THIS WEEK: Bird biodiversity and Global Big Day, Environmental Proposals for Mexican Presidential Candidates, Energy company reverses and desists from hydroelectric dam project in Chile.
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FEATURE: Latin American bird biodiversity shines on Global Big Day
Last weekend was Global Big Day, a day when people from all over the world go out to identify and register as many bird species as they can. Twenty-eight thousand people, from 170 countries around the world, saw almost 6,900 bird species. However, this year’s biggest geographical winner was Latin America, with 40 percent of the total number of registered species. Colombia alone registered 1,548 species, followed by Peru with 1,491. Panama, with 750 bird species, was Central America’s country with the highest number of registers. (eBird 5/9/2018)
Read NRDC's Andrés Anchondo's blog in celebration of Migratory Bird Day in Latin America.
The energy company Centinela reversed course and desisted from its hydroelectric dam project proposed on the Achibueno River in the foothills of Linares, Chile. This decision to give up 240 hectares of land rights from Forestal Niblinto was the culmination of a battle that began in 2010, and grew out of the grassroots Movement for the Defense of Achibueno to engage the wider community and municipality. Even though the project had obtained regional environmental approvals in 2010, 2011 and 2012, it was doomed by a series of legal battles. Thanks to this final nail in the coffin, the Achibueno River will continue to flow—a critical source of relief for the ecosystem and local community. This followed on the heels of multiple environmental victories for river protectors in Chile, as NRDC’s James Blair examined here. (Diario el Heraldo 05/11/2018)
The cost of the controversial Alto Maipo hydroelectric proposal in the Metropolitan region of Chile has risen to surpass US$ 3 billion. Opponents of the embattled project say it carries serious geological risks and presents a major threat to the Maipo River, the main source of water for Chile’s capital, Santiago. Yet, despite the potential ecological and economic catastrophe waiting to happen, the energy company AES Gener continues to view the project as profitable and has now reached an agreement with its main contractor with an expected date of completion by 2020. For more on the Alto Maipo Hydroelectric Project and its past challenges, check out the eighth slide on NRDC’s interactive story map. (La Tercera Pulso 05/09/2018; NRDC.org 02/07/2017)
Starting in August, 60 electric taxis will begin to circulate in Santiago, Chile, continuing the country’s long-term strategy to promote electromobility and reduce pollution. The Minister of Transportation explained that the taxis will be marked in some “entertaining” way so that people can differentiate them from those that work with diesel. The plan also includes the debut of 130 electric buses. It is expected that another 700 electric buses will be added this year. (Revista EI 05/07/2018)
The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) has purchased 100 electric cars, as it seeks to encourage the decarbonization of transport in public institutions. ICE purchased 100 units from Hyundai and expects to receive the vehicles within the next five months. The funds come from a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. The announcement comes right after President Carlos Alvarado stated that Costa Rica would eliminate gasoline and diesel from the transportation system. Alvarado's promise marks the first time that a reform of this type is discussed in Costa Rican politics, although it has been previously suggested by civil organizations such as Costa Rica Limpia. (La Nacion 05/10/2018; Ojo al clima 04/30/2018)
In Mexico, Fideicomisos Instituidos en Relación con la Agricultura (FIRA), the country’s development bank for the agriculture, fishing, forestry and agribusiness sectors will issue a 3 billion-peso green bond (approx. US$153 million). The Director General of FIRA, Rafael Gamboa González, explained the bond is expected to be placed in the local market in October and proceeds will be used to finance projects related to water efficiency, renewable energy and efficient agricultural production. (El Economista 05/09/2018)
The Colombian national development bank Financiera del Desarrollo (Findeter) will issue sustainable bonds – which combine both green projects and projects with positive social impacts – of up to 400 billion pesos (approx. US$139 million) during the second semester of the year. The bonds will be the first sustainable bonds placed in the local stock exchange, the Bolsa de Valores de Colombia, and are expected to be acquired by insurers, pension and severance funds, among others. (ComunicaRSE 05/07/2018)
Peru’s stock exchange, the Bolsa de Valores de Lima (BVL), launched a new guide for green bonds that seeks to drive the development of local green investments. The document highlights international best practices on transparency, information sharing and reporting. During the launch, Marco Antonio Zaldívar, president of the BVL, noted that Peru has significant potential for sustainability projects. (AméricaEconomía 05/06/2018)
Nicaragua’s Banco de la Producción and the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) signed a technical and financial agreement for US$ 30 million to support green credit lines. The green credit lines will be available for energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmentally sustainable projects in the agricultural sector such as biodigestors, efficient irrigation, and projects to reduce climate change impacts, among others. (El Nuevo Diario 05/03/2018)
As of May 4, Honduras had lost almost 42,000 hectares (104,000 acres) due to fires. The departments of Francisco Morazán and Olancho, located outside and northeast of the capital respectively, have been the most impacted by wildfires. On May 30, the Forestry Conservation Institute will launch a reforestation campaign to recover the country’s lost forests. Another threat to Honduras’ forests is the bark beetle (a pest that attacks pine forests). The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will support the country with a US$25 million loan to establish an early warning system to prevent severe bark beetle attacks and restore 34,000 ha (84,000 acres) of affected forests. According to IDB’s representative in Honduras, the overall objective of this loan is to protect the most important aquifers in the country. (La Prensa 05/06/2018; La Tribuna 05/04/2018)
Mexico has joined the global efforts of energy innovation, with one of the few multidisciplinary research groups for the development of electric energy from the oceans. Since 2017, Mexican scientists, in coordination with public agencies and private initiatives, have been evaluating the capacity of electric power generation using marine currents. This initiative is headed by the Mexican Center for Innovation in Ocean Energy (Cemie-Océano), which aims to invest in local research and development of cutting-edge technologies that promote the development of clean energy, the reduction of dependence on fossil fuels, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the promotion of sustainable growth that guarantees energy security. The oceanographic conditions of Mexico present regions with favorable conditions for the presence of intense marine currents and a significant variation of tidal ranges that can be exploited as an alternative source of renewable energies. Cemie-Océano has identified the Gulf of California and the Caribbean Sea as two key sites in Mexico for the development of research and application of technologies for the exploitation of ocean currents as sources of energy. (El Financiero 05/03/2018)
2018 is an election year for Mexico, and environmental NGOs know it. Thirty-one national and international environmental NGOs sent the presidential candidates a document with ten proposals to protect the country’s natural resources. The idea behind the proposals is to create an environmental agenda that will develop public policies to conserve nature. (El Universal 2/5/2018)
Tragically, two environmental activists were murdered in Colombia this week, both of whom opposed the Hidroituango mega-hydroelectric project currently in construction in the Antioquia department. On May 2, Hugo Albeiro George Perez was shot by two men on a motorcycle in the municipality of Puerto Valdivia. The 47-year-old was a member of the Association of Victims and People Affected by Megaprojects, which was demonstrating against the Hidroituango project on behalf of the community that lives below the dam wall. On May 8, Luis Alberto Torres Montoya, an environmentalist and artisanal gold miner, was also killed in Puerto Valdivia. Like, Albeiro, Torres was critical of the Hidroituango project for the its environmental impacts. Both participated in the Movimiento Ríos Vivos (Living Rivers Movement), which has called on authorities to investigate the murders. The government’s response will be especially visible given the March 2018 binding agreement that Colombia and 23 other Latin America governments signed in which they pledge to investigate and prosecute attacks on people defending their environments. (Semana Sostenible 05/09/2018; Unitas 05/04/2018; La Vanguardia 05/09/2018; CEPAL 04/03/2018; The Guardian 05/03/2018)