Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
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May 19th – 25th, 2016
President Michelle Bachelet of Chile announced that the solar park El Pelícano and the wind farm San Juan have signed an agreement to provide, by 2018, 60% of the energy necessary to run Santiago’s metro lines. Both renewable energy projects will require a government investment of over $500 million dollars, while the project overall is expected to prevent the emission of 130,000 tons of CO2. The amount of energy provided by El Pelícano and San Juan for the metro will be equivalent to the energy necessary to power 104,000 homes. In total, the metro is expected to receive 40% of its energy from the Chilean electric distribution company Chilectra; 42% from El Pelícano; and 18% from San Juan. (Energias Renovables 5/23/2016)
Argentine President Mauricio Macri recently launched a decade-long energy plan to attract billions of dollars in renewable energy investment and greatly increase the amount of electricity produced from these sources. The first phase of the program was an auction last week that called for companies to bid on contracts to produce 1,000 MW of power from renewable sources. Officials expect the investments to total some $2.1 billion and the winning projects to begin generating power in late 2018. The auction is part of a bigger plan to increase renewable energy output to 8% of total power generation by the end of next year and to 20% by the end of 2025. Argentina currently gets less than 2% of its power from renewable energy. (Ambito 5/19/2016)
In Mexico, the lack of investment in solar rooftops from commercial banks for small projects continues to limit the expansion of distributed solar generation. Participants at the Renewable Energy Congress this week acknowledged that though distributed generation technology is mature, reliable and competitively priced, financial institutions remain resistant to larger investment. Estimates conclude that the development of solar energy generation for self-supply systems could achieve the national goal of providing 35% of electricity from renewable sources by 2024. (Jornada 5/19/2016)
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Climate change is threatening the biodiversity of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, in three particular ways, according to the director of the park, Carlos Ramón Godínez Reyes. He states that corals, which form the park’s extended reef and act as the foundation of the area’s food chain, are sensitive to higher ocean temperatures. Second, hurricanes and groundswells can fragment the corals, and the particular species of coral in Cabo Pulmo has a slim chance of surviving once it is displaced from its ecosystem. Finally, strong ocean waves can fill the corals with sand, interfering with their ability to survive. (BSC Noticias 3/22/2016)
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon announced the appointment of Patricia Espinosa of Mexico, as the next Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Espinosa comes into the role with more than 30 years of experience in international relations, including her most recent post as Ambassador to Mexico in Vienna and her previous work as Secretary of Foreign Affairs for Mexico. Espinosa has experience in the areas of climate change, global governance, sustainable development, gender equality and human rights. (EFE Verde 3/19/2016)
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) awarded the Ingas, an indigenous group in Colombia, the Equatorial Prize for their commitment to tackle climate change. Throughout the years, Ingas have developed models for sustainable development by substituting the illegal amapola used in the production of heroin and working towards building peace and preserving surrounding ecosystems. Made up by a population of 3,600 people, the Ingas fought and obtained rights to 22,283 hectares of their ancestral land, where they eradicated the amapola in an effort to promote peace, bring an end to the drug trade and push for the protection of the surrounding mountains and the páramo, an alpine tundra ecosystem found in just a few parts of the world. (Semana Sostenible 5/20/2016)
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a new report highlighting the state of the environment around the world, with a focus on air quality, climate change, loss of biodiversity and water scarcity. According to the report the air quality of urban areas in Latin America has gone down, greenhouse gas emissions have increased, and water and other natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce. In 2012, there were 138,000 deaths associated with air pollution. Problems associated with climate change, including the degradation of corals, melting of glaciers, and the loss of agricultural productivity in tropical zones will cost Latin America and the Caribbean an estimate of $100 billion dollars. One of the ways to help mitigate climate change, the report adds, is to reforest 50 million hectares and restore 200 million hectares of damaged land. (Actualidad 3/21/2016)
As the threat of climate change mounts, an initiative in Central America called “Clima y Café” aims to improve coffee-growing methods. The effort, led by a German non-profit called Foundation Hanns R. Neumann, is working with a group of 1,500 coffee growers in a region shared by Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Program coordinator Pablo Ruiz says that the aim of the project is to reevaluate the agricultural systems in Central America as it is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. Soil at temperatures higher than 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit can kill coffee bush roots and temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit can kill the leaves. So far, Clima y Café has been successful in keeping the soil at 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The organization will continue working with farmers in Central America and researching best practices to strengthen the coffee bush roots and find innovative ways to protect the plant from rising temperatures. (La Prensa Grafica 5/23/2016)
In the past 14 years, at least 20 different regions in four different cities in Bolivia have experienced an average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius as well as a decrease in water supply. This is according to a study, called Atlas of the Socio-Environmental Lowlands and Yungas of Bolivia, recently published in La Paz. One of the key goals, the study concludes, should be to redirect financing for sustainable development that is low in greenhouse gas emissions and does not decrease agricultural production. In addition, the Atlas adds that a global agreement to address climate change is necessary to prevent global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. (Radio Habana Cuba 5/22/2016)
Using the slogan “one step closer to resilience,” the Nicaraguan Red Cross launched a campaign that aims to provide awareness and education for better risk management in the face of climate change. The main goal is to provide accurate information about climate change and risk prevention during natural disasters for a region that is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change. Information from the campaign will be disseminated across the country through posters, cartoons, songs, billboards, blankets, brochures and ads on buses. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation is helping to finance the campaign. (El 19 5/23/2016)