Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: Week of 6.4 - 6.10.2011


On June 4th the Puyehue Volcano erupted in an Andean volcano chain, prompting the evacuation of 3500 people from nearby villages.  The eruption was preceded by a series of earthquakes, and threw ash six miles into the sky, affecting people on both sides of the Chile/Argentina border.  The volcano is located over 600 miles south of Santiago, and last erupted in 1960, after a 9.5 magnitude earthquake struck nearby.  (El Mercurio, 6/6/2011; The Atlantic 6/6/2011; 6/4/2011)

An international group of scientists and engineers sent a letter to Chilean authorities this week, asking the government to step up its efforts to monitor and research the Patagonia Ice Fields, and offering their support in this endeavor.  This group, which traveled to the area last September, wrote: “we all agree that the area is being increasingly impacted by the effects of climate and global change on the local glaciers and ice fields. With the expected further changes in the region’s temperature and precipitation patterns, Patagonia’s environmental systems could become more dynamic, unstable and unpredictable in the future than they are already.”  (The Santiago Times 6/10/2011; Patagon Journal 6/8/2011)

In renewables news, Chile held its first solar-powered car fair, ahead of a race across the Atacama Desert, which is planned for the end of September.  In the fair, 20 teams showed off their solar power vehicles to interested business leaders and the general public.  (The International News 6/4/2011)

The forestry company CMPC plans to invest $200 million in biomass generation plants to be able to entire power its own pulp and paper operations.  The company, owned by the Matte Group, already self-generates 74.2 percent of the energy needed for its industrial processes using biomass.  (Estrategia 6/9/2011)  The E-CL energy company proposed a $280 million wind farm in Northern Chile.  The project would be the first wind farm connected to Chile's northern grid, which feeds the majority of the mining industry.  It would double the country's current installed wind capacity. (Diario Financiero 6/8/2011)

The controversial HidroAysén project continues to make headlines one month after the dams' approval.  Members of environmental groups testified before the Human Rights Commission in the Chamber of Deputies about the irregularities that they allege plagued the project's environmental review process. Groups who oppose the project are planning another protest in Santiago on Friday evening.  (Radio Santa Maria 6/9/2011; La Tercera 6/10/2011)

Energía Austral submitted the second "Addendum" to its environmental impact assessment to authorities in the Patagonia Region of Aysén, in which it answered 228 pending issues, questions and comments in the environmental review for its proposed Río Cuervo hydroelectric plant.  Citizens in Coyhaique, the regional capital, protested the project.  (Radio Santa Maria 6/9/2011)

A new report from the International Energy Agency found that Chile has the third-highest level of CO2 emissions per capita in South America, after Venezuea and Argentina.  (Santiago Times 6/5/2011)

Costa Rica

Lack of concrete plans and coordination between institutions puts Costa Rica’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021 at risk (La Nación6/5/2011).  Since announcing the goal of carbon neutrality in 2007 Costa Rica has released a National Climate Change Strategy, but has not identified concrete actions for different sectors of the economy to achieve carbon neutrality.   Reforestation and managing forested areas are key components of the country’s emission reduction initiative, but these measures are not enough achieve carbon neutrality (La Nación 6/4/2011).  The primary areas where action is needed are the transportation, energy, and agricultural sectors. However, various plans to address emissions in the transportation sector, Costa Rica’s primary source of emissions, have failed to move forward including plans to expand the use of ethanol and biodiesel (La Nación 6/9/2011), initiatives to improve public transportation with an electric train and efficient bus routes, and plans to boost the use of electric and hybrid vehicles (La Nación 6/4/2011). Additional bus and train plans and potential private-public partnerships are now under study but financing is still unclear (El Financiero6/10/2011).  In 2009, a study by Yale University noted that with existing plans, the country could not achieve carbon neutrality by 2021 (La Nación 6/4/2011).  More recently, Vice Minister of Energy Andrei Bourrouet noted that he would not have committed the country to the 2021 date without more data and analysis.  Bourrouet‘s view is that a better alternative would be for Costa Rica to become a model for low emission development  (6/5/2011). According to Bourrouet, in order for Costa Rica to meet its goal it needs to meet minimum conditions in terms of sufficient financial resources, institutional infrastructure and political support.  An editorial in La Nación points out that despite the lack of action thus far Costa Rica has significant potential in renewable energy and a private sector willing to invest renewable energy generation under appropriate pricing (La Nación 6/7/2011). However, the proposed bill that would restructure the electric sector and allow more private renewable generation has been paralyzed in the National Assembly  since it was proposed nearly a year ago (El Financiero6/10/2011).

