Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 4/15- 4/21/2012


SunEdison, the fourth largest solar company in the world, plans to install photovoltaic solar plants in Chile’s Atacama region. SunEdison’s vice president for their Latin American office stated that the U.S.-based company aims to begin and finish the installation in 2013, which will generate 500 megawatts of energy via photovoltaic panels. He highlighted the fact that solar plants can be built relatively quickly in comparison to hydroelectric power. Northern Chile’s high levels of solar radiation are well known among solar companies, and would allow SunEdison to produce energy 2,600 hours per year, compared to 2,100 hours per year in Spain. (La Tercera 04/14/2012).

New issues arose for the controversial HidroAysén company this week, whose plan to build five dams on two Patagonia rivers is facing staunch popular opposition. After the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the environmental approval of the project, the Court’s Ethics Commission announced that it will evaluate whether two of the judges who ruled in the case had conflicts of interest stemming from their business ties to Endesa Chile and Colbún, the two companies that own HidroAysén. (El Mercurio 4/17/2012) HidroAysén came under fire when the Human Rights Commission in the Chamber of Deputies  voted to approve a report condemning HidroAysén’s environmental review process for procedural irregularities, alterations made to the reviewing agencies’ technical reports, violations of environmental regulations and pressure from government officials to approve the project, among other things. (Santiago Times 4/15/2012) The chief executive of HidroAysén, Daniel Fernandez, announced that the company’s next big step – the submission of the environmental impact assessment for its 2,000 kilometer long transmission line – would be delayed from June until the end of the year. This is the third time the company has delayed this process. (Fox Business 4/13/2012)

Costa Rica

A recent report carried out by Fundación Neotropica assessed the damage created by the Crucitas Mining Project. The rapid ecological assessment found that the environmental damage totals $4.6 million dollars, from change in land use in forested areas and costs of regenerating an area of 86.5 hectares. Infininto Industries, the company behind the Crucitas Mine, argued that they had not given Fundación Neotropica permission to enter the area and thus their findings were invalid due to the fact that they were conducted using only aerial photo comparisons from 2005 and 2010. (Diaro Extra 4/14/2012).

The Center of Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLADS) of the INCAE Business School released a new report this week about ways to combat climate change and lower Costa Rica’s carbon emissions.  The report entitled, “Technology Needs Assessment on Climate Change Mitigation Technologies” found that more efficient equipment would reduce CO2 emissions by up to 500,000 tons primarily through more efficient boilers, engines, and lighting. The principle barrier in achieving this carbon reduction is cost and law enforcement. (Revista Summa 4/18/2012).  The study further highlighted five key areas of concern with regard to Costa Rica and climate change: public transport, sustainable agriculture, energy efficiency, adaptive co-management of water sheds, and adaptation tools for various meteorological scenarios. (Diaro Finaciero 4/16/2012)

A new study being conducted by Conservation International is examining the lifecycle of hammerhead sharks in the Gulfo Dulce. Researchers have discovered that the area is a breeding ground for the hammerheads but very little is known about their life cycles. Knowing more about when hammerheads breed will help craft policies to protect the species, particularly young hammerheads in this region, where an increasing number are victim to overfishing, pollution, and habitat degradation to their mangrove ecosystems (La Nación 4/20/2012). This study comes on the heels of the latest FAO report, which cites overfishing as one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges. The report states that 80% of the global fisheries have been exploited to the point of depletion. Costa Rica is no exception as fish products are expected to decline by 50% by the end of 2012. (La Nación 4/20/2012)


After two years of legislative processes, Mexico’s Climate Change Law has been passed through House and the Senate. The law’s purpose is to identify measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and minimize the phenomenon’s impacts on the population. The law establishes the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change to attract funding for private, public, national and international efforts to combat climate change. It also gives the state the power to determine penalties on polluters and those disseminating false information on climate change. (La Jornada 4/20/2012)

Greenpeace has collected 118,000 signatures against the Cabo Cortez mega-resort, and conducted a series of activities among activists to express what Greenpeace has dubbed, “the rejection of a predatory development, which aims to end the unique biodiversity of the coral reef reserve in the Mexican Pacific.” (Peninsular Digital 4/20/2012). Experts continue to warn of the danger that Cabo Pulmo, the only coral reservation of the eastern Pacific, faces due to the mega resort. Gustavo Alanis Ortega, executive director of Mexican Center for Environmental Law noted that Mexican Law cannot authorize a project when you have not submitted all the studies to assess the overall environmental impacts, and this is what has happened in the case of Cabo Pulmo (GrupoFórmula 4/14/2012).

Representatives of Mexico’s tourism industry have come out in opposition of the new Coastal Act in Baja California South (BCS). The act would seek to expand the coastal area currently under federal protection beyond its current 20 meters. The first to publicize his opinion (via Twitter) was Secretary of Tourism, Reachi Ruben who stated that the act did not take tourism into account. (Peninsular Digital 4/20/2012)


Argentina has come under international criticism for its recent decision to nationalize the oil company YPF. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, defended her decision by citing the success of state-controlled Brazilian oil companies. While many nationalists gathered to support the president’s decision, international communities and economic advisors have somewhat differing opinions. Some worry that nationalization will not end with oil, but will ultimately spread to the energy sector as well, and they claim that Argentina cannot compare its economy and government to that of Brazil. Daniel Altman, an expert on Argentina’s economy at New York University’s School of Business stated, “Brazil’s leaders have a more global view of their future while Argentina has a government that is ultimately self-destructive” (New York Times 4/18/2012).

During the Americas Business Summit Meeting, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala Tasso declared that any future mining investments in Peru will be made with environmental protection as the priority. Peru is comprised of 1.3 million square kilometers of Amazonian jungle and is one of the top five producers of silver, gold and copper. With mega projects projected to bring in over 16 billion dollars, Humela states that Peru's interest in capital is not going to outshine the need to protect the environment. ( 4/15/2012).

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.