Latin America Green News 10/8 – 10/12/2017

 THIS WEEK

  • Climate risk in Central America
  • Renewable energy auction in Argentina
  • ​Mexican retirement funds invest in renewables

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FEATURE: Climate risk in Central America 

At a meeting in Guatemala, the chief of the Agricultural Development Unit and Climate Change Focal Point at the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), Julie Lennox, highlighted Central America’s vulnerability to climate change and called on the region to invest in green infrastructure,shade crops and “microclimates” as a way to help people adapt to its impacts. Although the region emits less than 1 percent of global emissions, four countries—Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador—are among the top 15 countries who will feel the greatest impacts of climate change globally, according to the Climate-Risk Index. Guatemala’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change is sadly very real this week, as the country experiences the worst rainy season in 25 years. Twenty-eight people are dead, nearly 21 thousand have been forced to evacuate and more than 360 thousand affected. Farmers’ crops have been ruined and thousands of homes have been hit. With three highways and 16 bridges destroyed and another 129 roads, 27 bridges and 609 schools damaged, the government’s resources are stretched thin. The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction has distributed 78 tons of food, but is reserving 101 tons more for future emergencies that may arise during the rest of the rainy month of October. (El Economista 10/11/2017; TV8 10/9/2017; Twitter @GuatemalaGob 10/10/2017)


Climate Change

The government of Honduras, through its Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mines (MiAmbiente), inaugurated the Second Joint Mission of the Pilot Program of Climate Resilience (PPCR), with the technical and financial support of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The initiative focuses on improving quality of life and adapting to climate change with secure water management and resilient agriculture. The World Bank is supporting the program with $1.5 million for a portfolio of projects in Honduras, which is one of 14 countries in the global pilot. (La Tribuna 10/11/2017)

Countries of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) have created a special fund for resilient or recuperative agriculture, to help address increasingly extreme weather events. The fund will help the region manage climate change impacts, food security and poverty. For the 20 countries that form Caricom, agriculture can be a strategic sector that can help promote development and create a vision of rural areas as places of progress and well-being. (PanamáOn.com via NewsInAmerica 10/8/2017)

A new recycling plant—the first of its kind—is opening in Chile to handle climate pollutants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) from refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. Chile emits nearly a thousand tons per year of each of the two types of gas, which contribute to global warming. The Regener Chile recycling plant will accept used HCFC and HFC cylinders, process their contents to remove moisture, oil, acidity and other pollutants, and produce gas that can be reused. The plant will contribute to Chile’s commitments under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which the country ratified in September. The Montreal Protocol aims to phase out the use of HCFCs, and the Kigali Amendment phases out the use of HFCs around the world. (Economia y Negocios 10/11/2017)


Clean Energy

The latest renewable energy auction in Argentina, RenovAr Round 2, met with such a high level of interest that the deadline for bids was extended by two days through October 13. According to media reports the average bid price received was US$ 47 per MWh, 18 percent below the weighted average price of US$ 57.44 MWh recorded during Argentina’s auction rounds 1 and 1.5. The Renovar Round 2 auction was for a maximum capacity of 1,200 MW, and projects will be adjudicated on November 29. Minister of Energy Juan José Aranguren has indicated a third round may take place next year. To help spur the renewable energy sector, Argentina recently extended an import duty exemption for equipment and parts used in renewable energy generationDecree 814/201 exempts or reduces import duties for a variety of goods during a period ranging from one to five years beginning January 1, 2018. The tax incentive is part of a broader effort to ultimately encourage equipment manufacturers to establish operations in the country. (El Cronista 10/12/2017; El Cronista 10/09/2017; El Cronista 10/11/2017)

In Mexico, the results of the third renewable energy auction will be announced on November 22. The first two Mexican energy auctions set record low prices for solar, but this will likely not be repeated in this latest round. Solar energy auction prices have fallen from a 2013 level of US$ 340 per MWh (South Africa) to less than US$ 35 in 2016 (Mexico), a drop of almost 90 percent. But as solar panel prices have stabilized energy experts and managers believe solar costs will level out or even begin to increase. As a result, Israel Hurtado Executive Secretary of the Mexican Solary Energy Association, predicts that wind energy may be more competitive in Mexico’s November auction results. (El Financiero 10/8/2017)

