Latin America Green News: Mexico's solar panel tariff, Chile's "five star" glacier law, and Brazil's deforestation gang

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

August 23 – August 29, 2014

Renewable Energy

The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) expects to invest $500 million in Central America for renewable energy power generation, especially in Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama. While 65 percent of energy produced throughout Central America comes from renewable sources, that figure represents only 7 percent of the region’s energy potential. According to certain studies, Central America has the potential to generate 3,900 MW of geothermal power, 22,000 MW hydroelectric power, and 63,000 MW of wind power. (Estrategia & Negocios 8/25/2014).

Colombia’s recent Law 1715 of 2014 provides a framework for the future planning and use of renewable energy. The country already has a number of projects that focus on renewable energy, such as Public Enterprises of Medellín’s (EPM) 15-turbine wind farm with a total capacity of 19.5 MW, but the Law is expected to promote other uses of unconventional renewable energy sources, such as projects using sugarcane bagasse to generate electricity. (Portfolio 08/27/2014).

New tariffs of 15 percent  on imported solar panels could threaten Mexican solar investment. Mexico currently does not manufacture any solar panel component meaning panels must be imported. Since more than half of the cost of investing in solar is in the panels, project profitability could drop, impacting the technology’s deployment. The Mexican solar industry has 36 solar projects planned for the next three years. (El Financiero 8/27/14)

Climate Change

Climate change could cost Peru the equivalent of 4 to 6 GDP points, according to the country’s Minister of Economy and Finance. Speaking at the Lima Climate Finance Week conference, Minister Luis Castilla emphasized that the fight against climate change is not incompatible with economic development, but rather is a cross-cutting issue that is relevant to ensure sustained growth. Castilla called for private-public alliances to take on the climate agenda. (Gestión 8/26/2014)

For Central America to solve its food crisis and adapt to climate change, family-based agriculture and greater political will are “fundamental” according to experts from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). Climate change induced alterations to critical water cycles and soil quality could lead to greater food insecurity. To meet this challenge, governments must start to invest in water- and soil-related rural development projects that will enable rural families to secure their food production. (El Nacional 8/24/2014)

Members of Chile’s Parliament joined activists from Greenpeace to call on the government to pass a “five star” law to protect glaciers, saying “the glaciers cannot wait.” The group highlighted the different types of glaciers and the need to protect all of them as well as areas surrounding glaciers. They also said that the law should prohibit any current or future activity that damages the country’s glaciers, must recognize that glaciers are public goods, and must recognize that the government has responsibility for managing glaciers. The executive committed to responding to these demands before September 21st. (Radio Universidad de Chile 8/26/2014)


In Paraguay a new deforestation map that interprets satellite images to track forest loss revealed the country lost 143,656 hectares of forest between August 2013 and January 2014. The majority of the deforestation, 117,891 ha, occurred in Paraguay’s Chaco region.  However, the Ministry of Environment is particularly concerned with the remaining 25,765 ha lost in Paraguay’s eastern region where a zero deforestation law is in force since 2004 that prohibits the conversion of forests. The ministry will use the map to control and intervene in the areas most at risk. (El Tiempo, 8/26/2014)

In Brazil, authorities have dismantled the country’s worst deforestation gang. The group is accused of clearing and burning public lands and selling them illegally to the agricultural sector. The environmental damage they have caused is valued at US$220 million. Police have arrested 8 members and issued warrants for others. In 2009, the Brazilian government committed to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent, but last year authorities revealed that the deforestation rate had increased 28 percent between 2012 and 2013. (ABC News 8/28/2014)

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