Latin America Green News: Peru's melting glaciers, Paraguay's new deforestation fine, Mexico's proposed offshore phosphate mine, Chile's recent oil spill

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

October 13th – October 17th, 2014

Climate Change

Peru’s glaciers have lost 40 percent of their surface area since 1970, according to a study produced by the National Water Authority (ANA). ANA Specialist Judith Torres explained that Peru has 2,679 glaciers with a total area of 1,298 square kilometers in the Blanca, Vilcanota, and Vilcabamba mountain ranges, but the small glaciers of the Blanca range appear to be most affected. (El Comercio 10/15/2014)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified Costa Rica as one of the hotspots where atmospheric conditions resulting from climate change will significantly alter the countryside by 2080. A report commissioned by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) used photographic simulations to demonstrate the changes in biodiversity that a shift from 22 degrees in 2014 to as high as 30 degrees Celsius in 2080 will cause in the lowlands and coastal regions of the country. (La Nacion 10/14/2014)


Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest increased by 28% last year. A study by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) shows large landowners such as ranchers and soy farmers to be primarily responsible for this trend by contributing to 80% of the forest loss, followed by small land owners responsible for the remaining 20%. Large landowners also showed to have a bigger environmental impact on the surrounding lands as most large tracts torn from the jungle cannot recover naturally. “The biggest challenge in the future is managing the political and economic cost of fighting the large landowners and shifting to an incentive based system”, said Javier Godar, SEI researcher and author. (El Pais 10/13/2014)

The government of Paraguay announced a sharp increase in deforestation fines from US $210,000 to over US $2 million in an effort to reduce this crime. Mechanized farming, livestock feed, and coal usage has made stopping deforestation nearly impossible. This year alone, the government intervened in over 600 reported cases of deforestation and illegal logging. Authorities hope increased fees along with the hiring of five new forest officers to join the existing eighty will be enough to protect the 2 million acres of forested area. (Paraguay 10/13/2014)

Marine Conservation

Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (SEMARNAT) announced that the public hearing for the controversial “Don Diego” seabed phosphate mine will be held during the last two days of October. The proposed mine –belonging to the company Exploraciones Oceánicos—would produce 7 million tons of phosphate during its 50-year lifetime by dredging the seabed at a site 12 nautical miles off the coast of Baja California for phosphate sand. Environmentalists, fishermen, and local communities are concerned by the expected impacts to the environment and the area’s various fisheries. (El Sudcaliforniano 10/17/2014)

In Chile, the National Environmental Enforcement Network, in cooperation with 16 government agencies, will use an underwater robot to determine the level of contamination in Quintero Bay after the 22,000 liter oil spill last month. The team will use high-resolution film and ocean sediment samples extracted by a mechanical arm to identify potential unintended impacts of the oil on marine life, ecosystems, and surrounding environments. (La Segunda 10/16/2014)

Renewable Energy

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Environment Minister Pablo Badenier inaugurated a 69 panel photovoltaic solar array on the roof of the Ministry of the Environment, the first in a series of retrofits at the Ministry’s offices throughout the country. This energy auto-supply system, which is the largest installed in Santiago, and on any public building, has the potential to generate 17 kilowatts of energy, supply 5 percent of the Ministry’s total consumption, save US$ 4,200 a year, and reduce the buildings annual CO2 emissions by 13 metric tons. (Publimetro 10/14/2014)

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) launched the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All initiative with the help of President Michelle Bachelet, and representatives of the UN, ECLAC, and the IDB in Santiago, Chile. The initiative seeks to help countries across the globe prioritize access to sustainable energy, renewable energy generation, and energy efficiency. Activists against the Alto Maipo hydroelectric dam project interrupted the event, brandishing signs and yelling, “No to Alto Maipo”. The interruption appeared to be a continuation of protests, which required intervention from the police during a presentation from Energy Minister Pacheco in the municipality of San José de Maipo, (Grupo Editorial Editec 10/13-15/2014, Sustentare 10/15/2014)

Investments in non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) projects in Chile reached just over US$ 20 billion or 66 percent of the more than US$30 billion registry of all the scheduled new energy projects provided by the Corporación de Bienes de Capital (CBC). According to the CBC, there are 129 scheduled energy projects, 82 percent of which originate from NCRE sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy, small hydro, and tidal. Furthermore, of the 106 NCRE initiatives, 80 percent already have environmental approval compared to the much lower 61 percent of projects originating from conventional energy sources. (El Mercurio 10/16/2014)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America Green News archive or read our other International blogs