Latin America Green News: 11/27 - 12/7/2017

THIS WEEK

  • President of Chile receives UN Champions of the Earth award
  • Mexico City recognized for leadership on climate action
  • Latin America could save US$ 64 B by switching to electric vehicles

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FEATURE: President of Chile recognized for leadership on marine protection and renewable energy

President of Chile Michelle Bachelet received the Champions of the Earth award, the United Nation’s highest environmental award, in recognition of her policy leadership in creating marine protected areas and boosting renewable energy. She is the first South American head of state to receive the honor. During her presidency, Bachelet established three marine protected areas: the Nazca-Desaventuradas in the San Ambrosio and San Felix Islands, a series of parks in the Juan Fernandez Islands, and an extension of the Easter Island (Rapa Nui) protected area. In total, Chile’s protected marine areas now cover 1 million km2—the largest in the world. Bachelet’s government has also overseen a surge in renewable energy production which increased from 6 to 17 percent in the past four years and the country is aiming for 70 to 90 percent renewable energy generation by 2050. In discussing the award Bachelet noted that, “Many times leaders think that a country has to be rich to be able to do this kind of transformation. Chile can show you don’t need to be a rich country. You need to have political will.” See the video here. (UNEP 12/05/2017; MercoPress 12/06/2017

                                                              

CLIMATE CHANGE

At the North American Climate Summit, Mexico City received the C40’s Cities4Climate Award for the steps the city has taken and policies it has implemented in its Climate Action Program (PACCM) 2014-2020. Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera accepted the prize, saying, “The fight against climate change is unstoppable; we have taken on this commitment with determination and concrete actions. I am convinced that Mexico City is moving in the right direction towards a low carbon, sustainable and resilient future.” Mexico City was recognized for three particular achievements: its online monitoring system to track climate actions; the innovative financing tools it is using for its program—including issuing a green bond and the creation of the Environmental Climate Change Fund; and for its transversal focus on gender. While at the event, Mayor Mancera also signed the Chicago Climate Charter, joining more than 50 other mayors from around the world who have committed to continue working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Chicago Climate Charter is led by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and seeks to incorporate cities’ climate commitments into the Paris Climate Agreement. (Excelsior 12/5/2017; Excelsior 12/5/2017; CleanTechnica 12/7/2017)

Guatemala launched its energy plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 29.2 percent by 2032, or the equivalent of 11.9 million tons of carbon dioxide. The plan was a collaboration of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Presidential Secretariat for Planning, and aims to achieve that goal through prioritizing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Minister of Energy, Luis Chang, noted that Guatemala’s challenge is “to have competent and competitive energy resources to contribute to the sustainable development that the country wants to achieve.” Similarly, Chile approved the Ministry of Energy’s Climate Change Mitigation Plan, which aims to reduce emissions from the energy sector. The aim of the plan is to help support the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy and energy sector by 2050. The shorter-term goal is to reduce emissions intensity by 30 percent in 2030, and by 35 percent if final energy demand such as transportation and residential heating, is electrified in the future. (Prensa Libre 12/1/2017; Ministerio de Energía 12/4/2017)


CLEAN ENERGY

A new interconnection between Chile’s two main electricity systems is helping to diversify the country’s energy matrix with a greater emphasis on renewable wind and solar projects. The interconnection, which consists of a 600-kilometer electric line between the towns of Mejillones and Copiapó, supplies energy from the extreme north to the Patagonian region of Chiloé in the south. Executives of the companies developing the project, Transmisora Eléctrica del Norte (TEN), formed by Engie and controlled by GDF Suez, as well as the Spanish group Red Eléctrica—participated in a ceremony with Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo to launch the project, which has been underway since November 21st. They stressed how the unification of the systems will now transport wind and solar energy that had previously been cut off from distribution. “Chile’s energy future is intimately related to renewable energies. The future is at our doorstep, and with this work we are getting closer to it,” said Rebolledo. (W Radio/EFE 12/6/2017)

Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced the development of six renewable energy projects to supply power for the islands of Vieques and Culebra, where electric service was interrupted during the devastation of Hurricane María. The projects combine solar energy systems with Tesla energy storage systems. In Vieques, the installations will serve a sewage treatment plant, a water supply station, an elderly community, a hospital and a Boys and Girls Club. In Culebra, the installation will also support a sewage treatment plant, as well as other systems in development. In addition to solar photovoltaic and battery projects for Vieques, Culebra and other remote areas, Tesla presented a proposal for a large-scale battery system to help stabilize Puerto Rico’s entire network. (Metro 12/05/2017)

Nicaragua’s National Assembly approved a law extending incentives for renewables. The policy will grant tax benefits to investors who promote renewable energy projects in the country. These benefits entail exonerating the import tax on machinery and equipment, exempting payment of the value added tax (VAT) and the income tax, as well as all municipal taxes. The reform initiative extends these benefits until January 2023, by when renewable sources are expected to generate 64 percent of Nicaragua’s electricity. According to Francisco Sobalvarro, executive director of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Energy, the reform is expected to ensure that at least six projects will move forward, representing an investment of US$ 250 million. These include the Polaris geothermal projects and a biomass project at the Casur sugar mill, in addition to other photovoltaic and wind systems that have already attracted investments. (El Nuevo Diario 12/06/2017 and 11/26/2017)


