Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 6/11- 6/18/2012


The electricity company Colbún has denied speculation that is it planning to sell its holdings in the controversial HidroAysén hydroelectric project in Patagonia. While development on the project is stalled indefinitely due to a lack of government support and public backlash against the dams, the company says it has no plans to sell any of its current 49% stake (Business News Americas 6/6/2012).

A new survey by Cooperative and Imagination reveals that  88.7 percent of Chileans prefer clean energy, even if they have to pay higher prices for it. Sixty two percent out of 300 surveyed were against the HidroAysén project and 65.7 percent expressed that they prioritize the natural landscape over energy. The top two forms of energy preferred among those surveyed were from non-conventional renewable energy sources (40 percent) and hydroelectric power (31.8 percent) (Cooperativa 6/12/2012).

Chile has risen in the ranking of countries that are most attractive for investment in non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE).  The quarterly report released by the consulting company Ernst &Young outlines the top 40 markets that promote this type of technology with regard to their infrastructure and possibility for implementation. Chile moved from position 39 to 38 and also moved up in the ratings for wind and solar development in the last five years. Veronique Bekaert, the senior manager at Ernst & Young, said that the politics and economy of Chile provide incentives for investment and that its natural resources show great potential for clean energy development (Electricidad 6/13/2012). 

In an effort to reduce smog, the Ministry of the Environment is unveiling a program to replace 3,056 wood-burning stoves and heaters with new, cleaner units in five major cities that suffer from air contamination. Wood-burning stoves are the primary emitters of particulate matter in the region and it is estimated that 95% of all the emissions in these areas come from the burning of biomass. With the program, households can exchange their wood-burning stoves for newer models by registering and paying a small copayment.  According to the agency’s minister, María Ignacia Benítez, the 800 units that have been distributed so far have already helped to mitigate smog (Electricidad 6/15/2012). 

Chile’s environmental evaluation service, SEA, approved the environmental impact assessment for the consortium, Santa Maria, to build a US$36 million dollar plant that will convert waste from the company’s landfill into biogas. Santa Maria receives about one third of the waste generated in the metropolitan region of Santiago, and with the new plant, the waste will be able to produce between 14 and 20 megawatts of energy.  The plant will connect to Chile’s central power grid and is scheduled to begin production in 2013 (Business News Americas 6/8/2012).

According to Energy Minister Jorge Bunster, Chile will unveil a proposal for a nationwide transmission highway system before the end of September. Some experts believe that the highway scheme should include direct government intervention in order to solve land ownership and permitting issues. According to the country’s former energy minister, Ricardo Raineri, the electricity highway will help better connect generators to consumption areas (Business News Americas 6/8/2012). 

Costa Rica

Last week, Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla, and Chinese diplomats signed an agreement to finance the expansion and modernization Costa Rica’s state oil refiner, RECOPE and to celebrate five years of bilateral relations. The China Development Bank (CDB) agreed to give approximately US$900 million dollars to the Costa Rican Government as part of the US$1.24 billion dollar renovation project.  The updated facility will have a refining capacity of 60,000 barrels a day and will save Costa Rica between $200 and $300 million dollars per year in annual oil costs (Mis Finanzas 6/8/2012).

President Laura Chinchilla spoke at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in support of food cooperatives as a model for sustainable development and the competitiveness of small farmers.  FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva used Costa Rica as an example for the ways that cooperatives can support economic, social and environmental development (FAO 5/29/12). 

The Costa Rican coffee co-op, Coopedeota, announced the launch of the first carbon-neutral coffee. Coffee has been severely affected by climate change and the decreasing supply of coffee has motivated coffee producers such as Coopedeota to change their practices and set an example for the rest of the industry.  The company’s general manager Roberto Mata said that becoming carbon neutral is not only an environmental necessity for the future of the crop, but that increasingly concerned customers are eager to support products with a reduced carbon footprint (Cooperativa Noticias 6/8/2012). 


Over 220 thousand signatures against the tourist development Cabo Cortes arrived at the National Palace last week asking President Calderón to cancel the project. Patricia Arendar, Executive Director of Greenpeace Mexico, said that the active participation of the public is a grand triumph and represents the public opinion surrounding the proposed project. Their voices were heard on June 15 following the announcment by President Felipe Calderón to cancel the tourist development (Penisular Digital 6/4/2012, Presidencia de la Republica 6/15/2012). 


An MIT survey titled, "Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation," shows that 95 percent of major cities in Latin America are planning for climate change compared to only 59 percent of such cities in the United States. The report represents a global trend that cities that have experienced larger threats from climate change are taking more initiatives to prepare for the future. The study shows numerous examples from around the world where there are no national policies or explicit support for  climate initiatives, but local governments are developing plans and taking action on a local level to mitigate climate impacts (Science News 6/5/2012). 

This week’s news was compiled by Emily Jovais.

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.