Latin America Green News This Week: 8/17 - 7/24/2016

Ocongate, Cusco, Peru.
Credit: sergejf

Chile to sign Paris agreement, warming temps threaten potato crops, indigenous community challenges Nicaraguan canal

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August 17 – 24, 2016

Climate Change


Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced her intent to formally sign the Paris Agreement at the UN Assembly meeting next month. She missed the formal signing ceremony in April due to the death of ex-President Patricio Aylwin. Once the president formally signs, the agreement will move into the hands of Congress who will have to ratify it so the country can formally join the treaty. Meanwhile, Panama’s Legislative Committee on Foreign Affairs approved the treaty this week. Meliton Arrocha, a member of the Committee said the agreement must be ratified "as soon as possible" because it will be a tool for the world to prevent further global warming. The text will now be considered at the second of three debates in Parliament before it can be formally adopted. (El Dinamo 8/23/2016, La Estrella 8/24/2016)  




Melting glaciers in Peru’s Pastoruri region near the northern part of the country are threatening nearby cities with massive floods known as “glofs”, glacial lake outburst flood caused when walls of a mountain valley collapse under the weight of water from melted glaciers. The fragile structure of glacial lakes makes them particularly vulnerable to collapse from natural catastrophes such as earthquakes. Benajmin Orlove, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University in New York said, “"The long-term solution is for the world to shift to different energy sources, sources that are renewable, sources that do not emit gases that cause climate change. In the short term we have to find adaptations, like installing early warning systems for disasters in the most sensitive areas." (VOA News 8/17/2016)


According to experts, climate change has become the biggest threat to potato crops in Latin America, reducing annual production rates between 10 and 20 percent. It is now affecting crops even more than the aggressive fungus strand which had been plaguing the crop for years. The increase in temperatures and irregular precipitation rates are causing the dip in production rates. Experts say that were it not for the artificial irrigation systems employed by some countries, the decline in production rates would be even higher. In addition, scientists predict the melting of glaciers in the region by 2050 will ultimately result in flooding in some areas and the appearance of new insects and bugs that could compromise the crop’s ability to grow. André Devaux, Director of the International Potato Center said that in addition to developing varieties of potatoes resistant to droughts and temperature changes, it is necessary to improve supply chains if the potato is to survive the effects of climate change. (El Tiempo 8/22/2016)




Credit: Planet, DigitalGlobe (Nextview)

A powerful new deforestation-tracking tool launched by the University of Maryland in March of this year is already proving effective in alerting authorities of illegal deforestation activity in Peru. The early warning system, known as GLAD, is supported by the Global Forest Watch and has been able to show in near real time the active deforestation of areas of forest in Ucayali, Madre de Dios, and Loreto caused by logging, tourism, and agricultural activities. The tool was created to as part of the MAAP (Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project) in order to better understand patterns and drivers of deforestation in near real-time. (Global Forest Watch 8/18/2016)


Experts expect that Chile will source 20 percent of its energy generation from non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) by 2018—seven years earlier than the law requires. This is in part due to 44 new renewable energy projects, primarily NCRE, that are currently in construction: of which, 70 percent are solar energy, 22 percent wind, five percent concentrated solar power potential, two percent geothermal, and one percent run-of-the-river hydroelectricity. Among these initiatives is a 196 MW solar energy project headed by Spanish company Ibereólica. According to the head of the National Energy Commission (CNE), Andrés Romero, the commission not only wants the energy market to function under low prices, but for it to also provide a safe and stable source of energy for the country. (Pulso 8/11/2016)

Chile’s growing NCRE sector can also be attributed to historically low energy prices, evident in the latest energy auction. A total of 84 project proposals from both local and international companies competed for blocks of the 12.43 GW offer, with bids averaging at US $47.6 MW per hour. 44 percent of the successful tenders were made up by wind energy and 10-12 percent solar energy. Compared to energy auctions from 2013 and 2015, prices went down 63 and 40 percent, respectively. According to Máximo Pacheco, the lower prices will not only benefit the income of Chilean families, but it will also have an impact on the entire economy. (Gestión 8/17/2016)


One of the major winners of the Chilean energy auction this week was Mainstream Renewable Power, who secured seven contracts for constructing and operating wind energy plants with a collective investment value of US$1.65 million and a combined capacity of 986 MW. Since entering the Chilean market in 2009, Mainstream has become a leader in the wind and solar energy market, amassing a total 2,000 MW. The CEO of Mainstream, Eddie O’Connor, will meet with major turbine factories in the following months to begin the construction of the wind turbines. (PRNewswire 8/17/2016)


Members of the Monkey Point Kriol community filed an injunction with the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, challenging the proposed interoceanic canal project that has been proposed by the Chinese company HKND. According to the president of the indigenous group, Rupert Allen Claire Duncan, residents of the Ramal-Kriol lands were not brought into consideration when the Gran Canal Development Commission obtained a leasing contract for 263 square meters of the territory in question. The canal has been an ongoing issue since 2014, when community members presented their case before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in opposition of the Grand Canal Law, which was passed with no consideration of their territorial lands. Despite the continued scrutiny of the project, Chinese company HKND has turned in 50,000 archeological remains discovered while digging the Gran Canal routes this year. Added to finds from last year, the remains now add up 70,000. Shortly after HKND unearthed a salt processor from 1400 D.C. in the beginning of the year, the company predicted the would not uncover any more remains. (The Costa Rica Star 8/11/2016, El Día 8/19/2016)