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June 23rd – 29th, 2016
The leaders of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada came together this week at the North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa to announce new climate and energy targets, work on resolving border issues and discuss Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Among the highlights of the announcement was a commitment from all three countries to source 50 percent of electricity from clean power sources by 2025, this will include renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage technologies as well as improvements in energy efficiency. Currently, only 37 percent of power comes from non-emitting sources. The governments also committed to ratify the Paris Agreement this year. The announcement demonstrates the leaders’ desire for a shared commitment to competitive, low-carbon and sustainable economies in North America. (Bloomberg 6/29/2016, Gob.Mx 6/29/2016, White House 6/29/2016)
YPF, Argentina’s main producer of oil and gas and one of the oldest and wealthiest companies in the country, is investing US$120 million in its first renewable energy project. The president of YPF, Miguel Gutiérrez said the wind energy project is expected to begin operations by October 2017. The park will be made up of 30 wind turbines that will total of 100 MW. YPF is also researching other clean energy options such as solar and biogas, and tidal energy in the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego. (InfoBae 6/25/2016)
Chile’s Environmental Assessment Service rejected a proposal for what would be the largest coal plant in the country. The project, led by energy company Luz de Atacama, would have been built on 150 hectares of Caldera Bay, located in northern Chile. Local activists, including an organization called Frente Chango, voiced their concerns that the project failed to meet required environmental standards. The mayor of Caldera, Patricia González, celebrated the rejection of the plant stating that the municipality was concerned about the project ruining the natural beauty of the region. The energy company has already indicated they intend to resubmit the environmental impact study in the future. (El Dínamo 6/17/2016)
Despite being a leader in climate change mitigation in the region, Mexico still lacks the tools and studies necessary to fully measure and understand the effects of climate change on forests, beaches and other ecosystems, according to the national coordinator of Mexico’s National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, José Sarukhan Kermez, who spoke this week at the National Meeting on Responses to Climate Change. Meanwhile, María Amparo Martínez Arroyo, the general director of the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change announced that with the participation of 98 cities, a National Air Monitoring Network is being prepared to assist with measuring air quality. She noted that the problem of air pollution and its effects on the health of citizens is a problem being faced not only by Mexico City but around the country. (Excelsior 6/28/2016)
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns the Caribbean needs to prepare for more frequent and stronger droughts brought on by climate change. In order to ensure food security and the eradication of hunger, the FAO stresses countries must improve their ability to cope with this and other climate-related effects. The vulnerability of the region to climate-related hazards is manifested annually in the amount of lives and capital lost to floods and droughts. These droughts place significant stress on the agricultural sector by reducing crop yields and productivity and causing premature death of livestock and poultry. Seven of the 36 countries with the most water scarcity in the world are located in the Caribbean, a region which just last year experienced one of the most arid dry seasons in decades. According to the report, the most urgent need at the moment is for countries to develop strong national initiatives. Current policy and planning is often hampered by weak governance, lack of funding and poorly coordinated management of land. (United Nations Information Centres 6/21/2016)
In addition to last week’s news of Panama working on developing climate-change resistant breeds of cattle, the University of Cauca in Colombia will also be embarking on an initiative to develop an intelligent farming system that will promote higher earnings, improve production levels and reduce environmental impacts. Promoted by the Center for Tropical Agriculture, the goal of the initiative is to use highly nutritious grasses in forest areas which will help reduce deforestation and methane emissions. A similar system combining pasture and woodlands is already being implemented in the Valley of Patia. (El Comercio 6/25/2016)
Proving to be a big week for both cattle in the region and the FAO, another study by the organization reveals that the cattle industry accounts for nearly 75 percent of Central America’s deforestation in the last decade. The study looked at impacts from the cattle industry between 2000 and 2001 in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá. Costa Rica’s deforestation was the highest, followed by Honduras. Among the major damages caused by the cattle industry is deforestation, degradation of the land due to overgrazing, greenhouse gas emissions, water contamination and loss of biodiversity. The FAO predicts that pasturelands will continue expanding—to meet the increasing demand for meat and milk in the region— to 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) by the end of this year and to 16,000 hectares (39,536 acres) by 2030. One of the ways to address this, the study adds, is by promoting climate-smart policies that push for sustainable livestock farming. (La Estrella 6/23/2015)
After 140 years in operation, the Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina has closed and will become an Eco Park focused on environmental education, after a decision made by the city’s government. The Chief of Government of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, stated, “animals should live in their habitat, not in the middle of buildings.” Fifty of the 1,500 animals in captivity will need to be rehabilitated before being released into the wild. The rest of the animals will be released to natural reservations and sanctuaries throughout Argentina. The NGO Sin Zoo has been advocating for the zoo’s closure for years now, calling the decision a “happy ending to a tragic story.” (To follow this story on Twitter: #EcoParque) (El Ciudadano 6/24/2016)
This week's blog was completed with the help of contributions from Andrea Becerra.