Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 2/11 - 2/17/2012


A glimmer of hope for renewable energy in Chile as recent studies show that the cost of green energy has been cut in half over the past two years. The price decline is a result of manufacturers who have begun to scale up production in addition to overall increases in competition among green technology producers.  Experts from the Chilean Renewable Energy Association  also point out that claims that it would be economically unfeasible to generate 20% of electricity by 2020 are based on  obsolete data about energy prices. (Electricidad 2/16/2012).

Despite significant opposition from local communities, the Riesco Island mining project will commence construction in April.  Backed by over $530 million dollars of investment, the mine will harvest coal from the Punta Arenas region. Jorge  erals, general manager of the mine says that he has met all agreed upon commitments in his contract including the stipulation for 85% local employment. But opponents assure that they will continue fighting the project. “The legal battle is just beginning,” stated Riesco Alert’s spokesperson, Adolfo Galindo (Diario Financiero 2/15/2012).

The Río Cuervo Dam Project went to court this week due to rising safety and environmental concerns. The project requires large volumes of water installed on a prominent fault line in Chile’s Aysen region. Opponents of the project insist that the risk of seismic and volcanic activity near the reservoirs construction are too great to ignore. The debate remains paralyzed in the Coyhaique Court of Appeals between the Río Cuervo Central Hydroelectric Project and local constituents (Emol 2/15/2012).

Costa Rica

Tourism continues to play a prominent role in Costa Rica’s economy. A recent study showed that whale watching alone generates $21 millions dollars in revenue along with 25,000 jobs. Yet the United Nations Environmental Program recently found that 86% of the world’s whales and dolphins are endangered (El Financiero 2/16/2012). To promote sustainable tourism, Acoprot (The Costa Rican Association of Tourism Professionals) has created the Interamerican Center for training and Research for Sustainable Tourism Development. The project will promote research and awareness to better guide best practices for Costa Rican tourism (El Financiero 2/16/2012). 

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Telecommunication (Minaet) has signed a contract with the Neotrópica Foundation to conduct an environmental assessment of damages caused by the Crucitas mining project. , The studies were required by the court that annulled the controversial mining concession held by Industrias Infinito.  The results are to be made ready in two weeks andwill outline the costs of restoring the areas affected by the deforestation and land degradation from the Crucitas mine (La Nación 2/16/2012).


Mexico’s Secretary of Environmental and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada met with U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton to announce the creation of the Coalition for Clean Air and Climate. The coalition aims to battle global climate change be reducing short-term air pollutants.  Mexico is the newest member of this international climate initiative as it joins the ranks of Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Sweden, and the U.S. The goal in Mexico is to have its 600 municipalities working on specific air quality improvement plans by 2013 (Biosfera 2/16/2012).

The Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) will give $1.3 million dollars in grants to help North American communities address environmental problems. The CEC, composed of three member countries, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. chose eighteen projects ranging from the tropical forests of Mexico to the subarctic tundra. All projects are aimed at addressing environmental issues from the community level and represent a broad range of groups and organizations including indigenous people to academic institutions ( 2/16/2012)

Mexico continues to work toward a clean energy matrix with the goal of generating 15% of their energy from wind by 2020. Last week’s inauguration of the WindPower Forum reinforced Mexico’s investment to a diversified energy mix. The country aims to create 45,000 jobs in the wind sector and generate 12,000 megawatts of electricity. Leopold Rodríguez, a leader in Mexico’s clean energy industry, described the economic and environmental benefits noting that wind could generate $13 million dollars in revenue and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23 million tons ( 2/14/2012) The Mexican Initiative for Renewable Energy (IMERE) is also leading the effort to push Mexico toward renewable energy matrixes. Comprised of members from the private sector and civil society, IMERE was presented at the National Museum in San Carlos this week. The initiative aims to give businesses a greater hand in Mexico’s energy production and move the country away from hydrocarbon dependence through five main goals: creating a set of energy targets for 2050, facilitating access of renewable energy sources to the electric grid, establishing prices and incentives, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, and revamping overall national policy on renewable energy ( 2/15/2012).

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.