Latin America Green News: 3/24 - 3/30/2017

Sign urging for a ban on mining in El Salvador
Credit: Laurizza via Flickr

El Salvador bans gold mining, Mexico hosts IPCC, will Colombia’s glaciers disappear in the next four decades?

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March 24 – 30, 2017

Clean Water


The government of El Salvador voted this week to prohibit all mining of gold and other metals to protect their dwindling and fragile supply of clean water. The overwhelming approval vote makes the country the first to impose such law. For the last decade, the ban existing merely as a moratorium. Now, legislators from across the political spectrum cheer on the vote as a win for the country’s people. “Today in El Salvador, water won out over gold,” Johnny Wright Sol, a legislator from the center-right Arena party tweeted yesterday. That the second-most environmentally degraded country in the Americas facing high levels of violence and poverty chose to protect their clean water resources over the benefit of corporations sends a powerful message to other world leaders and bolsters the case against mining in areas that could harm communities and natural resources. (La Prensa 3/29/2017)


Colombia has the highest incidences of mercury poisoning in Latin America and third worst in the world per researchers at the Externado University of Colombia. Researchers found that at least 80 Colombian rivers are polluted with mercury, a cause attributable to rampant illegal mining in the country. The university also found that around 60 percent of mining activity in the country is illegal. Mario Orlando Lopez, an expert at the Colombian Environment Ministry, claimed that the use of mercury is an outdated practice and that other, less harmful compounds can achieve the same ends without causing as much environmental harm. The Ministry of the Environment expects that in Colombia all industries will abandon the use of mercury in the coming years. (RCN Radio 3/23/17)

Climate Change

Rafael Pacchiano, head of the Ministry on Environment and Natural Resources at the opening of the IPCC in Guadalajara

The 45th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began today in Guadalajara, Mexico with a call to global leaders to maintain funding for research on climate change and criticism of the isolationist policies of President Donald Trump. Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Mexican Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, encouraged countries to maintain their commitments under the Paris Agreement and said, "today more than ever multilateralism is paramount to achieving global goals and objectives even though some countries are questioning this path.” Meanwhile, in the midst of the Tuxtla Summit in Costa Rica, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made reference to Trump’s isolationists policies saying “The most effective wall that can be built is the progress of Central America and Mesoamerica... helping them meet sustainable development goals is the most effective wall.”(El Economista America 3/28/2017, LA FM 3/29/2017)

Colombian glaciers may disappear in the next 40 years according to scientist. In a report published by the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies with support from the Inter-American Development Bank, researchers describe the damages to the glaciers’ surrounding ecosystem as irreversible and inevitable. The report also indicates that Colombian glaciers have diminished by 63 percent in the past 50 years, with its snow peaks losing 17 percent of their coverage in the past five years alone. The situation is similar in Ecuador and Bolivia. Local Ecuadorian experts claim that some glaciers have already “practically disappeared” while their Bolivian counterparts claim that the Apolobamba glaciers have lost 55 percent of their coverage since 1980. (Terra 3/29/17)


Argentina reduced deforestation by 16 percent in 2016. The announcement came from the Ministry of Environmental Policy following the release of its yearly report on forest monitoring. The Environmental Policy Minister, Sergio Bergman, praised the results while noting that the good news was only the first step of a much longer path. Bergman was nonetheless confident that progress would continue, noting the USD$20 million that has been allocated in 2017 to the National Fund for the Enrichment and Conservation of Native Forests, as well as highlighting six projects to restore forests throughout the country in the upcoming years. (Ecoticias 3/23/17)


As part of last week’s story on Chile’s proposed greenhouse gas emission reduction plan, the government has proposed 62 energy actions totaling US$12.9 billion to this end. The measures would be carried out by various agencies in the government including the Ministries of Environment, Mining, Transport, Telecommunications, and Housing and Urban Development, and aim to reduce 30 percent of emissions by 2030. According to the report, 75 percent of CO2 emissions come from the transportation sector, which the report proposes the most significant measures for. While an expensive undertaking, the various investments in infrastructure, energy efficiency, policy and regulatory reforms, and others would ultimately provide significant savings and improved social conditions. (Revista EI 03/28/2017)

In a show of strengthening bilateral relations, France identified Mexico’s renewable energy sector as one of potential future cooperation. French Foreign Minister, Romain Nadal, affirmed that the Mexican renewable energy sector has immense growth potential. He stated that despite its oil wealth, the country must capitalize on renewables for its internal electricity sector. Nadal views the shift away from fossil fuels in Latin America as critical not just to reduce emissions, but to also reduce health complications associated with pollution. He also committed to cooperating with Mexico on health and technology issues while in a press conference in Paris earlier this week. (Expansion 3/28/17)

Soon, you will be able to have an ice-cold beer—guilt free! The Belgian-based multinational beer company, Anheuser-Busch, has set a target to produce its beer exclusively with renewable energy sources by 2025. Mexico will play a key role as the company plans to expand the country’s solar and wind energy capacity five percent to help meet the goal. Anheuser-Busch simultaneously plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent, equivalent to removing roughly half a million cars from the road. Currently, the company controls about 28 percent of the world’s beer market. (El Contribuyente 3/28/2017)