Latin America Green News: 4/14 - 4/20/2017

Electric and hybrid vehicle sales skyrocket in Mexico, Peru in hot water over illegal logging, Laguna Aculeo might soon dry up

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 March 14 – 20, 2017

Climate Change

Laguna de Aculeo, a former favorite summer vacation spot for many Chileans, is under threat of drying up because of climate change. The lagoon should have a water level of five meters but that has not occurred in seven years; it is currently only 80 centimeters deep. Agronomist Felipe Martin from the company Mas Recursos Naturales says that the steep decline in water level is due to “the clear effects of climate change.” He explained that there has been a 15 percent reduction in precipitation and a 2 degree Celsius increase in average temperature that have caused a strain on water replenishment. A complete dry up of the lagoon could cause shortages in drinking water for surrounding communities, a significant loss of diversity in the area, and competition between the tourism and agriculture sectors for water resources. (El Dinamo 4/19/2017)

Deforestation

An investigation by the Associated Press has uncovered a litany of problems with Peru’s supposed legal logging operations. Exposing deep government corruption, the search pointed to false records, fake permits, extortion, and lax enforcement of anti-illegal logging laws as the cause for the failure of Peru’s efforts to thwart illegal deforestation in the Amazon. As part of environmental enforcement requirements set by a 2006 free trade agreement with the Peru, the U.S. has provided over $US90 million in forest-protection aid but so far has not much to show for it. The success in catching illegal exports of Peru’s previous forest inspection chief, Rolando Navarro, caused him to become the target of death threats that led him to be fired by then President Humala and eventually flee to the U.S. The once lucrative logging industry in Peru is now facing millions in fines and a decline in interest from U.S. companies and buyers. (AP News 4/19/2017) 

Big Blue Marble Explorer

Brazil’s deforestation rate registered a 29 percent increase in 2016, marking a second consecutive year of increase. Although the country has attempted to launch efforts to decrease deforestation, satellite images from the National Institute of Space Research show the loss of 800,000 hectares of Amazon forest in 2016 which is the highest it has been since 2008. Concerning is the fact that more than half of the deforested land was recorded in properties required by law to preserve 80 percent of the original land. Environmental activists argue that laws that require Amazon protection are ineffective and unenforced. Despite the more efficient use of land, cattle ranching continues to be the primary cause of deforestation. (El Observador 4/13/17)

Transportation

The sale of hybrid and electric vehicles in Mexico has skyrocketed, an encouraging trend that could contribute to bringing down greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants in the country. The 593 units sold in January 2017 marked a 323 percent increase over sales during the same month in 2016. 564 of the vehicles were hybrids and the remaining 29 electric. The sales of these vehicles were spread out throughout Mexico, with various states making up about three percent of total sales. Mexico City was the largest exception to this rule, making up 42 percent of total sales. Only two states out of Mexico’s 31 did not record any sales. (Forbes Mexico, 4/17/17)

Renewables

The Mexican Association of Private Capital (Amexcap) has announced that US$8 billion in private equity funds are ready to be invested in the energy sector. According to Amexcap director, Maria Ariza, US$14 billion have previously invested, and another US$6 billion are currently invested in existing projects. Ariza credited Mexico’s energy reform as being responsible for the opening to this investment. “Since the launch of the energy reform, the country became attractive to funds that were looking for larger and longer-term investments," she said recently at an energy forum in Mexico City. Of existing investments, half of the funds are directed towards industries such as renewables, with the other half being directed towards oil and gas. (El Economista, 4/17/17)

Opportunities for renewable energy all exist in smaller countries in the region. The Dominican Republic will invest US$780 million to create eight renewable energy projects that will generate 361 megawatts of energy by 2018. The investment will be comprised of three solar and five wind projects to add to three similar projects that are already in operation. In Guatemala, the shift towards renewables has come through both large-scale projects similar to those in the Dominican Republic but also individual, household projects. At least 1,500 individuals produce 5.4 megawatts, most of which is used for domestic consumption. That number is expected to increase, as the cost to install solar in a house in Guatemala has dropped to about US$500. Since 2015, Guatemala has also benefited from the Horus Energy photovoltaic power plant, which is the second largest in Latin America and the largest in Central America and the Caribbean. (Forbes Mexico, 4/6/17 Prensa Latina 4/18/17)

This week's blog features contributions from Michael Khayan.

About the Authors

Maria Martinez

PA, Latin America Project & Chief Program Officer

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