With 62 percent of its energy grid comprising renewable sources, Uruguay is at the vanguard of clean energy. A report published by the Uruguay XXI foreign trade agency, released by the Presidency, shows that Uruguay is far above the world average of 19 percent renewable, according to available data from 2016. In turn, Uruguay ranks third overall in terms of investment in renewable energy as a percentage of gross domestic product, with a total investment of more than US$ 7 billion since 2010, through a public-private partnership model. The report highlights that in the Infrastructure Plan for the current government period (2015-2019), US$ 4.2 billion out of a total of US$ 12.5 billion is allocated to the energy sector. On the demand side, the National Plan for Energy Efficiency for 2015-2024 establishes guidelines necessary to promote the efficient reduction of energy demand at the national level. Overall, the plan aims to avoid exploiting up to 1,690 kilotons of oil equivalent by 2024. (Espectador 10/12/2017)


Green Finance

Retirement fund administrators in Mexico (known locally as “afores”) are beginning to invest in solar and wind projects. CKD Infraestructura México (CKD IM), a consortium of five Mexican institutional investors, and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), an institutional investor from Canada, have acquired 80 percent of a portfolio of eight power projects owned by Enel Green Power. The three solar projects and five wind projects represent a total of 1,712 MW, of which 1,283 MW are still under construction. The total value of the investment is US$ 1.35 billion. (El Financiero 10/10/2017; Business Insider 10/09/2017)

A proposed change to Mexico’s General Law on Climate Change would allow Mexico City and other municipalities to design, develop and apply financial instruments to support the implementation of national climate change objectives. The change was approved by the Climate Change Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress. Currently municipalities do not have this authority. (Cámara de Diputados, Boletín No. 4172 10/10/2017)

In Colombia, the Municipality of Medellín and development bank Bancoldex launched a new line of credit to support companies that invest in green projects. The 3.2 billion pesos (approximately US$1 million) will target micro, small and medium enterprises that have been operating in Medellín at least two years. The funds will support energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable development projects. Qualifying companies can will be able to borrow 100 million pesos (approximately US$33,000) from their local banks. Loans must be repaid over a period of four years following a six-month grace period and the interest rate will be under 2 percent. (El Tiempo 10/11/2017)


Conservation

This week marks the start of the first phase of a program that seeks the conservation of the vaquita porpoise, the only marine mammal endemic to Mexico. With fewer than 30 specimens still alive, time is running out for the small cetacean. Vaquitas are in danger of extinction due primarily to illegal fishing of totoaba, which results in a high by-catch of the vaquita. In an effort to avert the species’ demise, a new naval base built specifically to save the vaquita will be the center of operations for a conservation, protection and reproduction program. The effort involves military-trained dolphins to help capture the vaquitas and specially-designed pools for monitoring the vaquita’s health. (Tec Review, 10/10/2017, SEMARNAT 10/11/2017)

In more positive news, conservationists have spotted a record number of whales in the Valdés Peninsula, off the coast of Chubut, Argentina. The Whale Conservation Institute (ICB) and the Ocean Alliance carried out an annual aerial survey that resulted in 788 whales recorded, the highest number since the survey work began in 1971 (Clarín, 10/12/2017)

By Michaël CATANZARITI [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


Deforestation

Maps published in the open access, refereed journal PeerJ reveal the extent to which deforestation has become a major problem in the Amazon region of Brazil. Based on law enforcement records from 2010-2015, the research findings suggest that even though the government has created a network of protected areas to preserve the rainforest’s key role in biodiversity conservation, illegal use of natural resources has become pervasive. Out of 27 types of illegal infractions, forest degradation was most common (37.4%), in addition to illegal fishing (27.3%) and hunting (18.2%). Just this past week in Lábrea, 702 kilometers from the Amazonian city of Manaus, the Amazon Environmental Protection Institute (Ipaam) concluded an operation in which they seized trucks, guns, chainsaws and wood. The operation was aimed at combating illegal logging and deforestation in the south of the municipality, and it rendered useless at least two of the criminal loggers’ base camps. (O Globo and PeerJ 10/10/2017, G1 10/9/2017)

Meanwhile, in the southern Amazonian region of Colombia, around 185 animal species and 40 species of flora are endangered due solely to deforestation linked to cattle ranching. The stark consequences of this single factor have caused alarm among farmers and ranchers. Records from the region of Putumayo show about 4,500 hectares deforested in the municipality of Puerto Guzman, which has triggered environmental authorities to intervene. Environmental managers estimate that 45 percent of the total deforestation in Colombia is associated with land grabbing and livestock grazing, threatening the habitats of myriad plants and animals. The end of Colombia’s civil war has opened access to areas of Putumayo that had been controlled by FARC rebels for four decades, which is also allowing environmental conservationists to assess and potentially reduce deforestation. (Mi Putumayo, 10/9/2017)

About the Authors

Carolina Herrera

Manager, Green Finance & Climate Change, Latin America Project

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