Latin America Green News: 3/10 - 3/16/2017

Pacchiano at the International Congress of Sustainability
Credit: IBERO

Chile launches GHG mitigation plan, Mexico’s finance program seeks to overhaul transportation sector, Medellin’s toxic air pollution

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 March 10 – 16, 2017

Climate Change

At the International Congress of Sustainability IBERO this week, Mexican Environment Secretary, Rafael Pacchiano, cautioned that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would be a costly decision for the United States. Pacchiano stated that Mexico has committed to reducing its emissions, despite being a relatively small contributor to global emissions, due to its high vulnerability to climate change. He went on to say climate change is an economic issue and emphasized Mexico’s commitment and leadership in the arena of climate change mitigation, especially the political will of President Enrique Peña Nieto, evident through the “strong regulatory framework” he has built. In addition, he expressed confidence that the ongoing energy reform will bring players to the table that will be able to deliver on the promise of clean fuel. (Ibero 3/13/17)

In a timely move preceding  Pacchiano’s comments, in an Op-Ed this week José Antonio Meade, Mexico’s Secretary of Finance, described a new financing program backed by Mexican development bank NAFIN that will help overhaul and clean up the country’s public transportation fleet. Working with participating state governments, NAFIN will make special financing available to help drivers renew their taxis, convert them to cleaner natural gas or invest in hybrid vehicles. Financing will also be available to develop natural gas service stations. By enabling these investments in cleaner vehicles, the program will help Mexico meet its Paris climate commitments. (Excelsior 3/8/2017)

The Chilean Ministries of Energy and Environment have jointly submitted the national plan for greenhouse gas mitigation for public consultation. Undersecretary of the Environment Marcelo Mena highlighted the urgency of acting against climate change saying, “Chile had a historic drought, lack of snow during winter, and worsening air qualities due to an irregular lack of rain”. The historic forest fires the country is experiencing this year have produced emissions nearly equivalent to those of the energy sector. According to the Minister of Energy, Andrés Rebolledo, the mitigation plan reflects the government’s commitment to meeting the National Energy Policy. It is also a further show of support to Chile’s commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement, which the government ratified February this year. Citizens have a month to submit comments and suggestions to the plan. (RevistaEI 3/15/17)


Monarch Butterfly
Credit: Peter Miller

Communities of Mexico’s Valle de Bravo and Temascaltepec have filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) demanding the immediate closure of two mines whose operations have caused rampant contamination of rivers and springs in the area as well as deforestation of large areas of land near the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. According to the complaint, the La Guitarra and El Coloso mines, operated by the Canadian company First Majestic, have been causing “irreversible damage” over the last five years to one of the most ecologically majestic and important tourist areas of Mexico by dumping chemicals into rivers and burying toxic waste underground. Communities have been requesting PROFEPA to intervene since 2013, but so far the government agency has sided with the Canadian firm. (El Universal 3/16/2017)



The Chilean government gave approval for the massive Tamarugal solar energy project to break ground, a plant which could generate up to 2,600 GWh of electricity annually. The plant, which will consist of three 150 MW towers, will use molten salt as heat transfer fluid and be able to provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The plant is expected to have a 30-plus-year lifespan during which time no molten salt will have to be replaced. The U.S.-based company SolarReserve has proposed the project and is in the process of seeking approval for two additional solar plants in the Atacama and Antofagasta regions of Chile. (Ars Techinica 3/14/2017)

The six members of the Red Genera
Credit: University of Chile

Chile appears to be on a roll this week. Six Chilean engineers have launched an innovative renewable energy cooperative called “Red Genera” thanks to a seed grant from CORFO, the Chilean Economic Development Agency. Alex Echeverria, one of five engineers from the University of Chile, noted that the project’s purpose is to “democratize energy” so that “communities can resolve their own energy needs in an environmentally responsible way”. The project identifies rural cooperatives and committees that have targeted needs and helps fill those needs through responsible project development. For example, Red Genera would not only establish projects that would provide energy sources, but would go one step further in having the beneficiaries play an active role in the project’s organization, execution, and related decision-making activities.The team is already working on a prototype that involves developing a low-cost smart meter to carry out energy efficiency projects. (El Ciudadano 3/10/17)

Air Pollution

Last week the city of Medellin, Colombia, was put under high alert due to increased levels of air pollution. The Medellin metropolitan authority explained that this time of year the dry seasons tends to exacerbate air pollution. In response, Environment Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo said that several actions will be taken with the Mayor’s office to reduce emissions. Among them are: a high-level task force between the federal government and the metropolitan area, an updating of the national air quality standards, and a joint investigation with the health sector on the impacts of air pollution. The Ministry of Mines and Energy will also work with the Clean Air Institute to develop instruments that encourage the deployment of zero emission vehicles. Regional authorities have the goal of reducing the emissions of pollutant gases by 74 percent by 2030. (El Colombiano 3/14/2017)