Latin America Green News: Musicians play for Chile's Patagonia, climate funding helps Costa Rica's reforestation, textiles pollute Mexico's fresh water

Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

December 3-9, 2012


The highest administrative authority in Chile, the Committee of Ministers, approved the Punta Alcalde coal-fired power plant even though the Atacama regional authority previously rejected the project during its environmental impact evaluation process. The five ministers on the committee decided unanimously in favor of Punta Alcalde, and included new emissions standards and equipment requirements in the approval. Energy giant Endesa, who is proposing the 740MW project—the largest coal plant in the country, says Punta Alcalde will improve the air quality of Huasco, the city located 13 kilometers away from the plant’s site. Huaso’s mayor stated that he will fight the project in court. (24horas 12/3/2012, Pulso 12/4/2012)

The same Committee of Ministers announced that it will hold sessions in January to decide on the appeals to HidroAysén, the five mega-dam project proposed by Endesa and Chilean energy company Colbún in Patagonia. The ministers say the case is so complex that it may require more than one session to decide, and that they will not allow citizen participation at the sessions. (La Tercera 12/5/2012, Radio Universidad de Chile 12/5/2012)

At the same time, more than 10 thousand Chileans asked Endesa and Colbún to “pull the plug” on HidroAysén on Sunday at a concert and protest event in Santiago. Twelve musical groups, including Ana Tijoux, Juana Fe and Joe Vasoncellos, played for free at the event for six hours, all supporting the “Patagonia without dams” campaign. Just days earlier, Colbún made a surprise announcement that it is open to selling its stake in HidroAysén, citing lack of political clarity and popular support for the project.  (Cooperativa 12/9/2012, Bloomberg 12/7/2012)

Costa Rica

The World Bank approved an initiative under the Carbon Fund framework that will add 340,000 hectares of protected forest in Costa Rica, capturing approximately 30 million tons of CO2. Under the arrangement, the Carbon Fund will buy 40% of the carbon captured for $63 million. Costa Rica will be able to sell the remaining 60% on the national or international market. The agreement marks the first time the World Bank approves a country initiative under the Carbon Fund. (El Financiero 12/5/2012)

Costa Rica’s Institute of Technical Standards (INTECO) launched a new sustainable building standard for the tropics. The new standard is adapted to a tropical climate and includes 21 requirements that help buildings and homes reduce energy and water use. The standard was developed by the Institute for Tropical Architecture and specialists from other sectors. (El Financiero 12/4/2012)

Costa Rica’s General Controller released a report finding that the Institute for Fish and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) lacks sufficient data to know whether fishing activity in the country, including newly granted licenses, is sustainable. To determine the fishing sector’s sustainability would require scientific and technical studies that have not been carried outside a limited area in the Gulf of Nicoya. Another key weakness in INCOPESCA’s management of the fishery sector is the lack of guidelines outlining the minimum fish sizes allowed for capture. (El Financiero 12/4/2012)


According to Environment Secretary Guerra Abud, Mexico can avoid situations like the controversial Cabo Cortés tourism complex proposed in Cabo Pulmo through  full compliance with the law and public consultations with communities affected by large-scale developments.  In addition to public consultation, he noted the technical departments of the Environment Ministry must be certain the projects under review do not impact the environment.  Guerra Abud also called for auto-regulation schemes. (Ciudad y Poder 12/5/2012) The Senate also recently focused on the Cabo Cortés project when it called on the Secretary of the Environment and the National Commission of Water to provide information on the status of land use permits and water concession granted to Hansa Baja Urbana the company that proposed the failed Cabo Cortés project. (CEMDA Press Release 12/5/2012)

In response to growing deforestation, Mexico’s new Secretary of the Environment, Juan José Guerra Abud stated the country needs to ensure it is adequately protecting its natural resources. Mexico has lost 190,000 square kilometers of forests in the last 30 years. Environmental organizations and the National Autonomous University of Mexico differ on how many hectares of forests are lost per year, but both agree that the rate is growing and that deforestation is a serious problem.  To tackle deforestation the new administration of President Peña Nieto will strengthen the Federal Environment Protection Agency and the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas. (La Crónica 12/05/12).

Mexico’s textile production business, the fourth largest supplier to the United States, has played a large role in the contamination of the country’s fresh water. An investigation done by Greenpeace showed that the washing and dying of jeans by textile companies has released toxic substances including nonylphenol (NP) and ethoxylated nonylphenols (NPEs), that have resulted in health hazards such as cancer and infectious conditions. The regulations in place to prevent contamination in the waters are weak and not enforced. As a result companies have continued to dump their toxins into the water and the availability of clean water has substantially declined in the last 55 years. (Milenio 12/7/12)


According to Paraguay’s president Federico Franco, the country will one day have the richest oil region in the South America. The U.S.-based company, President Energy, is beginning exploration in the Paraguayan Chaco region, across the border from a region where Argentina is already producing petroleum. The company estimates that by late 2013 or early 2014, Paraguay could be producing 150,000 barrels per day. President Franco stated that the petroleum exploration and a new 201 km aqueduct will help turn the arid Chaco region into a key agricultural center. (El Nuevo Herald 12/5/2012)

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