Latin America Climate, Energy, & Environmental News 10/31-11/4/2011


A new energy group entitled the “Comisión Ciudadana Técnico Parlamentaria para la Política y la Matriz Eléctrica (CCTP)” or the Citizens’ Technical and Parliamentary  Commission for Policy and the Electricity Matrix, consists of members of Parliament, electric industry experts and local citizen organizations will present their proposals for Chile’s Energy Future next week at La Moneda Palace. The proposals call for reforming the electricity market by including social equity, environmental sustainability and transparency rules in electric sector development. (Terram 11/1/2011)

After months of negotiation, HidroAysén and Energía Austral reached an agreement to share a transmission corridor. By sharing Energía Austral’s existing corridor, HidroAysén hopes to limit the environmental impact of transmitting its energy by land through Chile. (Diario Financiero 11/4/2011) Earlier in the week a proposed underwater cable provided yet another alternative to HidroAysén’s energy transmission quandary. President Piñera met with environmental and energy authorities last week to discuss the feasibility of this idea which would conduct the energy produced by HidroAysén under water to Santiago in an effort to avoid wiring the energy 2400 miles through 66 communities and nine regions, a plan which has been heavily criticized for its environmental impacts. This alternative requires more research and is in consideration along with the recent proposal to route the energy through Argentina. (La Tercera 10/31/2011) But as Chile continues to face difficulties negotiating HidroAysén’s energy transmission through Argentinean territory, President Piñera called for a more integrated energy plan in Latin America. He cited the examples of cooperation amongst European countries and of the energy relationships between Canada, the US and Mexico as models of integrated energy polices. Piñera stated that Latin America is far from these standards of progress as Chile and Uruguay still face difficulties in buying energy from Argentina and Paraguay but with a stronger trust between countries, all of South America could move forward. (Futuro Renovable 11/2/2011)

Pablo Longueira , Chile’s Minister of Finance will now include a new scientific criteria requirement into licensing agreements on fishing quotas. The new criteria will include a tax for resource extraction and will replace the current Fisheries Act, in effect until December 31, 2012. But NGO’s want the complete elimination of bottom trawling to be included in this new policy. Bottom trawling is among the most destructive fishing methods currently in practice which consists of dragging massive nets along the ocean floor crushing important ecosystems along the way. NGO’s say that Longueira’s policy is incomplete without addressing bottom trawling. (Terram 11/2/2011)

Businessman Juan Walker in partnership with the Cánovas family has invested $770 million dollars to develop a new solar energy project in Tarapaca, Chile. This initiative would be the largest solar energy project of its kind and would aim to create 250 MW by 2017. The completed solar park would consist of thee million solar panels and would employ at least 200 local people. Environmental authorities hope that this mega project will enable Chile to not only meet its energy needs but also to have a surplus of energy to export. (La Segunda 11/2/2011)

Costa Rica

National budget discussions are receiving criticism from many environmental interests in Costa Rica as they lack sufficient funding for conservation initiatives. Despite the fact that Costa Rica’s green image is intrinsically laced with its economic prosperity, The Environmental Ministry, charged with the country’s public conservation agenda, is only allocated 0.67% of the national budget (roughly $78 million dollars). Critics state that more funding and attention is needed to areas like the Térraba-Sierpe National Wetlands which provide ecosystem services valued at billions of dollars. (Fundacion Neotropica 11/1/2011)

The National Commission on Biosecurity granted permission to the company LM Veintiuno to expand their experiments on genetically modified pineapple.  LM Veintiuno has been working on GM crops since 2005 but never with more than 3 hectares of territory. Opponents worry that if the area planted with genetically modified pineapple is expanded there will be no way of keeping these crops from infiltrating the local food chain. This could lead to the consumption of a product that has not undergone adequate testing. (University of Costa Rica 11/1/2011)

The struggle to secure funding for the Térraba-Sierpe National Wetlands continues amidst repeated warnings of unchecked environmental degradation to the area.  A press conference held this week revealed that the Environment Tribunal will only receive a $148,000 dollar budget to work with in 2012 which is $223,500 less than requested. Complicated by the fact that the tribunal is already understaffed and overstretched, its financial handicap makes the fate of Térraba-Sierpe National Wetlands bleaker than ever. (Tico Times 10/27/2011)


On the heels of the recent discovery of an estimated 300 trillion tons of shale gas in the Coahuila region, Mexico has abandoned its plans to build 10 nuclear energy plants . Energy minister Jordy Herrera cited that it is cheaper and more efficient at the moment to invest in gas powered energy than nuclear energy. Herrera noted that Mexico will seek $10 billion dollars over the next five years to expand its gas pipelines and accommodate the newly discovered shale reserves. (Bloomberg News 11/2/2011)

Focus Ventures announced the commencement of silver mining exploration in Santa Cruz, Mexico.  Exploration will cover 13,500 hectares of silver mining claims and will include widespread trenching and rock chip sampling. The information gained from this initial phase will be used to design the second phase of drilling set to begin in 2012. (istockanalyst  11/2/2011)

As the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) approaches, President Calderon urged China and the US to reach an agreement on emission reductions.  Calderon noted how crucial it is for the world’s largest economy and the world’s largest carbon emitter to reach an agreement before the COP 17 begins in Durban on December 9th in order to assure that concrete climate advances are made at this upcoming mega-meeting. (Reuters 11/3/2011)

This week’s news was compiled 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.