Latin America Green News: 9/29 - 10/5/2016

Credit: United Nations

Paris Agreement enters into force, beached whales raise concern in Chile, Canada and Mexico cooperate on clean energy

To get the weekly Latin America Green News blog delivered directly to your email, subscribe here.

September 29 – October 5, 2016

Climate Change

After receiving confirmation from the supreme court that no provisions in the Paris Agreement are against the constitution, Costa Rica’s legislative assembly voted to ratify the deal this week. Environment Minister, Édgar Gutiérrez, said that despite being a small country “Costa Rica showed the world that it has the courage to take bold and timely decisions to work for a sustainable development.” India and the European Union also voted to join the agreement this week, crossing the 55 percent of carbon emissions threshold needed to thrust the agreement into force. With these new joiners, the treaty will formally enter into force and become binding in 30 days, just days before the start of the COP22 in Morocco in November. (Tico Times 10/4/16)

Extensive research on the topic of livestock production from Alfonso Garzón of the National University of Colombia revealed that climate change is effecting not only livestock’s environmental conditions but also the health and social lives of the animal. For one, increases in temperature and precipitation cause pastures to become more lignified and therefore provide seven to nine percent less dietary energy to cattle. The shift in cultivation areas to improve production also effects cattle in that they must adapt to constantly varied ecosystems. And warming soil temperatures are creating ideal conditions for pests to reproduce and infect the animals. Despite this, Garzón was optimistic of the future pointing out that employing practices such as silvopasture can mitigate and counteract the adverse effects of climate change on livestock. (Terra 10/1/2016)  

Sustainability

Chile's Comptroller General, the government body responsible for serving as auditor, put out a report this week denouncing the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service's (Sernapesca) supervision of aquaculture concessions from 2011-2015. The report concluded that the agency has inadequate procedures for inspecting and dealing with infringements committed by concession holders and has failed to report such infringements to authorities. Failing to mitigate the eutrophication of areas under their supervision and failing to prevent fishing in prohibited boundaries are two of such deficiencies. As part of the auditing process the agency found that during those years, aquaculture health and environmental reports (INFAs) alerted to irregularities in the location of 71 percent of the agency's area of administration. Moreover, the INFAs also pointed to anaerobic conditions in areas representing 39 percent of the area of administration, showing that the natural conditions of the areas exceeded their capacity to support aquaculture activities. The report directs the agency to establish appropriate procedures for resolving these matters and notify authorities within 15 days of receiving the report. (Terram 10/4/2016)

In 2015, Chile recovered and recycled 280 tons of electronic waste, a measurable portion of the 1,200 tons recycled throughout Latin America by the Ericsson electronics ecology management take-back program. Working with local partners, the program has established a system of e-waste recovery and certified recyclers achieving 98 percent efficiency in material recovery. Latin America, as a whole, produces approximately nine percent of global e-waste.  It estimated to grow by five to seven percent, totaling an estimated 4,800 kilotons, by 2018. (La Tercera, 9/28/16)

#EcoFriday, a sustainable product initiative began this week in Chile. The week-long campaign being promoted by the Ministry of the Environment on the “Mercado Libre” online marketplace hopes to promote greater consideration of the environmental impacts of consumer purchases. With the promotion of over 500 products with positive environmental impacts ranging from lamps and electric bicycles to recycling bins and solar panels, the Ministry hopes to engage the public to increase awareness of sustainable production and consumption. (Diario Financiero, 9/30/16)

Conservation

At least 230 jaguars have been killed due to human activity in Panama over the last 15 years according to a new study by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The project, led by University of Wageningen professor Ninon Meyer, studied jaguar populations in over 15 natural preserves finding that the species was at severe risk of extinction despite 22 percent of the country being under some form of environmental protection. The unexpected low population numbers are the result of continued urban development and deforestation of their territory by humans and well as a dwindling of their primary food source, the white-lipped peccary, due to increasing human consumption. These factors have forced jaguars to feed on domesticated livestock, increasing interactions with humans and resulting in the deaths of a reported 26 jaguars in 2016. The report emphasizes the continued need to restore forested areas and to employ sensible measures in areas where jaguars are most at risk to human action in order to protect the endangered species. (La Sexta, 9/29/16)

The discovery of several whales beached on the coast of Northern Chile has alerted experts to the continuing abnormal behavior of marine life up and down the coast. After hundreds of whales were found beached in the south of Chile last year, investigators at the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service have been attempting to understand what may be the cause of these previously unseen beached whale incidents. According to scientists, a possible explanation for an increase in whale presence in the area is a surge in the availability of krill, the whale’s primary food source, caused by warming temperatures brought on by climate change. A more widely accepted explanation cites an increase in toxic algae in the area as being a bio toxin to whales. This same toxic alga killed thousands of salmon earlier this year. Given the warming effects of el Niño, the rates of these beachings may become more common along the northern coast as the whale population adapts to its changing environment. (El Nuevo Herald, 9/28/16) 

Renewables

Mexico and the Canadian province of Alberta signed a memorandum of understanding last week promoting their cooperation in reducing emissions and developing clean energy resources. Mexican Secretary of Energy, Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, alongside the Alberta’s Secretary of Energy, Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, also spoke of the success of Mexico’s second electricity auction. The auctions have reportedly led to the establishment of 34 new companies with 5,000 MW of new generation capacity, tripling Mexico’s current installed clean energy capacity, and an estimated US$6.6 billion worth of investments over the next few years. The joint statement of cooperation between Mexico and Alberta highlights a plan to promote and develop workshops, meetings, and conferences to deepen government and private sector ties that will foster the exchange of information, policy and regulatory experiences. (el Pueblo, 9/30/16)