Latin America Green News This Week: 7/28 - 8/3/2016

Ecuador signs Paris agreement, Drones launched to protect Vaquita Marina, General Electric seeks expansion of renewable energy generation

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July 28 – August 3, 2016




Mexico's armed forces have launched a drone operation to monitor fisherman and protect the Vaquita Marina, a rare species of porpoise native to the northern Gulf of California in Mexico. Three drones equipped with high-resolution cameras will monitor and fly over the northern Gulf of California, the only place in the world where the porpoise can be found. According to the latest study by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIVRA) there are only 60 Vaquita Marinas left. Experts agree that the main threat for the vaquita is the high demand for the Totoaba fish in China’s black market, which are caught with gillnets that ensnare and kill the Vaquita Marina. Despite the government’s ban on gillnets last year, the Vaquita numbers have continued to dwindle. The new surveillance system called "Arcturus T-20" will monitor this rare porpoise’s habitat every day for 24 hours in the hopes that this might put an end to the use of gillnets and save the species from extinction. (El Espectador 7/29/2016)


A Colombian bird called Carriqui reproduces more quickly as the climate warms, according to studies by biologists from the Autonomous Corporation of Chivor (CORPOCHIVOR). The Carriqui is found in ​​Boyaca and throughout the plains of Colombia. The Carriqui, unlike many other species, thrives in higher temperatures, reproducing at a faster rate than normal. This is a problem for farmers in Boyaca who claim the Carriqui is destroying crops, particularly corn crops. The head of CORPOCHIVOR Mauricio Otálora adds that the bird also feeds on other bird’s nests, harming other species. According to Otálora, this discovery is an example of what competition between animals looks like in the midst of climate change. (RNC Radio 8/1/2016)


Inhabitants of the Torres del Paine municipality in Chile are concerned by plans from a salmon farm to dispose sludge from its farm 15 km away from their border. The company, Acuimag, defends the initiative, adding that the material is organic and compostable, and not trash as some community members from Torres del Paine claim. Meanwhile, authorities note that the project meets environmental standards. Acuimag reported that the sludge, composed of water, feces and uneaten food from the facility, would be dumped on five hundred-fifty three acres of land at Rancho Lourdes. The mayor of Torres del Paine, Anahí Cárdenas, said the while she is respectful of the technical recommendations that have been made for this case, she remains concerned for both farmers and the tourism industry. Cárdenas added that the municipality is also home to the Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. If approved, the mayor asserts that citizens of Torres del Paine will closely monitor and document irregular activity or changes in the environment. (Economía y Negocios 7/31/2016)

Climate Change

Ecuador formally signed the Paris climate agreement this week. As it stands, only Peru and nineteen other nations that have formally ratified the treaty. While in New York last week, Horacio Sevilla, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations, reaffirmed the country’s support of the agreement while expressing regret that although the agreement is legally binding in nature, the carbon emission reduction targets are not. During climate negotiations in Paris last December, Ecuador played a critical role in ensuring that considerations on environmental justice were included in the final agreement text. (Andes 7/28/2016) 

In Panama, five mayors joined the C40 climate leadership group, a global coalition of mayors and municipal officials committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases local, increase resilience to climate change and measure progress publicly. Joining the alliance will give each city access to standardized and reliable assessment of its progress to meeting its commitments. The cities will also gain greater confidence from investors to bring more capital to climate and energy projects in their borders. (La Estrella de Panama 8/2/2016)




Peru has launched a new tool to monitor deforestation called Geo Bosques. The Ministry of Environment (MINAM) is leading the efforts to launch the new platform, which will be used to determine areas in the country with the highest risk for deforestation. Gustavo Huamaní Castro, coordinator of the National Forest Conservation Mitigation of Climate Change at MINAM, said that the Geo Bosques platform will help guarantee official, reliable, and timely information on forest cover and level of loss. Geo Bosques currently covers most of the rainforest region and will soon include dry and Andean forests. The new technology will eventually use five different modules to provide various layers of information: 1) forest and forest loss (annual monitoring); 2) early warning of deforestation; 3) degradation; 4) use and change of use; and 5) reference scenarios. At the moment only the first two modules will be used—the rest are still under construction. (Andina 7/27/2016)


If people and industries completely stopped transforming tropical forests into pastureland, the environmental impacts associated with deforestation would still be felt for several years, according to a new study published in Current Biology. Investigators studied deforestation from 1950 to 2009, in the Amazons, Congo and Southeast Asia, concluding that the environmental changes we are observing today are primarily caused by actions in the past. In particular, researchers of this study determined that if deforestation of tropical forests completely ceased in 2010, our planet would still have the same surplus of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to 5 to 10 years of global deforestation, and we would still be missing the same one hundred-forty extinct animals endemic to tropical forests. According to the study, reforestation efforts only have a minimal effect in the short-term, and therefore the researchers argue that initiatives to reforest and preserve habitats should more ambitious. (Andina 7/28/2016)



San Juan de Oros is the first village in Argentina to depend on 100 percent renewable energy. As part of a project called “Solar City” the non-profit EcoAndina Foundation has led the efforts to install thermal technology throughout the village, including a community solar oven, solar heating for classrooms, several private solar cookers, a community solar water heater that provides hot showers in an air-conditioned space, as well as a drip irrigation system for farming needs, among other things. The non-profit is hoping to demonstrate how solar energy can function in the small-scale and how these technologies can be applied at a larger scale, in urban settings. EcoAndina’s next “Solar City” initiative will take place in San Salvador, the capital of the province of Jujuy.  (Energy Press 7/31/2016)


General Electric (GE) is aiming to increase its renewable energy power generation capacity in Latin America and will soon participate in an auction in Argentina to bolster efforts.  Come September, the corporation plans to bid on a 1GB renewable energy contract. Álvaro Anzola, the GE executive in charge of power sales in the region, said “The transparency (President) Macri is promoting in the power generation market is turning Argentina into a very, very attractive market." Since taking office earlier this year, President Mauricio Macri has expanded Argentina's efforts to combat climate change and diversify its energy matrix. It is anticipated that the government will organize more energy auctions. (Economia Hoy 7/29/2016)

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