Latin America Green News: 1/12 - 1/18/2017

Isisdro home in the village of Coloradas de la Virgen, Chihuahua
Credit: Goldman Environmental Foundation

Tragedy strikes as another environmental activist murdered

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January 12 – 19, 2017

Environmental Justice 

Isidro Baldenegro López, a Mexican indigenous activist and winner of the Goldman environmental prize for his work against illegal logging, was shot dead in a relative’s home on Sunday. Witnesses say the murder is in connection with his longtime conservation efforts and was likely done by perpetrators responsible for dozens of other activist deaths. López was a farmer and leader of the Tarahumara community in the Sierra Madre region who had led a campaign to protect ancient forests in the early 2000s. In recent years, drug traffickers have joined forces with local strongmen and illegal loggers, raising safety concerns for environmentalists and activists in the area. His murder comes less than a year after the murder of another Goldman prize winner, Berta Cáceres, another indigenous leader known for her environmental activism. Overall, 122 activists were murdered in 2015 alone, marking the deadliest year on record for environmental activists. (Proceso 1/17/2017, New York Times 1/18/2017)


Climate Change


A new survey from Chile’s Ministry of the Environment conducted shows that the Valparaiso region will be most susceptible to extreme weather shifts. The survey utilized data from the last thirty years to evaluate the country’s vulnerability to climate change and make projections for 2050. It found that temperatures will increase an average of 1.75°C. Samuel Hormazábal, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso specializing in ocean sciences, claims that these changes could make beaches disappear: “in the next 50 to 100 years, we expect a significant impact to our coastal areas.” Precipitation in the country is projected to decrease 17 percent annually while the flow of rivers in the country would decrease between 20 and 40 percent. These changes would increase soil erosion, which the survey predicts could cause nine tree species to become vulnerable. (La Tercera 1/14/2017)


Argentine President Mauricio Macri has pointed to climate change as the culprit for recent floods that have slammed three provinces of the country. “Climate change continues to take its toll,” said Macri about flooding that has occurred in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos and Santa Fe. “These changes in rain patterns are here to stay.” Macri emphasized that infrastructure work must be undertaken to mitigate these and other potential impacts of climate change events in the future. (El Destape 1/17/2017)




With a sweeping majority, Chile’s Chamber of Deputies approved the conclusions of a report brought forth by a special commission investigating the state’s adequacy in protecting and controlling glaciers, rivers, and salt flats across the country. The commission concluded that agencies have been “weak” and “negligent” in addressing the continuous violation of regulations aimed at protecting these natural resources and have failed at providing oversight in their management. The report warns that such incompetence has “put us in a situation of serious risk that requires not only clear answers, but also concrete solutions.” (El Dinamo 1/18/2017, El Mostrador 12/23/2016)



El Romero Plant
Credit: Energia Chile

Google offices in Chile have been running entirely on solar power since the first day of this year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. A deal between Google and the Spanish energy company Acciona will power one of the thirteen facilities used by Google for its cloud storage using solar power from the El Romero plant, the largest of its kind in the region. According to Google spokesperson, Flor Bianco, the deal is part of a bigger goal by the company to be entirely powered by renewable energies by the end of 2017. Bianco credited the deal to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, complimenting her focus of growing the Chilean solar energy industry. So far, 20renewable contracts have been signed by Google. Bianco concluded by stating that “the world urgently needs to shift towards renewable energies.” (Canal 44 1/18/2017)


The Brazilian state of Ceará created a new R$10 million (approx.US$3 million) fund to finance energy efficiency and distributed generation projects in the region. According to government statements, the Energy Efficiency and Distributed Generation Incentive Fund (FIEE) aims to boost the expansion of the clean energy sector by encouraging the development and financing of energy efficiency and micro and mini generation projects. Projects will be selected by a Management Council who will vet applications, select projects to receive funds, and set guidelines for how the money can be used. (SeeNews 1/16/2017)


This week's blog features contributions from Michael Khayan.