Latin America Green News: 10/6 - 10/12/2016

Credit: AFP

Mexico is largest consumer of bottled water, climate change threatens strawberries, Peru’s glacial coverage has fallen by almost half 

To get the weekly Latin America Green News blog delivered directly to your email, subscribe here.

October 6 – October 12, 2016

Climate Change

The future of strawberries seems precarious according to scientists who are pointing to warming temperatures and excess rain as the culprit of an aggressive strand of fungus devastating strawberry crops in Honduras. Honduras is one of the countries most affected by climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index. The most affected by this outbreak at the moment are small-scale farmers who depend on strawberry cultures are their main source of income. Gustavo Godoy, a local farmer said “We will not be able to survive. In the last month we have been unable to harvest enoughfor a glass of juice." Hearing the concerns of farmers and agronomists, the government is looking into importing fungus-resistant varieties of the fruit from the U.S. (El Nuevo Diario 10/6/2016)


Scientists have raised the alarm in Peru as a recent report shows that glacier coverage has fallen by 43 percent in the last 40 years. These results come from increased efforts to monitor glacial retreat in the region where glaciers face risk from climate change and the effects of an expanding mining industry. Current projections estimate that the 2,679 glaciers throughout the country may disappear by the year 2100. Scientists hope that with a greater understanding of the rate of retreat, local governments can plan and begin adapting to the changing environment as coastal cities, wherei 56 percent of the Peruvian population is found, rely upon glacial melt for water during the dry season. (El Ciudadano, 9/27/16)


The inaugural Low Carbon City Forum was held in Medellin, Colombia this week. Among the central topics discussed, the concept of low-carbon citizens emerged as a critical component to mitigating climate change. According to Javier Vergara, co-founder of the Chilean NGO Emerging City, citizens often underestimate their carbon footprint and ways in which they can significantly reduce it. He further asserted that the time is ripe to direct the narrative around carbon emissions towards citizens, educating them and empowering them to live in less environmentally impactful ways. Encouraging simple but effective solutions such as switching to more sustainable transportation methods and eating locally are some ways to target individual behaviors. Meanwhile, Colombia’s Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development, Luis Gilberto Murillo, said it was necessary reconsider our human values ​​and build public spaces where there is greater awareness of the need to reduce our carbon footprint. "We are facing an existential challenge with climate change. If we continue on the same path we are putting at risk humanity is a matter of great moral depth," he added. (La Razon 10/11/2016)


A new study published by Science magazine confirmed that dry forests, many of which are found in Latin America and the Caribbean, are the most at risk forests in the world. The study found dry forests to have been reduced to 10 percent of their natural expanse in many areas. The forests are also known for their high rates of endemism, with local species found exclusively in these forests at rates of 73 percent in Mexico, 65 percent in the Antilles, and 30 to 40 percent in the Andean region. Researchers call special attention to the Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia where forests are at high risk to the threat of agriculture and ranching and, in Colombia, have already been reduced to 8 percent of their original expanse. With the forests at such high risk the researchers hope to reach policymakers and show the need for strong and immediate conservation efforts of the remaining dry forest expanses. (Mongabay, 10/4/16)


Indigenous and local groups organized in protest last week in the city of Río Bueno, Chile in opposition to the Osorno hydroelectric plant and a salmon fisheries project. The area holds special social and cultural meaning for local Mapuche Williche indigenous groups, and they have been fighting for its protection against the hydroelectric dam for the last 10 years. The initial approval and environmental evaluation of the salmon farm raised concerns among locals and prompted indigenous leaders to lead the fight against these projects by challenging the evaluation process. With allegations that the process was fraudulent and that the government is preferentially treating the foreign corporations developing these projects the local groups hope to call upon President Michelle Bachelet to protect the rights and interests of indigenous populations. (El Ciudadano, 10/8/16)


18 percent of fresh water species endemic to the tropical Andes of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia are threatened by extinction. The Red List report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) analyzed nearly 1000 endemic animal and plant species in the region finding that many are under threat due to activities such as aquaculture, waste water contamination, dams, mining, overfishing, deforestation, and climate change. Climate change was seen to place 12 percent of total species at risk. Fish are especially vulnerable with an estimated 55 percent of species under threat from contamination stemming from waste water, oil spills, pesticides, and fertilizers. By identifying threats and delineating 25 new key areas for the maintenance of biodiversity, researchers hope to promote an increase in conservation efforts and the extension of reserves and protections for these at risk species and ecosystems. (El Comercio, 10/6/16)




A widespread lack of trust in the quality of Mexico’s tap water has made the country the world’s largest consumer of bottled water. A report shows that eight of 10 Mexicans consume bottled water due to this mistrust, bringing attention to the commercialization of what many believe should be a constitutional right for each individual: access to clean water. Representative Francisco Javier Pinto Torres explains that with a yearly market of approximately 26 billion liters of bottled water, the environmental and economic effects of plastics are massive and represent a significant pollutant.. He urged that action must be taken at all levels of government to diagnose the core issues in the water storage and distribution network and to enable the new General Water Law to provide universal access to clean water. (Informador, 10/8/16)


Clean Energy


Mexico City’s Energy Efficiency Project is up in the air as its 2017 budget negotiations are underway. The initial project counted on an investment of over $17 million pesos, funded through the general budget, with which 565 solar panels were installed to provide for 50 percent of the old city hall’s (Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento) electricity demand. The project has led to an annual savings of $680 thousand pesos from its electricity bill and is estimated to avoid approximately 85 tons of CO2 emissions. The success of this initial phase encouraged the evaluation process for the installation of 100 additional solar panels next year on public buildings. Yet, due to financial uncertainty, the Administrative Office of Mexico City released a statement explaining that funding will instead stem directly from the departments whose buildings are selected for solar installations, allowing for the continuation of the Energy Efficiency Project’s targets. (El Universal, 10/9/16)


The Association of Mexican Banks (ABM) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday establishing a strategic alliance for the development of green bond markets. Together the organizations will prepare a study reviewing the impacts linked to environmental phenomena on credit portfolios and cooperate in an effort to stimulate inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The president of the ABM, Luis Robles Miaja, indicated the importance of such projects in order to take advantage of the significant reforms that have taken place in Mexico in the last few years, especially the energy reform and subsequent Energy Transition Law. With an estimated need for investments totaling $75 billion USD to achieve the country’s clean energy targets, Miaja said  that it is an ideal time to dedicate portions of investment portfolios to financing clean energy infrastructure and generation. (El Economista, 10/10/16)


This week's blog was completed with the help of contributions from Alexis Lopez-Cepero.