Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 8/12 - 8/17/2012


With 70 votes in favor, Chile’s Chamber of Deputies approved the creation a Commission for Hydro Resources, Desertification and Drought this week to oversee legislative proposals related to water scarcity, international agreements and treaties. The commission will also create proposals to address the urgent drought situation that is affecting thousands of Chileans.  (Pulso 8/14/2012)

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning announced a new energy efficiency grant program after an analysis showed that solar panels in housing have created annual savings of up to 40 percent in utility bills. The Ministry aims to build upon these savings with the new grants for solar water heaters, wall linings and seals for insulation, among other investments. Minister Rodrigo Pérez stated that the program “is attractive because the investment is quickly recovered with these levels of savings.” (El Mercurio 8/14/2012)

Major distribution company Chilectra signed an agreement this week to develop the first “smart city” prototype in the country. The pilot model will incorporate electric mobility projects, telemetry, automated operating departments, photovoltaic generation, automated electric grids, LED lighting and public wifi components. (Diario Financiera 8/16/2012)

SunEdison submitted an environmental impact assessment for a new $171 million photovoltaic plant in Chile’s northern Antofagasta region. The project, called the María Elena Photovoltaic Park, will have a total installed capacity of 72MW and will connect to the northern power grid to help meet the mining industry’s growing electricity needs. The deadline for the government’s review of the environmental impact assessment is November 16. (Diario Financiero 8/16/2012)

Members of Parliament have asked President Piñera to take concrete actions to help control the spread of the invasive Didymo algae that has invaded southern Chile’s rivers over the past several years.  Authorities in the Agriculture and Ranching Service, the National Fishing Service, and Deputy Patricio Vallespín collected support from a wide variety of legislators for their initiative. The spread of Didymo, or “rock snot,” is a “grave situation,” according to Vallespín, who said it “creates an absolute deterioration of the ecosystem.” (Mundo Acuícola 8/13/2012)

Costa Rica

The proposed construction of the Cocodrilo Marina in the Golfo Dulce of the Osa Peninsula could threaten two wetlands as well as local marine wildlife and habitat. According to a study by Costa Rican oceanographer Guillermo Quirós Alvarez, the proposed project would add 259 additional vessels to the gulf, bringing the total number of vessels navigating in the Golfo Dulce to 740. Quirós cautions that there is insufficient scientific data to fully assess the impact this level of marine traffic could have on the gulf’s fragile marine ecosystems. Quirós has launched a petition  urging Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and the Minister of Environment to cancel the project.  In addition to calling for the project’s permits to be overturned, he also recommends decreeing that the Golfo Dulce has reached its capacity for supporting projects that would increase the number of vessels. (El País 8/17/2012)

Costa Rica scored 60 out of a total 100 possible points in Nature magazine’s recent Ocean Health Index, meeting the global average.  The country scored well in terms of sustainable use of corals, shells, algae and non food ocean products. However, progress is needed in terms of harvesting seafood sustainably and maintaining the health of coastal tourism and recreation destinations. (El Financiero 8/17/2012)  

The United National Development Program will invest US $ 3.3 million over the next three years to protect 1.85 million hectares in Costa Rica. The project, a partnership with the Global Environment Fund, will support local initiatives to preserve biodiversity, protect water resources and mitigate climate change. The program will work directly with rural communities with the goal that by 2015, at least 800 families will be able to generate income based on sustainable production practices. (El País 8/14/)


The Executive Director of Conermex, Francisco Solís, stated that there is great potential for a solar energy market in Mexico but it is not a system that will happen overnight. While developing a market may take a few years the cost of solar panels is already dropping and  an average home could save more than 40 percent. Mexico in particular has many available resources such as utilizing the solar energy in the Sonora Desert. The company also plans on expanding to Panama because of its growing market for renewable energy, with hopes that eventually all of Central America will be utilizing renewable energy sources. (El Economista 8/5/2012).

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, announced that during the 2011-2012 season there was no illegal logging activity in the core territory of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. Elvira Quesada highlighted that over the past four years the Federal Attorney of Environmental Protection (Profepa) office has carried out permanent forest monitoring activities with the support of federal, state and municipal security forces, which helped stop logging of healthy lumber and dismantle sawmills in prominent logging communities. (Diario de Yucatán 8/16/2012)

Secretary Elvira Quesada pledged $114,123 to ensure the continuance of the Reintroduction of the Californian condor project in Baja California. Started in 2002, the U.S.-Mexico collaboration aims to reintroduce the California condor into its natural habitat. The project helps to raise and then release these birds in order to begin having young that are born in the wild. The first release, in 2002, included six birds donated from the Los Angeles Zoo. Other organizations participating in this project are the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and the National Commission of the Protection of Natural Areas (Conanp). (Diario de Yucatán 8/12/2012)

In Centla, Tabasco, the federal government has begun a project, run by Conagua Tabasco, to dredge up the Tabasquillo River and widen its boarders in order to prevent flooding and accommodate the large quantities of water that passes through this region, despite the intense protests made by the neighboring communities. The Tabasquillo River is home to countless species of wildlife, including the white turtle and manatees, and is under the protection of the Marshes and Biosphere Reserve. Because of the machinery work taking place, many of the natural species have started to migrate or die. (Kaos en la Red 8/14/2012).

The “Sustainable Light” project in Mexico has made the Guinness Book of World Records for replacing 22.9 million incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient ones. In the first stage of this project, the Mexican government, partially financed by the World Bank, handed out four florescent light bulbs to any resident who presented four incandescent light bulbs, an electricity bill and an ID. The anticipated results are that the energy normally consumed in a year in Nayarit or Colima will be saved, and individually each family can save up to 18 percent on their electricity bills. The second stage is already planned and will consist of families who have not yet participated receiving eight florescent light bulbs in exchange for four incandescent ones. Families that have already participated will also receive an additional four light bulbs. (The World Bank 8/1/2012)


The controversial Belo Monte dam was halted this week when a judge ruled that the $11 billion project’s proponents had not adequately consulted with the affected indigenous communities. Planned to be built in the heart of the Amazon, Belo Monte would have an installed capacity of 11,000 MW and would be the third largest dam in the world. It would also displace an estimated 40,000 indigenous people, and has attracted worldwide attention. The judge said that if the indigenous communities were consulted, the projects permits could be re-granted. (Al Jazeera 8/15/2012, Ministério Público Federal no Pará 8/15/2012)

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.