Latin America Green News: Cocaine trafficking is killing Central America’s forests, Argentina to manufacture electric vehicles, Chile launches electric vehicle rental
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May 12 – 18, 2017
Central American countries are facing a food crisis – a product of climate change that could soon leave countries in the region facing malnutrition and hunger problems. Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in particular depend heavily on basic grains such as maize, and beans that have struggled for the past few years to grow due to the extreme droughts brought on by a strong El Niño cycle. In the department of Ocotepeque, Honduras for example, almost 44 percent of families lost between 50 and 75 percent of their maize and bean crops because of droughts in recent years. The Trinational Border Community of the Lempa River, an autonomous entity promoting development and cooperation between the three countries, is working on a Zero Hunger policy to help communities improve food security. (Estrategia y Negocios 5/16/2017)
The National Development Bank of Brazil has raised more than US$1 billion to finance new or existing renewable energy projects within the country through the issuance of green bonds. According to BNDES, proceeds from the issuance will be used for new or existing wind and solar power projects across Brazil. Since 2003, BNDES has approved 87 wind sector projects worth approximately US$8.9 billion. This green bond issuance is part of a growing effort to finance renewable energy projects in the region. The bonds will be traded in the Luxembourg Green Exchange, a new mechanism that was founded last year to accommodate a growing market in the renewable energy and broader climate change sector. (PV Magazine, 5/10/17)
In related news, Brazil’s micro and mini power generation is growing, with solar energy representing a majority of the sector. As of May 11, power sector regulator Aneel announced that micro and mini generation currently produce 113.2 MW of energy. Solar energy represented 79.35 MW of that total capacity, which was produced through 10,280 distributed energy (DG) systems. DG systems have the advantage of being produced much closer to points of consumption, reducing energy transmission losses. Aneel expects current capacity to exponentially grow by 2024 in this sector, reaching 4.5 GW that will be used by 1.2 million consumers. (Renewables Now, 5/12/17)
Colombia has launched “Exposolar”, a festival with the goal of promoting solar energy use throughout the country. The event will take place in Medellin from the May 19 – 21 and will count with representation from 140 entities from 15 different countries in addition to key local stakeholders of the solar industry. Carlos Alberto Yepes, the organizer of Exposolar, hopes the event will attract the general public and give them a sense of ownership over the country’s transition to renewable sources of energy. (Portafolio, 5/10/17)
Chinese electric car manufacturer BYD will invest US$100 million for the construction of a new electric vehicle plant in Argentina. The government has authorized the investment project and expects 300 buses to be built in the factory within its first year of operation. The project is expected to generate about 300 jobs, and will produce buses that are one hundred percent electric. Although these units are expected to be more expensive than conventional urban buses, their costs of operation can be up to 75 percent lower. Isaac Attie, a spokesperson for the local BYD subsidiary, applauded the move stating “this type of vehicle fits perfectly into the government’s broader agenda of promoting renewable energies” due to its reliance on electric batteries rather than fossil fuels. (Telam, 5/16/17)
Europcar Tattersall, Enel, and the Municipality of Las Condes in Santiago launched the first fleet of electric cars and hybrids for rent in Chile this week. The “Ecological Europcar" fleet will include Toyota Prius, Renault ZOE, and Hyundai lonig models, which will rent for approximately US$74 per day. The purpose of the alliance is to provide the technology to the public and to eventually cut the rental rates in half to be comparable in cost to similar conventional car models. At the launch of the collaboration, Las Condes Mayor Joaquín Lavín presented the first green stamps that enable all electric cars of residents living in the municipality to use free public parking. (El Mercurio 5/12/2017)
New findings from the Oregon State University indicate a link exists between cocaine production and the alarming rates at which forests are disappearing in Central America. Oddly enough, it is not the actual cultivation of the coca plant which is contributing to the deforestation but rather the enormous amounts of land traffickers purchase to launder illegal profits. “Starting in the early 2000s, the United States-led drug enforcement in the Caribbean and Mexico pushed drug traffickers into places that were harder to patrol, like the large, forested areas of central America,” said David Wrathall, an Oregon State University geographer and co-author on the study. “A flood of illegal drug money entered these places and these drug traffickers needed a way that they could spend it.” To solve the problem, traffickers bought and fenced off large parcels of forests and cut down the trees to build cattle ranches. Researchers estimate that cocaine trafficking may account for up to 30 percent of the total forest loss in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua over the past decade. A total of 30 to 60 percent of the forest losses occurred within nationally and internationally designated protected areas, threatening conservation efforts to maintain forest carbon sinks, ecological services, and rural and indigenous livelihoods. (Eco Diario 5/17/2017)
This week's blog features contributions from Michael Khayan.