Inter Press Service » Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Mon, 22 Dec 2014 21:25:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Only a Few Drops of Water at the Lima Climate Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/only-a-few-drops-of-water-at-the-lima-climate-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=only-a-few-drops-of-water-at-the-lima-climate-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/only-a-few-drops-of-water-at-the-lima-climate-summit/#comments Sat, 29 Nov 2014 14:42:45 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138001 The Pirá Paraná or Apoparis river, a tributary of the Amazon, as it runs through the San Miguel indigenous community in the Colombian region of Vaupés. Latin America has 30 percent of the world’s fresh water. Credit: María Cristina Vargas/IPS

The Pirá Paraná or Apoparis river, a tributary of the Amazon, as it runs through the San Miguel indigenous community in the Colombian region of Vaupés. Latin America has 30 percent of the world’s fresh water. Credit: María Cristina Vargas/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Nov 29 2014 (IPS)

Although it is one of the victims of global warming, water will not be given a place of importance at the COP20 climate change conference to be held Dec. 1-12 in Lima, Peru.

Climate change already threatens water supplies for agriculture due to the reduction in the availability of fresh water, which is expected to be aggravated over the next decades. It also causes drought, torrential rainfall, flooding and a rise in the sea level, which together affect the global water situation.

“Water is a priority in adaptation,” Lina Dabbagh, an activist with the Climate Action Network International (CAN-I), told Tierramérica. “In Latin America it’s an extremely serious matter. But the idea is not to associate it with the international climate change negotiations, because the issue has its space in other forums.”

Dabbagh, who will attend the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was referring to the inclusion of water in discussions of the Sustainable Development Goals – which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals for the post-2015 development agenda – and the U.N. inter-agency coordination mechanism for all freshwater and sanitation related issues, U.N. Water.

The schedule for the conference only includes four panels that refer to water: “Water holds the key for mitigation, adaptation and for building resilience: towards a climate deal”, “Africa & Caribbean South-South knowledge exchange on Water Security & Climate Resilient Development”, “A new Security Agenda: safeguarding water, food, energy and health security in a changing climate”, and “Mountains and water – from understanding to action”.

Water is also mentioned, in passing, in the preparatory documents drawn up by civil society, whose parallel meeting, the People’s Forum, will take place Dec. 8-11 in the Peruvian capital.

The synthesis report of Grupo Perú COP 20, an umbrella that groups a wide variety of social organisations, does not refer to water, although the group does mention it in its position on adaptation to climate change, which along with mitigation and loss and damage are the three pillars of the talks in Lima.

The organisations are demanding guaranteed access to water and food security in a context of climate change through concrete actions based on financing, capacity-building, technology transfer, energy efficiency and knowledge management.

For its part, the People’s Summit agenda has eight main themes including global warming and climate change, energy and low-carbon development, and sustainable territorial governance.

This last point covers the preservation of ecosystems, sustainable management of nature and harmonious coexistence with people, as well as protection and administration of water.

“Water insecurity is a threat,” said Alberto Palombo, secretary of the executive committee of the Inter-American Water Resources Network (IWRN).

“That’s why we have to talk about intelligent integrated management of water resources. The existing problem isn’t one of physical scarcity but of adequate management. Availability is affected by climate change,” the representative of IWRN, which groups governments, social organisations, companies and academics, told Tierramérica.

Latin America has 30 percent of the world’s water resources, but that doesn’t mean it is free of problems, such as unequal distribution of water.

According to the IWRN, three of the region’s biggest watersheds account for less than 10 percent of the available water, due to overuse: the Valley of Mexico, where the capital is located; the South Pacific, which includes Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina; and the Río de la Plata, including Argentina and Uruguay.

U.N. Water reports that Mexico has 3,822 cubic metres per year of water available per person, while it has consumed 17 percent of its freshwater reserves, which makes it one of the most critical cases in Latin America.

The rest of the region is doing much better, the U.N. agency says. The figures for Guatemala are 8,480 and 2.6 percent; Brazil 43,528 and 0.86 percent; and Argentina 21,325 and 4.3 percent, respectively.