TRANSPORTATION

Electric vehicles are beginning to make inroads in Latin America. In Colombia, the Minister of Mines and Energy and the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development expect an increase in the electric vehicle fleet in 2018, as well as growth in public and private electric charging infrastructure. The government is currently working on an electromobility strategy to unify the various existing national initiatives and fiscal incentives related to electric vehicles and hybrids. In 2018, the government also expects to issue a regulatory decree to help implement the use of electricity for transport and a decree focused on charging stations. Meanwhile, in Cuba a Chinese-made electric bus made history as the first of its kind to circulate in on the island after its incorporation into one of Havana’s public transport service routes. (Portafolio 12/4/2017; Diario de Cuba 11/28/2107)

Did you know? Latin America could save US$ 64 billion in fuel costs  if 22 cities switched to electric vehicles by 2030, according to a study by the United Nations Environment Program. Transitioning to electric bus and taxi fleets in cities including Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Lima, Quito, Bogota, Panama, and Mexico City would also avoid 300 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and lower the rate of premature deaths due to respiratory disease associated with air quality. Learn more about opportunities for electric vehicles in Latin America here. (La Nacion, 11/17/2017)


GREEN FINANCE

During a webinar hosted by the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, Carbon Trust and MEXICO2 on December 7, experts from Argentina, Mexico and Colombia discussed experiences and opportunities with green bonds in their countries. Alejandra Cámara from Argentina estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the country’s sovereign debt could potentially be ticketed as green. However, she noted that green bonds must report on the use of proceeds, information that is currently not required in Argentina. She also explained that various commercial banks, ministries and agencies already had projects that could potentially be securitized and refinanced with a green bond issuance. Jaime Buriticá from Colombia shared the Bancoldex experience with Colombia’s first green bond issued in the local market and the high level of interest it garnered from both investors within Colombia and international investors. Alba Aguilar, explained that Mexico follows the green bond principles but has an additional requirement for third party verification to increase investor confidence. Mexico has been a leader in the region on sustainability focused bonds—since late 2015, nine bonds categorized as either green, social or sustainable bonds have been issued. The use of proceeds has ranged from energy projects, sustainable construction, energy efficiency, waste and water management, public transportation and various social services. (Webinar "Bonos Verdes en Argentina: financiamiento para cumplir con los NDCs," 12/07/2017)


FORESTS

With a record investment of US$ 90 million, the Chilean government aims to prevent wildfires. This investment comes after massive fires, in January and February 2017, that burned 590,000 hectares (almost 1.5 million acres) of forests in Chile. The Chilean Corporación Nacional Forestal (Conaf) (Chilean Forest Service) will work with local governments to establish and implement an educational and preventive strategy to avoid future wildfires. In order to achieve Chile’s Nationally Determined Contribution related to the country’s forests, president Bachelet is looking for ways to strengthen the country’s capability to prevent and respond to wildfires. In addition to the efforts conducted by Conaf, the Investigation Police launched the Bosque Seguro(Safe Forest) campaign. Through this campaign, the Police wants to inform the general population about how wildfires are started and how they can be prevented. (La Tercera 11/29/2017; Pulso 11/29/17)

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) published a report that revealed that 90 percent of the wood exported by Peru has an illegal origin. CIEL launched the report previous to the 53rd session of the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTO) hosted in Lima, Peru, from November 28th to December 2nd. Despite the concerns highlighted by the report, Peru’s president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, declared during the event that his government is committed to protect and defend Peru’s tropical forests. (Gestión 11/29/17; La República, 11/27/2017)

Meanwhile, in Paraguay, a decree signed by the president, Horacio Cartes, allows ranchers to deforest 100 percent of the forest within their properties. According to media reports, 2 million trees were cut on one of President Cartes' own properties in the Chaco region, equivalent to 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares). Prior to the decree, Paraguayan laws required that forests owners preserve at least 25 percent of their natural forests. In Paraguay, it is estimated that 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of forest are deforested every day. (ABC 12/03/2017; Resumen de Noticias 11/27/2014)

Preventing deforestation and forest degradation could bring countries income from avoided carbon dioxide emissions. In the case of Panama, which every year loses 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of forests, preventing deforestation in Darién, Bocas del Toro and the central Caribbean coast could translate into an annual income of US$ 21 million based on a carbon price of US$5. According to Gabriel Labbate, program head of UN REDD, this revenue could help support programs that prevent deforestation and help pay for Panama’s Alianza por el Millón de Hectáreas inititive. This initiative aims to plant one million hectares over 20 years. (La Estrella de Panamá 12/04/2017)


Andrés Anchondo, Jay Blair and Erika Moyer contributed to this post

About the Authors

Carolina Herrera

Manager, Green Finance & Climate Change, Latin America Project

Amanda Maxwell

Director, Latin America Project

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