US-based Mallon Oil Company won a concession in 2000 to explore for oil and gas in northern Costa Rica. Following years of legal appeals the proposed oil and gas exploration project may once more move forward after the Sala IV court rejected the latest appeal presented by the environmental group Justicia para la Naturaleza.   Mallon’s initial estimates indicate that both oil and gas are found in the concession site but the greatest potential is for natural gas.  (La Nación 6/5/2011). President Laura Chinchilla has indicated she would support natural gas, but not oil exploration and that the government is evaluating the potential participation of ICE and RECOPE in a potential natural gas project(La Nación 6/7/2011).  Acting as an independent energy expert, Costa Rica’s former Minister of Environment and Energy Roberto Dobles appeared before the Sala IV to voice his support for the project which he believes could save  Costa Rica $2,000 million in reduce oil imports (La Nación 6/6/2011).  Mallon Oil and its parent company Black Hills Corporation have sent two letters to the Costa Rican Ambassador to the US, Muni Figueres, requesting that the government of Costa Rica approve the oil and gas exploration project (La Nación 6/5/2011).  Mallon has also written to Costa Rican authorities claiming that the Free Trade Treaty with the US protects its rights and warned of potential legal and economic ramifications for the country if the twenty year concession is not approved (La Nación 6/8/2011).  The PAC political party and environmental groups have already voiced their opposition to the project (La Nación 6/6/2011).


Greenpeace Mexico presented a procedure of administrative complaint against two officials of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) for allowing the construction of the tourism development Cabo Cortés by Hansa Urbana in Baja California Sur. In a statement, the organization noted that the procedures are aimed at Mauricio Limón Aguirre, undersecretary of Environmental Protection Management, and Eduardo Enrique Hernández González, head of the General Directorate of Environmental Impact and Risk (DGIRA). (Milenio 6/8/2011) 

Congressman Carlos Ernesto Solís Gómez filed an initiative to create The Law on the Use of Renewable Energies.   Backed by members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the parliamentary groups of the Green Ecological Party of Mexico and the New Alliance Party, the Congressman says the purpose of the Law is to ensure that the energy policy creates vigorous social and environmental economies.  He noted that because climate change is among the most serious problems facing the world, it must pay attention to sustainable energy generation. (Antam 6/3/2011)

President Felipe Calderón warned that Mexicans have a "serious problem” by altering the environment, but said that Mexico has broken the paradigm and the prejudice that climate change affects only the developed nations. The Chief Executive stated that for 40% of the country, 2011 was the driest year in the last 70 years.  (El Economista 6/7/2011)

The company Riberas del Pantepec revived its effort to carry out the Terminal Multimodal and Contenedores Riberas del Pantepec project in Tuxpan, Veracruz, even though such work would damage 6.7 hectares of mangrove, as Carlos Alvarez Flores, President of Communication and Environment of Mexico, warned.  In June 2009, the company received a refusal from environmental authorities. The company filed the new project under the name La Guadalupana in December 2010.  (El Economista 6/7/2011)


The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted a resolution on climate change in the countries of the hemisphere.  The resolution resolves to strengthen the resilience of OAS member states to the impact of climate change, support the development of adaptation activities, support efforts to reduce green house gas emissions, and promote capacity building and information exchange related to climate change. (IISD Reporting Service 6/7/2011)

The InterAmerican Development launched a web portal called “Finanzas Carbono” to disseminate information on carbon markets. The website will feature information on regulated and voluntary carbon markets in order to strengthen capacity to participate in carbon markets among the private and public sectors of Latin America and the Caribbean. (IISD Reporting Service 610/2011)

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.

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