Las Canoas lake near the Nicaraguan capital, which is drying up as a result of climate change, leaving locals without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

Las Canoas lake near the Nicaraguan capital, which is drying up as a result of climate change, leaving locals without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

Chile and Peru have abundant water, with 52,854 and 63,159 cubic metres per year per person, respectively. They also have relatively low proportions of freshwater exhaustion: just under four percent in Chile and under one percent in Peru.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 20 litres per capita per day should be assured to cover basic needs.

But parts of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela suffer from unsustainable water use and are exposed to water stress.

The report “Water and climate change adaptation in the Americas” by the Regional Policy Dialog (RPD) on Water and Climate Change Adaptation in the Americas says a growing number of people in the region live in areas with medium to high pressure on water resources.

That includes people who have less than 1,000 cubic metres per capita of water, who will total between 34 and 93 million by 2020 and between 101 and 200 million by 2050.

“Water suffers some of the major impacts of climate change. That is why we want to link the climate agenda with that of human rights,” because they overlap, said Dabbagh.

The activist complained that “people have very little information, no one tells them what’s going on, local efforts and local solutions are needed.”

In March, the states parties to the UNFCCC are to present their national mitigation plans, which should take into account water treatment.

“We need to guarantee resources for prevention and adaptation, apply innovative financial mechanisms, improve management mechanisms, build green infrastructure, and restore and preserve watersheds,” Palombo suggested.

If the current trends in recovery and consumption aren’t turned around, Mexico City will no longer be able to guarantee water supplies by 2031, Bogotá will reach that point in 2033, Santiago in 2043 and Rio de Janeiro in 2050, according to IWRN estimates.

Activists say it will be necessary to wait for another major conference for water to be granted the importance it has in climate change and sustainable development.

That will be the seventh World Water Forum, which under the theme “Water for our future” will bring together governments, companies, non-governmental organisations and academics in the South Korean cities of Daegu and Gyeongbuk Apr. 12-15, 2015.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Inequality in Mexico Is All About Wageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/inequality-in-mexico-is-all-about-wages/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-in-mexico-is-all-about-wages http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/inequality-in-mexico-is-all-about-wages/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:09:50 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137848 Street vendors on Moneda street in the historic centre of Mexico City. The huge informal economy is one expression of the enormous pay inequality in the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Street vendors on Moneda street in the historic centre of Mexico City. The huge informal economy is one expression of the enormous pay inequality in the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Nov 20 2014 (IPS)

Sandra G. works Monday through Saturday in a beauty salon on the south side of Mexico City, where she earns slightly more than the minimum wage, which in this country is just five dollars a day.

The 30-year-old, who studied cosmetology and asked that her last name not be published, does beauty treatments and sells products like skin cream and lotions, which boost her income thanks to small commissions on her monthly sales.

But the pressure to reach the minimum sales target of 3,000 dollars a month makes the work “quite stressful,” she said.

“The owner told me that since she was just starting up her business she could only pay minimum wage, but that if I was good with sales, I could increase my income,” she told IPS.

Sandra said she and her husband, an engineer, get by but without anything left over for luxuries.“There has been no in-depth effort to tackle the causes of the poverty that comes from the poor distribution of income, and the concentration of wealth and of capital in general. The approach is to attack the final effects, one of which is wages.” -- Alicia Puyana

“My husband was unemployed for a couple of months and things were really tight,” she said. “He found work and that gave us some breathing room, but we’re worried that the possibility of prospering is far off because wages are too low compared to the cost of living.”

Stories like Sandra’s are typical and illustrative of the inequality that reigns in this country of 118 million people. But the current debate over a rise in the minimum wage seems to ignore the reality of millions.

“The issue of wages is a question of inequality,” said Miguel López, a member of the Observatory of Wages at the private Iberoamerican University of Puebla, a city in central Mexico. “Wages can be a mechanism to mitigate inequality. But there are more workers and they get a smaller piece of the pie. It’s a problem of redistribution.”

