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The next year promises to be interesting in environmental issues for Latin America. In the midst of global crises such as climate change and biodiversity loss, leftist governments with more green narratives have started positioning themselves in the region so that in 2023, they have to demonstrate whether they are capable of delivering on their promises. Gave shelter to many countries under one flag. Combating deforestation, a wound shared by the region, will continue to be a challenge that will mark the agenda.
The challenge of not being fatal to Mexico and environmentalists
Mexico reaches 2023 with great challenges in environmental issues. The country became the deadliest in 2021 for environmentalists and land protectors, and the trend doesn’t seem to be reversing. According to Global Witness, in the last ten years, Mexico has overtaken Brazil and Colombia in this black list. Added to this, massive budget cuts on the one hand, and the government’s commitment to large infrastructure projects on the other, clash with sustainability and environmental protection. A Mayan train crossing the Yucatan Peninsula is set to be inaugurated in December 2023, despite protests from ecologists, archaeologists and indigenous groups who oppose the project and warn of irreversible damage to the region’s ecosystems. Only for the construction work of Section 5, 500 hectares of forest has been cut. The work, one of the most emblematic of the López Obrador government, aims to reactivate the economy of the Mexican southeast, one of the country’s poorest regions.
This 2022 was also a year of severe drought in Mexico, with 70% of the country facing water problems during the summer. A serious crisis that has brought to the fore the problems of water management that the country has been facing for decades. These droughts have created a crisis in rural areas that affects agricultural production all-round. One of the fundamental challenges in Mexico this year has been poor air quality, a silent epidemic that kills between 8,000 and 14,000 people each year in Mexico City alone, the capital and city with the highest population density.
Chile wants to be an environmental leader
A milestone in environmental matters in Chile will occur on April 3 when the first meeting of the region’s agriculture and environment ministers will be held in the city of Viña del Mar, to discuss carbon dioxide emissions and methane reduction in agri-food. and waste area. They will do so convened by Gabriel Boric, Minister of Agriculture in the government of Esteban Valenzuela. “If methane emissions are not reduced this decade, we will lose our chance of avoiding warming in the short term. This challenge will not be met without reducing or curbing emissions from agriculture. And in recent years In the U.S., technological solutions have emerged that will allow countries such as Chile, Brazil or the European Union to produce meat and milk with lower emissions,” explains Marcelo Mena, director of the Climate Action Center of the Catholic University. from Valparaiso.
Boric’s government will be one year old next March and according to Mena, one of the challenges is to take up bills regarding the main environmental emergency in Chile: reforming the environmental impact assessment system, which facilitates investments that contribute to decarbonisation. A biological waste law, a new decontamination plan for Santiago de Chile, and updating air quality standards.
Brazil, turn with Lula
The existence of the Amazon depended, to a large extent, on the outcome of the elections in Brazil, and now one of Lula da Silva’s main challenges is to stop deforestation: Bolsonaro left as a legacy 45,486 square kilometers of vegetation, According to official data, and an atmosphere of complete impunity in the jungle.
Lula promised “zero deforestation”, and to achieve this, the most important thing would be to rebuild the environmental police and all public conservation policies, which have practically ceased to exist in recent years. There will be very few resources, but Lula will, yes, be able to rely on the Amazon Fund, where foreign countries (notably Germany and Norway) collect donations to preserve the forest, a tool neglected in previous terms. Was.
It will also feature the famous experience of Environment Minister Marina Silva. During Lula’s first government, which began in 2003, he implemented policies that succeeded in reducing deforestation by more than 80%. Brazil will also launch a National Climate Authority, a cross-cutting technical position that will ensure all ministries align in the same direction against climate change, and an Indigenous Peoples Ministry, which will be headed by one of the country’s leading activists. may be captured. , Sonia Gujazara. The expulsion of invaders and the legal recognition of indigenous lands by the paralyzed state will be the main battlegrounds in recent years.
The future of the Amazon and its role in the global climate will be key to Brazil’s new ‘green diplomacy’: Lula wants to gather all the Amazonian countries in a summit in the first half of the new year, and to be hosted by Brazil. COP-30, in 2025.
Colombia will measure environmental promises
In 2022, Colombia elects for the first time a leftist government of Gustavo Petro, who not only gave an environmental speech during his campaign, but also has environmental prize winner Francia Marquez as vice president. Goldman Environmental Prize This means that the challenge of fulfilling the environmental promises in the country during 2023 is many. However, there are two issues that will be important. The first is the energy transition, as Petro and Environment Minister Irène Vélez has indicated on several occasions that the country should begin to abandon its dependence on coal and hydrocarbons. But how to do this in a fair way, taking into account not only Colombia’s fiscal landscape – whose income largely depends on the sector – but also the communities and workers who make a living from these projects, is unclear. . Hence, it is expected that there will be more clarity in this roadmap next year.
The second challenge, and one that has gone relatively unnoticed in 2022, is deforestation, the biggest trigger for Colombia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The environment ministry, led by Susanna Muhammad, decided to replace the previous government’s military strategy against deforestation with the Artemisa mission, which was strongly criticized for violating human rights of farming communities. According to the government, the new tool to tackle the problem – which has ravaged more than 3 million hectares in the past 20 years – will be to leverage the land business in the territories, promote environmental education and generate agreements with . community so that forests can be conserved.
Venezuela, danger from mining
Venezuela has been struck by widespread devastation that has followed the exploitation of the Orinoco mining arc, an area in the south of the country that covers 12% of the national territory and that has been subject to extraction by decision of President Nicolás Maduro Minerals from all items with serious consequences for the area. It’s been five years since intensive use of the field was authorized, which has allowed the Venezuelan government to extract income with completely opaque management in recent years, when the collapse of the oil industry has reduced production and sales to a minimum. done. Financial sanctions have been imposed. What happens in the Orinoco Mining Arc is terrifying. This week, Hollywood actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio posted on his social networks a photo of the magnitude of the disaster that hundreds of Venezuelan NGOs have been complaining about for years. One of them is SOS Orinoco, which has devoted itself entirely to investigating what is happening.
The UN report gathered warnings this year about uncontrolled mining activity south of Orinoco, which is already causing more environmental damage and a serious human rights crisis with reports of labor and sexual exploitation, slavery and the presence of criminal groups The crisis has happened. And even the Colombian guerrillas of the ELN are, according to those reports, involved in the exploitation of gold, coltan, diamonds and bauxite in this extensive region with the consent of the Venezuelan authorities.
Bolivia and its forest unrest
Bolivia has works that it takes along and has been neglected for years. First, to combat deforestation and degradation of the Amazon. According to a report tabled last September, the country, along with Brazil, concentrates 90% of tropical forest disturbances. Invasion or subjugation, in addition to expanding agricultural boundaries for the planting of transgenic crops—by private companies with executive approval—is the main cause of deforestation, which has caused the country to lose more than six million hectares. forest, which equates to a 9.5% decrease in tree cover since 2000, according to a report by Global Forest Watch.
Second, and which has become more complex over the years, is the supervision of gold mining within protected natural areas and indigenous territories. The gold rush has introduced mercury contamination to rivers and the ecosystem, as well as risks to the health of indigenous people living in the Madidi, one of Bolivia’s largest protected areas, with an extension of 1.8 million hectares, in the northwest is located in country. Chinese and Colombian companies, as well as Bolivian mining cooperatives, a sector that exploits gold with dredges and mercury, both legally and illegally, under the current executive as well as the government of former President Evo Morales.