Latin America Green News: 6/1 - 6/15/2016

Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

June 1st – June 15th, 2016

Climate Change

On World Milk Day, USAID and the UN announced a joint-effort to finance a pilot program in Costa Rica that aims to prepare dairy farmers for the effects of climate change. The project will cost US$1.5 million; USAID provided US$1.1 million to implement low-carbon cattle farming methods and the United Nations Adaptation Fund (AF) will provide an additional US$401,233. The Chamber of National Milk Producers and the Ministry of Cattle and Agriculture in Costa Rica will use these resources to fund 41 participating farms that will use new technology to find ways to both reduce their vulnerability and increase their profits. The farms will also serve as education centers where other producers can learn from their new methods. The project takes off this year and will run until 2020. (La Prensa Libre 6/2/2016)

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, visited Puerto Rico to meet with Governor Alejandro García Padilla to discuss the effects of climate change on the island, particularly as it relates to the state’s local agriculture. The main reason for their meeting was to review the challenges the region faces in reducing its food dependence. Puerto Rican authorities estimate that close to 85 percent of the food consumed in Puerto Rico is imported. Vilsack also met with investors, financial leaders, businessmen and economists to explore the various opportunities in the private and public sector to address the region’s agricultural issues. Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has invested US$20 billion in Puerto Rico to address food consumption, distributing resources to the areas of nutrition, infrastructure, housing, agriculture and cattle farming, and research. (El Nuevo Dia 6/2/2016)


A new report on the endangered Vaquita Marina recommends Mexican authorities consider trapping a few for breeding purposes. With only about 60 Vaquitas remaining, the report by the International Commission for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) recommends tackling the decline by breeding the Vaquitas in pens in coastal waters. Some experts oppose CIRVA’s proposal, as it poses a potential threat for the few Vaquitas that are thriving in their natural environment. In April of last year, the Mexican government launched a US$70 million program to ban gillnet fishing, as the nets used to capture totoabas often entangle and kill Vaquitas. The program provided monetary compensation for fisherman who used alternatives methods to net fishing. Problematically, the totoaba bladder sells at high prices--fishermen can make up to $5,000 in a sale to the U.S., making it difficult for officials to enforce appropriate fishing methods. (Green Field Reporter 6/1/2016)

Chile’s salmon industry continues to face scrutiny over the use of antibiotics in salmon production. A new court order from the Santiago Appellate Court is forcing the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (SERNAPESCA) to release data records that will aid investigators in uncovering details of the antibiotics and antimicrobials used by the salmon industry in 2014. SERNAPESCA has been able to keep this information confidential under the protection of the Public Transparency Council. Executive director of Oceana, Liesbeth van der Meeth, stated that information on the quantities of antibiotics used by the industry could allow for the proper identification of the antibiotics used in excess in the country, which, she adds, creates a phenomenon of super resistant bacteria that can lead to a host of problems for the nation. (La Tercera 6/1/2016, Diario Financiero 6/6/2016)


Indigenous groups in Panama have launched a program supported by the Food & Agricultural Organizations of the UN (FAO) that uses drones to monitor the deforestation of the region. The main goal of the FAO program is to identify changes in the forested areas, especially areas that are vulnerable to deforestation and degradation. In May, locals in the main indigenous communities of the country received courses to learn how to use the drones. The training included lessons on operating the drones, collecting information, processing images and creating maps. Head of the Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Environment, Rosilena Lindo, stated that Panama’s national monitoring system needs to include the active participation of all of the actors in the region. (United Nations 6/3/2016)


Argentina’s Renewable Energy Undersecretary, Sebastian Kind, said in an interview in Montevideo this week that the country is preparing to establish a US$850 million renewable energy trust. The fund, known as Foder, will provide financial guarantees and financing for renewables energy projects by acting as a funding backstop in case investors can’t obtain long-term financing in local or international capital markets. Kind said Foder financial guarantees will be critical to cementing investor trust in Argentina’s renewable energy contracts. Foder will likely be constituted later this month. (Bloomberg Energy Finance 6/16/16)

A new solar park project is taking off in the province of Jujuy in Argentina, a region with the second largest solar potential in the world. The local government’s new administration recently completed a study of the region’s geography and solar potential and now, the Secretary of Energy of Jujuy, Mario Pizarro, is headed to China to seek additional financing necessary to move the project forward. The park is also part of a larger goal to solve Argentina’s energy crisis and contribute to the clean energy matrix needed to comply with the country’s INDC goals. The project aims to generate 300 MW per year, which will be sold to Argentina’s national energy market. In the long run, the local government aims to produce 2,500 MW per year. The project, financed by Bank of China and the World Development Bank (WDB), will be the largest solar project in Argentina. (El Tribuno 6/1/2016, El Tribuno 6/1/2016)

At the Clean Energy Ministerial Meeting in San Francisco earlier this month, Grupo Energia Mexico (GEMEX) and the European Union (EU) announced joint investment in a geothermal research project in Mexico that endeavors to find ways to tap into new sources of geothermal energy. Each country will contribute equally to the €20 million project. The EU’s share is backed by a program called Horizon 2020, a €77 million fund for research and innovation. According to the Mexican Ministry of Energy, the country has a potential to produce 13,400 GW of geothermal energy, which could make the country third in the world for geothermal production. The 2014energy reform law opened geothermal energy to the private sector actors, leading to Mexico’s first geothermal auction last year, given to Mexican Company GEODESA, which invested US$14.2 million for a 50 MW plant. Today, Mexico’s geothermal industry produces 874 MW. (Milenio 6/4/2016)

Mexico anticipates renewables will make up 69 percent of the country’s energy matrix by 2040, as reported the Bloomberg Energy Finance (BNEF). In 2015, fossil fuels comprised 78 percent of Mexico’s energy matrix and the country emitted 131 million tons of CO2. BNEF’s Analyst for Latin America, Lilian Aves, wrote that in the case that Mexico does reach its renewable energy goals by 2040, it will have reduced its yearly CO2 emissions to 67 million tons. This is in line with the country’s climate change objectives defined in the Paris Accord, to cut emissions in half by 2050. Approximately US$186 billion are expected in renewable energy investments in the next 25 years. (Noticias MVS 6/13/2016)

This week’s blog was completed with the help of contributions from Andrea Becerra.