelled but also that Cabo Pulmo be listed as a world heritage site at risk and registered with Montreux under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland in danger. (Greenpeace Mexico 2/1/2012)

 Mexico and France united to launch a pilot project that will assess alternative development opportunities for communities living in protected areas throughout Mexico. Work will begin in the Rio Ameca Basin, located between the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, and the Sierra de Los Chimalapas region in Oaxaca. In a continued effort to address climate change, The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, through the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp), and the French Development Agency (AFD) signed the agreement that is part of the the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change signed by Semarnat and AFD in 2010. (Cuidadanía Press 2/1/2012)

 The degradation of forests in the State of Mexico, due to illegal logging, has meant that the monarch butterfly prefers to settle in Michoacán State, while the sanctuaries of the neighboring state are increasingly depopulated. The head of FUNACOMM said the behavior of the monarch has been altered for the last five years. It has changed the places it used to settle, delayed its arrival in Mexico and the sizes of the colonies are in decline (Primer Plan 01/23/12).

 In commemoration of World Wetlands Day, Mexico Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada declared four new wetland sites to be part of Ramsar Convention’s Iist of international important wetlands. These ecosystems were selected based on the importance of their environmental impact and services, including their water supply and their contribution towards reducing climate change. Mexico now ranks second for having the most wetlands covered by the Ramsar list.  According to Quesada, the inclusion of the four new protected areas strengthens ecotourism opportunities for Mexico. (Prensa 2/2/2012).


In preparation for Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June, representatives met this week in Quito, Ecuador for the eighteenth Forum of Environment Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean.. The ministers recognized that as region they face similar environmental challenges and sought to reach a common environmental sustainability agenda before Rio+20.  (Agency EFE 2/2/2012)

Composed by Amanda Wheat

Note: The linked articles and excerpts in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.