Latin America Green News: 8/18 – 8/24/2017

THIS WEEK: Bolivia’s TIPNIS under renewed threat, financing renewables in Argentina, electromobility in Chile

To subscribe to NRDC's Latin America Green News click here.

Feature: TIPNIS National Park in Bolivia under threat 

The Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (known by its Spanish acronym TIPNIS) in the Amazon region of Bolivia has come under renewed threat in recent weeks. In 2011, the park was the focus of protests against the construction of a proposed road that would have split the biodiversity hotspot in two. After a national march in support of the park culminated in violent clashes with police forces, President Evo Morales distanced himself from the project and signed Law 180 which declared the park “untouchable”. Yet earlier this month President Morales enacted new legislation (Law 266) that revokes the park’s designation as “untouchable”. The new law allows roads through the park and exploitation of natural resources “in association with” local indigenous groups. The policy change has revived old tensions between those in favor and those against the road. Supporters claim it will bring needed development to an underserved region. Meanwhile, critics including church leaders, warn about environmental degradation, deforestation, impacts on an important source of fresh water and the fact that most indigenous communities  living within the reserve would likely not benefit. Representatives of the opposition party Unidad Demócrata have filed two constitutional challenges against the new law and called it contrary to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. (Los Tiempos 08/18/2017; National Catholic Reporter 08/21/2017; 08/21/2017; Deutsche Welle 08/24/2017)

Climate Change

Poverty and hunger, worsened by drought, were key driving factors for the increase in migration from three Central American countries in recent years. Researchers found a significant correlation between decreased rainfall and higher migration to the United States from the “Dry Corridor” of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In 2016, 47% of the homes in this drought-stricken area with family members that had emigrated suffered from food insecurity – a level never before seen in the region. While the study did not focus on climate change specifically it found that “challenges stemming from climate variability, poor rainfall distribution and drought, were identified…as key push factors for temporary and /or permanent emigration….With the region expected to face multiple impacts of climate change in the years ahead, migration may increase its shift from affected rural areas to other areas…” Among its recommendations the report calls for reducing vulnerability by strengthening climate surveillance initiatives, analyses on how climate variations affect crop production, and natural disaster monitoring. It also points to the need for comprehensive climate change adaptation efforts and measures such as weather-based insurances, as well as improved water management programs. The study "Food Security and Emigration: Why people flee and the impact on family members left behind in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras," was produced by the World Food Program, Organization of American States, Inter-American Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development and the International Organization for Migration. The report is available in English at this link. (OAS Press Release, 08/23/2017)

Clean Energy

Mining companies in Mexico will spend US$ 27.5 million on clean energy projects this year, according the mining industry’s trade association, CAMIMEX. This investment level is 84.6 percent higher than the amount reported last year. The head of the trade association, Daniel Chávez Carreon, highlighted that Mexico’s mining industry has invested in clean energy generation projects that have had “positive impact on their operation costs of up to 20 percent.” (El Financiero, 08/23/2017)

Energy storage for industrial purposes will be available in Mexico in approximately three years according to GE Grid Solutions Latin America. The company which has 18 lithium ion batteries installations in the US, Africa, Europe and Africa is currently in negotiations with three companies in Mexico. GE sees significant opportunities in Mexico for this technology given the country’s goal of generating 35 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2035 and 50 percent by 2050. Energy storage systems would help stabilize the country’s electric grid and bring greater energy security to isolated systems like Baja California. (El Economista 08/24/2017)

Green Finance

In Argentina, the Bank for Investment and Foreign Trade (BICE) announced a new credit line of US$ 200 million for renewable energy projects awarded under the RenovAr program. BICE will provide loans of up to 200 million pesos (approximately US$11.6 million) per project with a 15-year term and a grace period of up to two years. The loans will cover up to 70 percent of the project cost. BICE already acted as trustee of FODER, Argentina’s trust fund for renewable energy. The president of BICE noted “We understand that the renewable energy sector is key for the economic growth of the country and with this credit line we seek to support it with long-term financing considering the maturity needs this type of project requires.” Argentina has a target of generating eight percent of its electricity from clean source by 2018. (El Canastí, 08/22/2017)

In another move that aims to boost renewables in Argentina, the government will issue Treasury Bills (known locally as Letes) worth US$4.5 billion to help finance renewable energy projects. The Letes will be used to finance the FODER renewable energy trust fund and will serve as collateral for contracts adjudicated under the RenovAr renewable energy auctions (Rounds 1 and 1.5). Separately, the government will also issue Letes worth US$1.25 billion to finance a transportation infrastructure trust fund. (El Cronista 08/22/2017)


Chile is taking steps to shift its transportation sector away from fossil fuels and toward electrification with the launch of a new draft Electromobility Strategy. The strategy focuses on five lines of action: development of market information, regulation and standardization, development of human capital, dissemination of efficient vehicle technologies, and temporary incentives to deploy electromobility. In launching the strategy, Minister of Energy Andrés Rebolledo conceded it was a “first step” and noted that it will be open to public comments until September 23. Paola Tapia, Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, highlighted that “electromobility has arrived to stay.” While electric vehicles are only starting to enter the market in Chile, according to some projections by 2050 they could represent 40 percent of the nation’s vehicle fleet, or roughly five million vehicles. The strategy document can be downloaded here. (Revista Electricidad, 08/23/2017; Biobio Chile 08/23/2017)