In its 2014 report, published in April, the Observatory underlined that “the absolute impoverishment of the working class is reflected in the reduction of the cost of labour, the more intense exploitation of the working day, and the growing precariousness of working conditions, housing and living conditions in general.”

The current minimum wage of around five dollars a day is the lowest in Latin America, followed by Nicaragua, Haiti and Bolivia, according to the Observatory.

But the most worrisome aspect is the enormous wage gap, as reflected by a 2013 study by the global management consultancy, Hay Group, on the difference between the pay earned by senior employees and new workers.

According to the report, the base salary of an executive in Mexico City is 10,000 dollars a month, just 417 dollars less than what an executive in a similar company in New York earns. But in the United States, the federal minimum wage is 7.25 dollars an hour, compared to 5.05 dollars a day in the Mexican capital.

The Presidents’ Compensation Study by the international human resources consultancy Mercer found that in Mexico the CEO of a large company earned 121 times the minimum wage – the biggest gap in Latin America.
Article 123 of the Mexican constitution states that “the minimum wage in general should be sufficient to meet the normal needs of the head of the family, in material, social and cultural terms, and to provide obligatory education for the children.”

According to official figures, Mexico’s economically active population totals 52 million, of whom more than 29 million work in the informal sector. The official unemployment rate stands at 4.8 percent and underemployment at seven percent.

“Factory of the poor”

A study by the Multidisciplinary Research Centre (CAM) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico found that 4.4 million workers in Mexico earn from one to three times the minimum wage.

The report, “Factory of the Poor”, published in May, adds that just over two million workers earn from three to five times the minimum wage.

According to the report, the number of Mexicans who earn up to two times the minimum wage grew nearly three percent from 2007 to 2013, while the number of those who earned three to five times the minimum wage shrank 23 percent – a reflection of the impoverishment of the middle class.

Ernesto C. earns nearly 5,000 dollars a month, plus a productivity bonus, at one of the largest private banks in Mexico.

“The pay is good, it’s at the same level as other banks in the country and is similar to what is earned by colleagues from the United States who I deal with,” said the 34-year-old executive, who lives with his girlfriend in an upscale neighbourhood on the west side of the city.

Ernesto, who also asked that his last name not be used, and who drives the latest model SUV and spends nearly 300 dollars on an evening out, said he obtained financing to study abroad.

“When I came back, it wasn’t like I had expected – it was actually hard for me to find a good job. But I finally found one and I managed to climb up the ladder quickly,” he said.

The Federal District sets an example

On Sept. 25, Miguel Mancera, Mexico City’s left-wing mayor, presented a proposal to raise the minimum wage for city employees to six dollars a day as of June 2015, with the aim of extending the measure to the private sector.

The study “Policy for restoring the minimum wage in Mexico and the Federal District; Proposal for an accord”, drawn up by a group of experts, which forms the basis of Mancera’s offer, reported that the real value of wages has gone down 71 percent at a national level.

That reduction, the document says, pulls down other remunerations, just as “the minimum wage affects the entire income structure.”

Alicia Puyana, a researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Mexico, says the fight against poverty has been given higher priority than efforts to reduce inequality.

“There has been no in-depth effort to tackle the causes of the poverty that comes from the poor distribution of income, and the concentration of wealth and of capital in general. The approach is to attack the final effects, one of which is wages,” she said.

In Mexico, 53 million people are poor, according to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policies.

By contrast, the number of billionaires, and their fortunes, grew between 2013 and this year, says the report “Billionaire Census 2014”, produced by the Swiss bank UBS and the Singapore Wealth-X consultancy.

The number of billionaires in Mexico grew from 22 to 27 and their combined income increased from 137 billion to 169 billion dollars.

“We need a social pact and a real policy on wages. What better social policy could there be than one that directly tackles the distribution of income?” López said.

The Multidisciplinary Research Centre says the minimum wage needed to cover a basic diet would be 14 dollars a day, while the Mexico City Federal District government sets it at 13 dollars a day.

