Latin America Green News This Week: 6/16 - 6/22/2016

Environmental Justice

185 environmentalists were murdered in 2015, equivalent to about three deaths per week, according to a new report by Global Witness. This represents an increase of 59 percent from 2014 and is the highest number of activist murders ever recorded. While the number is alarmingly high, the report acknowledged that reporting constraints likely suggest the real figure could be much higher. Of the victims, 42 were fighting against mining projects, 20 against industrial agriculture, 15 against logging and 15 against hydroelectric plants. Brazil accounted for the highest number of murders at 50, where efforts to save the Amazon clash with the logging industry. Global Witness calculates that 80 percent of the wood from Brazil is extracted illegally, representing 25 percent of illegal wood in the global market. Trailing closed behind were Colombia, Peru and Nicaragua, with 26, 12 and 12 murders respectively. According to the report, indigenous regions are particularly vulnerable to these crimes—almost 40 percent of the victims in 2015 belonged to an indigenous organization. (La Estrella 6/20/2016)

Climate Change

During European Development Days forums last week, Euroclima, a regional cooperation program between the European Union and Latin America focused on climate change, said Latin America’s rich biodiversity and economic dependence on agriculture and primary resources made it the world’s most vulnerable area to the effects of climate change. Euroclima stressed the importance of reducing the region’s social and environmental vulnerability to climate change to not only help countries mitigate and adapt but also reduce poverty rates across the entire region. In addition to knowledge exchange between Latin America and industrialized countries, Euroclima emphasized the importance of knowledge exchange within countries in the region to facilitate problem solving and development, something commonly referred to as “south-south cooperation.” (El Universal 6/15/2016)

Severe droughts during the growing season in Cuba this year resulted in a 20 percent loss of sugar crops as compared to previous years. The poor crop yield ultimately affected 12 industries dependent on sugar production including alcohol derivatives and animal feed. Next month, industry experts from Mexico and Cuba will meet to discuss the current outlook of the industry and evaluate trends that can contribute to improving agricultural sustainability. In particular, experts are interested in the effects of climate change and fluctuating global food prices on the future of the industry. (Radio Nuevitas 7/18/2016, Prensa Latina 6/21/2016)

In response to devastating economic losses in the cattle industry caused by severe droughts last year, Panama is embarking on a project to breed climate-change resistant cattle. Last year, just in the province of Los Santos, 504 cattle were reported dead. So far this year 138 have perished due to extreme droughts and climbing temperatures. The project, led by the Agricultural Research Institute of Panama, will work with crossbreed experts to attempt to breed cattle with less fur that can more easily adapt to warmer, dryer temperatures. (El Siglo 6/21/2016)


Colombia’s peace deal to end the multi-decade armed conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is expected to reduce deforestation and contamination of  rivers caused by the production of illicit crops. In a forum on market-based solutions to tackle climate change organized by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), President Juan Manuel Santos expressed optimism that the end of the conflict will open up the country to  greater investment projects with a focus on green growth. In the past, the areas of the country that have been mired by conflict, Santos said, are also the areas that have suffered some of the greatest environmental degradation. He acknowledged the important role the international community has played in helping the country deal with deforestation and land degradation issues and emphasized the critical importance of the “triangle of success” approach to rebuilding the country post-conflict which incorporates the public and private sectors as well as civil society. (Terra 6/14/2016) 

With help from the World Bank, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources  of the Dominican Republic has launched the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD ++) project, a climate change mitigation mechanism spearheaded by the United Nations. World Bank representative in the country, McDonald Benjamín, said the initiative will help the country cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the forest sector, which will help the country reach its climate commitment, as outlined under the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. The project is part of an accord between the government of the Dominican Republic and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility to jointly create a REDD++ country strategy, establish a baseline of emissions and develop mechanisms for measuring them. The World Bank will donate US$3.8 million for the purpose of fulfilling the stated goals.  (El Veedor Digital 6/14/2016)


Nicaragua’s National Assembly approved a US$33 million loan from the South Korean Export-Import Bank for the development of a rural solar park. The project, which will be made up of 11,484 panels, will benefit 164 rural communities, or 62,000 people. The country’s electrification rate was 83.3 percent last year and this year the government expects it to jump to 90 percent. Nicaragua will contribute US$3.1 million to the project, bringing the total investment up to US$36.4 million. (SeeNews 6/17/2016)


The government of Chile issued its fourth environmental emergency of the year to mitigate harmful levels of smog in Santiago and warn the capital city’s seven million inhabitants to avoid outdoor activities. In attempt to curb the pollution, this past Sunday the government restricted a total of 270,000 vehicles from circulation and prohibited the use of wood heaters, among other limitations. Santiago is considered one of the most contaminated cities in Latin America and has registered constant environmental emergency episodes over the last two decades. Smog has also been an issue south of the Chilean capital, in the region between Temuco and Padre de Las Casas, where six straight days of harmful levels of fine particulate matter pollution have been recorded. In the span of 20 days only one day was deemed to have “good” air quality. (EFE 6/19/2016, Soy Chile 6/20/2016)

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


Related Issues
Climate Change

Related Blogs