Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 6/18- 6/22/2012


During a meeting on June 20, HidroAysén’s board of directors discussed the request made in late May by its shareholder, Colbún, to suspend the dam project’s transmission line component due to the lack of an agreeable and comprehensive energy strategy in Chile. The proposed transmission line was previously going to be submitted for environmental consideration at the end of the year. While the board did not make a formal decision, they said they will continue to analyze whether conditions exist to make the project viable (La Tercera 6/21/2012).

In the first half of the year, 31 non-convention renewable energy (NCRE) projects were submitted for environmental assessment, representing over 91 percent of the total investment in energy projects. Of the 31 proposals, there are 20 photovoltaic projects, seven wind farms, three solar initiatives, and one geothermal plant. The combined total for renewable energy investments submitted this year exceed US$10 billion (Estrategia 6/21/2012).

During a flight from Los Cabos, Mexico to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera had an impromptu meeting with the Director-General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurria, the outgoing director general of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia of Chile and President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno to discuss the state of the global economy and Chile’s development strategy. As the leaders traveled from the G20 Summit to the Rio+20 Summit, the President stressed the need to make development compatible with the environment and discussed how Chile is planning for the future. He said that Chile is responding to water and energy challenges with national strategies to ensure that these elements do not become barriers to sustainable development in the future (Diario Financiero 6/21/2012)

According to the first Report on the State of the Environment, 10 million Chileans are exposed to more than 20 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter causing 4,000 premature deaths each year.  The dangerous pollutants were found to be most heavily concentrated in the central and southern regions of the country (La Tercera 6/6/2012)

This year’s global exposition for the mini hydro industry, Expo APEMEC 2012, will take place in Santiago on June 21-22. Two thousand visitors are expected to attend, which is a 70 percent increase from last year. The growing attendance reflects the expansion of the mini hydro sector which has enormous potential as a non-conventional renewable energy source especially in Chile. There will be representatives from 16 countries from 14 different areas of the industry. The event allows developers to meet with investors, suppliers, and project owners to exchange ideas and realize opportunities for collaboration (Electricidad 6/12/2012).

Costa Rica

In an effort to attract private investment and achieve the country’s goal of having 95 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2014, the state-owned Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) will be accepting bids for renewable energy projects. ICE will select hydroelectric projects to generate a total of 100 megawatts and wind-power projects to generate 40 megawatts, which will produce enough energy to power about 56,000 homes. President Laura Chinchilla said that the decision brings the country closer to its carbon-neutral goal and away from using fossil fuels (Tico Times 6/15/2012).

The coffee plantation, Aquiares, located in Turrialba is the first in the country to be certified by the Rainforest Alliance for its efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to changing climates. After meeting the required criteria determined by the Climate Unit of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, the company earned the prestigious certification which is valid for nine years.  Ana Lucía Corrales, the technical expert for the certification program, said that Aquiares’ commitment and dedication to reduce emissions stood out  and that she hopes other Costa Rican producers will integrate this model of sustainability into their practices as well (Rainforest Alliance 6/14/2012). 


Mexican President Felipe Calderon has officially pulled the plug on the tourist development, Cabo Cortes, due to its expected environmental threats to the nearby Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park.  The President withdrew the permits issued to Spanish developer, Hansa Baja, since it was unable to prove that the mega-project would not cause irreversible environmental damage to the park’s coral reef and marine life. Mr. Calderon said that investors are free to start again with a new project that is compatible with the long-term health of the park, but that the original plan, which contained 30,000 hotel rooms and two golf courses would not be approved (BBC 6/15/2012). 

The habitants of Los Cabos applauded the President’s decision to cancel the tourist project, Cabo Cortes, and hope that the next president will secure the life-long conservation of the marine park. A poll conducted by Tribuna found that all of those interviewed agreed that the cancelation of the development was an important step to preserve the zone and beneficial for all (Tribuna 6/17/2012).   

Following the announcement by President Calderon, Hansa Baja Investment stated that it would redesign the Cabo Cortes project with the goal of finding a balance between economic development and environmental sustainability. However, many NGOs are concerned about the possibility of a new tourist development, and fear that President Calderon made possible the erection of a new tourist development in Cabo Pulmo. Many believe that before another development is considered, the officials who illegally approved the previous project must be investigated and punished (La Jornada 6/16/2012, Grupo Reforma 6/16/2012). 

Mexico participated in the UN conference on sustainable development, Rio+20, which seeks to create a roadmap for a green economy with a focus on sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. For Mexico, this forum was an opportunity to undertake actions to promote sustainable development and for the international community to make decisions necessary to reverse the deterioration of the environmental and the exploitation of natural resources (Biosfera 6/19/2012).

The director of the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, participated in a press conference to discuss the Earth Summit and the launch of a roadmap to guide businesses and governments toward a green economy and facilitate investments in green infrastructure. He hopes that the summit will create a new paradigm where economic growth and environmental protection will be mutually beneficial. Quesada also met with the executive director of the UN Environment Program, Achim Steiner, to talk about important objectives for the summit. They agreed that through sustainable growth, societies have the potential to address poverty, increase wellbeing, and promote development (Biosfera 6/20/2012).  


Despite being a region rich in fossil fuels, Latin America has capitalized on its unique environment by developing renewable energy infrastructure, thus giving the continent a superior advantage over the rest of the world.  Data from the UN International Energy Agency confirms this conclusion: only 68 percent of the energy used in Latin America comes from non-renewable sources whereas, in the EU, such dependence is 90 percent, in the U.S, 94 percent, and in Japan, 97 percent. If we consider only electric power in Latin America, 69 percent  comes from renewable sources, with 66 percent hydro, 3 percent of biomass, and a small portion from alternative sources like wind and solar. In China the proportion is 17 percent, U.S. 11 percent, EU 18 percent, and Japan 9 percent. The significant use of hydropower and bioenergy, especially in countries like Brazil, serves as an example for the ways in which countries can achieve both environmental protection and provide more individuals with access to electricity. The issue of energy is one of the central components of the Rio+20 summit that will enact a program called Sustainable Energy For All, with the goal of bringing electricity to the global population by 2030 (America Economia 6/18/2012).

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.