Latin America Green News: 9/15 - 9/22/2016

Mexico's Minster of the Environment Rafael Pacchiano and Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon
Credit: Government of Mexico

60 countries have formally joined Paris Agreement, deforestation in Monarch Biosphere Reserve decreases

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September 15 – 22, 2016

Climate Change

The United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week ushered in a new wave of countries to formally join the Paris Agreement, putting the world on an historic trajectory to implement the treaty as early as this year. After a formal ceremony at the UN headquarters on Wednesday, 31 additional countries formally joined the treaty, taking the total number of joiners to 60 countries representing 47.76 percent of global carbon emissions. Latin American countries who have formally joined the agreement include: Brazil (5th largest emitter), Mexico (13th largest emitter), Argentina, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Ecuador, Belize and Peru. To enter into force, 55 countries representing 55 percent of emissions must join. Mexico’s Minster of the Environment, Rafael Pacchiano, delivered the country’s ratification instruments to the UN as well as a video message from President Enrique Peña Nieto. Addressing the world leaders present, Mr. Peña Nieto said, “The nations of the world have adopted this agreement because the cost of inaction would be irreversible and that is something we as humanity cannot afford.” He went on to stress that though 2020 is the official deadline to adopt the treaty, leaders should aim to ratify the treaty now so it may go into effect by the launch of the COP22 in Morocco in late November. (NY Times 9/21/2016, La Jornada 9/21/2016, El Heraldo 9/21/2016, El Dínamo 9/21/2016, Imagen 9/21/2016)

For more on Mexico’s ratification of the Paris Agreement read Amanda Maxwell’s blog. For more on the progress of the Paris Agreement read Jake Schmidt’s blog.


Since 1990, Chile’s gross domestic product has more than doubled and its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased by 150 percent. The energy sector was the largest contributor to this increase due largely to the country’s high usage of coal during the time. While economic growth and emissions have often increased at similar rates, evidence has shown that they can be decoupled, as was seen between 1999 and 2002, when Chile upped natural gas usage. Experts suggest focusing on decoupling will be key not only to Chile’s success implementing the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) put forth in the Paris Agreement, but also to creating a more sustainable economy. A full report detailing the evolution of GHG emissions in Chile between 1990 and 2013, which is produced by the Ministry of the Environment, will be presented at the COP 22 meeting in Morocco. (La Tercera 9/20/2016)


Residents in Chile’s capital, Santiago, are taking to the streets to protest the privatization of water utility systems. There is growing public discontent with high water prices and water shortages in the region. With climate change models predicting a 40 percent drop in the city’s water supply by 2070, a recent poll suggests that 74 percent of Chileans support a return to public ownership of water utilities. Concern over distribution and supply issues has prompted a special government committee on water resources to propose new legislation that would prioritize water as a public good for human consumption and grant greater regulatory oversight powers to the government’s Water Bureau. (The Guardian 9/15/2016)


Efforts to halt deforestation in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico by the Mexican Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa), the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and the Specialized Gendarmerie in Environmental Mission have proven successful thus far. Since the three agencies began cooperation earlier this year, three sawmills in the region have been shut down, equating to a three hundred thousand cubic meter decrease in illegal deforestation annually. The agencies hope the joint operation will eventually achieve zero deforestation rates in the reserve, an effort that would greatly serve to protect the species that has seen a decline in population during the last few years. The Monarchs will migrate south to Mexico for the winter in late October or early November and hibernate in oyamel fir trees through the spring. (Quadratin 9/20/2016)

The increased droughts in the Amazon brought on by climate change have caused a growth in the number of fires affecting forest areas of Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. There is significant concern in Peru as the largest fires to affect the area in a decade have devastated local agricultural production and crossed into buffer zones and protected indigenous areas. Eleven indigenous communities have been affected by the fires with two, the Caparocia and Ashaninka, communities bearing the brunt of the damage. A commission was sent on Thursday to coordinate their evacuation. Local citizens and experts had sent the government a letter earlier this year warning them of the potential for increased forest fires brought on by the drier conditions and asked for a moratorium on forest burning. Local organizations are now calling on the government to increase preventative fire management and to work collaboratively with local communities to reduce forest burning for agriculture. (Mongabay 9/15/2016)


The Supreme Court of Argentina has accepted a lawsuit filed by a local organization in the San Juan province requesting information about several cyanide solution and heavy metals spills that occurred earlier in the month at the Veladero gold mine. The mine, operated by Argentina Gold S.A. and the Canadian firm Barrick, was shut down temporarily after the leak was reported. The court demanded to know if the provincial government requested details about the spills from the mining companies. It also requested that the government explain whether the local residents who may have been affected were informed of the potential dangers to them and their property. At the same time last year, the same mine also experienced another cyanide leak. (Reuters 9/20/2016)

This week's blog was completed with the help of contributions from Alexis Lopez-Cepero