“Raising the minimum wage 15 or 20 percent is just a crumb. It doesn’t compensate the general decline, which could be remedied with a progressive fiscal policy, to capture part of the major income flows,” Puyana said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Panama’s Indigenous People Want to Harness the Riches of Their Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/panamas-indigenous-people-want-to-harness-the-riches-of-their-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=panamas-indigenous-people-want-to-harness-the-riches-of-their-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/panamas-indigenous-people-want-to-harness-the-riches-of-their-forests/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 00:00:58 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137302 Emberá dwellings in a clearing in the rainforest. The Emberá-Wounaan territory covers nearly 4,400 sq km and the indigenous people want to manage the riches of their forest to pull their families out of poverty. Credit: Government of Panama

Emberá dwellings in a clearing in the rainforest. The Emberá-Wounaan territory covers nearly 4,400 sq km and the indigenous people want to manage the riches of their forest to pull their families out of poverty. Credit: Government of Panama

By Emilio Godoy
PANAMA CITY, Oct 22 2014 (IPS)

For indigenous people in Panama, the rainforest where they live is not only their habitat but also their spiritual home, and their link to nature and their ancestors. The forest holds part of their essence and their identity.

“Forests are valuable to us because they bring us benefits, but not just oxygen,” Emberá chief Cándido Mezúa, the president of the National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP), told Tierramérica.

“It is organic matter, minerals in the forest floor, forms of life related to the customs of indigenous peoples,” added Mezúa, the seniormost chief of one of Panama’s seven native communities, who live in five collectively-owned indigenous territories or “comarcas”.

In this tropical Central American country, indigenous people manage the forests in their territories through community forestry companies (EFCs). But Mezúa complained about the difficulties in setting up the EFCs, which ends up hurting the forests and the welfare of their guardians, the country’s indigenous communities.

Of Panama’s 3.8 million people, 417,000 are indigenous, and they live on 16,634 sq km – 20 percent of the national territory.

According to a map published in April by the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), drawn up with the support of United Nations agencies, 62 percent of the national territory – 46,800 sq km – is covered in forest.

Cándido Mezúa (centre), the high chief of the Emberá-Wounaan territory, is calling for an integral focus in forest management that would benefit Panama’s indigenous people. Credit: Courtesy of COONAPIP

Cándido Mezúa (centre), the high chief of the Emberá-Wounaan territory, is calling for an integral focus in forest management that would benefit Panama’s indigenous people. Credit: Courtesy of COONAPIP

And this Central American country has 104 protected areas that cover 35 percent of the national territory of 75,517 sq km.

But each year 200 sq km of forests are lost, warns ANAM.

The EFCs “are an effort that has not been well-developed. They merely extract wood; the value chain has not been developed, and the added value ends up outside the comarca,” said Mezúa, the high chief of the Emberá-Wounaan comarca on the border with Colombia, where his ethnic group also lives, as well as in Ecuador.

The indigenous leader said the EFCs help keep the forests standing in the long term, with rotation systems based on the value of the different kinds of wood in the management areas. “But it is the big companies that reap the benefits. The comarcas do not receive credit and can’t put their land up as collateral; they depend on development aid,” he complained.

Only five EFCs are currently operating, whose main activity is processing wood.

In 2010, two indigenous comarcas signed a 10-year trade agreement with the Panamanian company Green Life Investment to supply it with raw materials. But they only extract 2,755 cubic metres a year of wood.

The average yield in the comarcas is 25 cubic metres of wood per sq km and a total of around 8,000 cubic metres of wood are extracted annually in the indigenous comarcas, bringing in some 275,000 dollars in revenue.

In five years, the plan is to have 2,000 sq km of managed forests, the indigenous leader explained.

The government’s Programme for Indigenous Business Development (PRODEI) has provided these projects with just over 900,000 dollars.

Community management of forests in indigenous territories is a pending issue in Panama. Tropical forest in the province of Bocas del Toro, in the north of the country. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Community management of forests in indigenous territories is a pending issue in Panama. Tropical forest in the province of Bocas del Toro, in the north of the country. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

But only a small proportion of forests in indigenous territories is managed. Of the 9,944 forest permits issued by ANAM in 2013, only 732 went to the comarcas.

