Latin America Green News: 4/21 - 4/27/2017

Rodrigo Tot
Credit: Goldman Environmental Foundation

Guatemalan activist wins Goldman Prize, Mexico joins global pact to keep climate change under 2 degrees

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April 21 – 27, 2017


This year’s Goldman Environmental Prize winners were announced this week. The prize recognizes outstanding achievement in environmental activism and is given to recipients from the six inhabited continental regions. This year’s winner from the South and Central America region is Rodrigo Tot. Tot is an indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente who led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q’eqchi people and stopped a nickel mining company from expanding into his community. In 2012, in retribution for standing up to the mining industry, Tot’s two sons were shot on a bus in a staged robbery, one died from his injuries. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has asked the government of Guatemala to protect Tot as he is at risk of harm. Earlier this year, a previous Goldman Prize winner, Isidro Baldenegro López, was killed due to his activism against illegal logging and in 2016 another Goldman recipient, Berta Cáceres, was killed in her native Mexico. To learn more about this year’s extraordinary winners and support their cause read here. (EFE Verde 4/25/2017, The New York Times 1/18/2017)

A report from the National Council of Innovation for Development (CNID), an advisory board of the Chilean Presidency tasked with identifying barriers to development, revealed Chile is one of the top five countries with the most environmental conflicts relative to its population. Most conflicts are linked to water, a resource critical to the development of Chile’s economy. Over half of current conflicts involve energy projects. The most common motives for conflict include the issue of citizen participation, indigenous consultation, and to the incorporation of local inhabitants’ knowledge, a need for territorial planning, and the location of projects along the coast. The report from CNID comes after the release of a report from the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJA) that listed Colombia, Brazil, and Chile among the countries with the highest levels of environmental conflict. (La Tercera 4/21/2017)


17 percent of Chile’s energy now comes from non-conventional renewable energy. Andres Rebolledo, Chile’s Minister of Energy, is optimistic that the country will reach its commitment to 20 percent non-conventional renewable energy by 2025. Just three years ago, non-conventional renewables accounted for seven percent of the energy matrix proving how quickly renewables are growing in the country. Experts expect Chile will achieve and surpass the 20 percent of energy from renewable resources by 2020 goal and is well on track to reach the long-term goal of sourcing 60 percent of energy from renewables by 2035. According to Enel Green Power, solar panels have decreased in cost by 90 percent since 2009.The decline in the cost of renewable energy in the country has been a main contributor to its quick growth. (La Tercera, 4/21/17)

BBVA has agreed to issue a 100 million euro loan to renewable energy company Acciona in order to finance photovoltaic and wind projects in Chile. BBVA already has a history of issuing such green loans, having lent 500 million euros to Iberdola under similar premises. Green loans follow the same criteria as green bonds, where independent consultors approve a project based on its financial sustainability as well as environmental, social, and good government standards. Similarly, Acciona already has a history in the Chilean renewable market. Contracts already signed by Acciona are expected to power 55,000 Chilean homes and reduce emissions by 1 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. (Corresponsables, 4/24/17)

Francesco Starace, president of the energy conglomerate Enel, one of Chile’s leading power companies, told the Financial Times that the shift towards renewable energies would be primarily driven by market forces. Starace believed that policy changes by the United States would, at best, have a marginal impact on the shift towards renewable energy. He asserted the world will continue to progress despite President Donald Trump’s attempt to revive fossil fuels. In the next three years, Enel plans to invest USD 5.65 billion in renewable energy, primarily focusing on solar and wind. This investment is about one-seventh of the company’s fossil fuel investment over the same period. The market forces discussed by Mr. Starace are reflected in a study of energy costs by the United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy. The study found that 55 percent of all new energy capacity installed worldwide in 2016 was either solar, wind, biomass, or geothermic. (Electricidad, 4/25/17)

Climate Change

Data from NASA’s Common Sense Climate Index highlight the major destabilizing geopolitical force climate change represents to the world. The numbers indicate climate change is a threat multiplier, meaning that it has the potential to cause and worsen economic and political instability. In other words, climate change has the potential to amplify and multiply the effects of natural disasters and lead to massive displacement. Climate refugees have also become a pervasive problem for many areas of the world. Some 64 million are identified by the United Nations as “persons of concern.” In particular, the Amazon Basin in South America is an area that due to a reduction in water resources and controversial mining projects is currently facing resource conflict between locals, companies, and the governments. (The New York Times 4/19/2017)

Mexico and Canada just became the newest members of the Under2 Coalition, a global pact of cities, states and countries pledging to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. The coalition now includes over 170 national and subnational jurisdictions on six continents that collectively represent more than 1.18 billion people and US$27.5 trillion GDP – equivalent to 16 percent of the global population and 37 percent of the global economy. The Under2MOU was formed in 2015 by the states of California and Baden-Württemberg, Germany to mobilize and galvanize bold climate action from like-minded city, state and regional governments around the globe. Coalition members pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 2 tons per capita or 80-95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. (Highland Community News 4/20/2017)

This week's blog features contributions from Michael Khayan.