Latin America Green News 12/22/2016 - 1/16/2017

Vaquita marina
Credit: CIRVA

The vaquita marina’s last hope, Buenos Aires bans plastic bags, the end of Chile’s Araucaria tree?

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December 22, 2016 - January 11, 2017

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Wildlife and Conservation

According to new figures from the International Vaquita Recovery Team (CIRVA) there may be as few as three-dozen vaquita marinas left in the world. A new survey shows roughly 30 species remain from the 60 estimated only a year ago. The vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal in the world and conservation teams from the US and Mexico are now hoping to capture and breed the porpoises as a last ditch effort to save it from extinction. Although the vaquita has never been held successfully in captivity, experts hope to put the remaining porpoises in floating pens in a safe bay in the Gulf of California where they can breed. The US Navy will be using military-trained dolphins to locate the vaquitas, at which point scientists hope to capture them for transport. The plan has already received pushback from experts who deem the plan could risk the death of the last remaining females during the catch-and-enclose exercise. Omar Vidal, Mexico’s director of the World Wildlife Fund, stressed that “We must strive to save this porpoise where it belongs: in a healthy Upper Gulf of California.” (Excelsior 1/11/2017, The Guardian 1/4/2017)

Argentina’s Federal Supreme Court has ordered the suspension of work on the Kirchner and Cepernic dams being realized in the province of Santa Cruz due to non-compliance with environmental regulations. The decision was in response to a suit brought on by the Argentine Association of Environmental Lawyers of Patagonia who demanded the project be halted until a full review of the environmental impacts was conducted and a consultation period was opened to neighboring communities—two tasks they claim were not previously completed. The suspension of the project, funded mainly by Chinese banks, does not include "preliminary tasks" and its corresponding environmental impact study, comprising exploratory geotechnical probes, base study activities, access roads, transitory construction camps and transitory infrastructure necessary for the construction. (El Ciudadano 12/21/2016)

Araucaria araucana
Credit: James Gaither

The Araucaria tree, an indigenous species in Chile protected by law, could soon be extinguished by climate change. During drought periods, the tree’s natural defense system kicks in causing them to close their stomata to prevent from drying out. But the extended period of drought in Chile during the past year has caused this defense mechanism to stop the process of photosynthesis, effectively starving the trees. Scientists from Universidad Austral in Argentina conducted the study and highlighted that the drought in Chile is so severe they fear the Araucarias will no longer produce enough carbon to meet basic functions and ultimately lead to their demise. (El Dínamo 1/12/2017)


Argentine President Mauricio Macri welcomed the New Year by issuing a decree stating that 2017 will be the “year of renewable energy.” The measure aims to boost renewable energy investments and instructs that all official documentation of the national public administration bear the caption "2017 - Year of Renewable Energy." With the decree Macri also promises that the executive branch will sponsor seminars, conferences, and programs that will diffuse information on the development and benefits of renewables. The decision is part of a law which establishes the objective of achieving a contribution of eight percent renewable sources in the national electricity matrix by December 31, 2017. (El Cronista 1/5/2017)

Mexico’s renewable sector will soon experience a surge in capacity of almost 800MW if all goes well. During the last quarter of 2016, five renewable energy projects with a joint investment of more than US $15 billion began proceedings with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources to obtain federal authorization for land use and environmental impact. The projects consist of both wind and solar capacity and are located in the northern states, including Sonora and Chihuahua. (El Economista 1/5/2017)

Climate Change

A recent survey from the World Bank Group proves what climate action has shown during the last four years: leaders see climate change as a serious threat. The quadrennial Country Opinion Survey Program survey includes input from nearly 10,000 key influencers in government, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 40 countries. The goal of the project is to gauge public opinion on social issues including climate change and the environment. The survey data suggests that concern regarding climate change among leaders worldwide has increased significantly during the past four years. Leaders in Latin America, in particular consider climate change a serious threat. The percentage of opinion leaders who say climate change is "a very serious problem" in their country is 70 percent in Argentina, 73 in Paraguay, 80 percent in both Mexico and Peru, 83 percent in Bolivia, and 86 percent in Colombia. (El Tiempo 12/22/2016)

Credit: World Bank Group Public Opinion Research Group


Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital, has officially banned the use of plastic bags in supermarkets in the city. The measure, handed down by the city’s Environmental Protection Agency, also suggests that locals replace the traditional plastic bags with reusable types. The efforts to phase out plastic bags began last year when the city launched a communications campaign to raise awareness and deliver one million reusable bags to various distribution points in an effort to get citizens started on using bags made from recycled materials. It’s also a step up from the 2012 decision to require supermarkets to charge customers for bags—a measure known as the “bag” tax. The new ban includes an enforcement system that imposes hefty fines on companies found not in compliance with the new mandate. (El Ciudadano 12/30/2016)