Looking to U.N. REDD

In Mezúa’s view, the hope for indigenous people is that the EFCs will be bolstered by the U.N. climate change mitigation action plan, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

“We want to pay for the conservation and sustainable use of forests,” the coordinator of REDD+ in Panama, Gabriel Labbate, told Tierramérica. “It is of critical importance to find a balance between conservation and development. But REDD+ will not resolve the forest crisis by itself.”

REDD+ Panama is currently preparing the country for the 2014-2017 period and designing the platform for making the initiative public, the grievance and redress mechanism, the review of the governance structures, and the first steps for the operational phase, which should start in June 2015.

UN-REDD was launched in 2007 and has 56 developing country partners. Twenty-one of them are drawing up national plans, for which they received a combined total of 67.8 million dollars. The Latin American countries included in this group are Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama and Paraguay.

Because forests trap carbon from the atmosphere and store it in tree trunks and the soil, it is essential to curb deforestation in order to reduce the release of carbon. In addition, trees play a key role in the water cycle through evaporation and precipitation.

Panama’s indigenous people believe that because of the position that trees occupy in their worldview, they are in a unique position to participate in REDD+, which incorporates elements like conservation, improvement of carbon storage and the sustainable management of forests.

But in February 2013, their representatives withdrew from the pilot programme, arguing that it failed to respect their right to free, prior and informed consultation, undermined their collective right to land, and violated the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

They only returned in December, after the government promised to correct the problems they had protested about.

In REDD+ there should be a debate on “the safeguards, the benefits, the price of carbon, regulations on carbon management, and legal guarantees in indigenous territories,” Mazúa said.

“We want an indigenous territory climate fund to be established, which would make it possible for indigenous people to decide how to put a value on it from our point of view and how it translates into economic value,” the chief said.

“The idea is for the money to go to the communities, but it is a question of volume and financing,” said Labbate, who is also in charge of the Poverty-Environment Initiative of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and the U.N. Development Programme.

Poverty and the environment are inextricably linked to Panama’s indigenous people. According to statistics published Sept. 28 by the government and the U.N., Panama’s overall poverty rate is 27.6 percent, but between 70 and 90 percent of indigenous families are poor.

Indigenous representatives are asking to be included in the distribution of the international financing that Panama will receive for preserving the country’s forests.

They also argue that the compensation should not only be linked to the protection of forests and carbon capture in the indigenous comarcas, but that it should be part of an environmental policy that would make it possible for them to engage in economic activities and fight poverty.

Indigenous leaders believe that their forests are the tool for reducing the inequality gap between them and the rest of Panamanian society. “But they have to support us for that to happen, REDD is just part of the aid strategy, but the most important thing is the adoption of legislation to guarantee our territorial rights in practice,” Mazúa said.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

 

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Panama’s Coral Reefs Ringed with Threatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/panamas-coral-reefs-ringed-with-threats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=panamas-coral-reefs-ringed-with-threats http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/panamas-coral-reefs-ringed-with-threats/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:28:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137217 The town of Taboga viewed from the sea. Credit: Creative Commons

The town of Taboga viewed from the sea. Credit: Creative Commons

By Emilio Godoy
TABOGA, Panama, Oct 16 2014 (IPS)

Fermín Gómez, a 53-year-old Panamanian fisherman, pushes off in his boat, the “Tres Hermanas,” every morning at 06:00 hours to fish in the waters off Taboga island. Five hours later he returns to shore.

Skilfully he removes the heads and scales of his catch of sea bass, snapper, marlin and sawfish. He delivers the cleaned fish to restaurants and hotels, where he is paid four dollars a kilo, a good price for the local area.

“I use baited hooks, because trammel nets drag in everything. That’s why the fishing isn’t so good any more: the nets catch even the young fry,” said this father of three daughters, who spent years working on tuna-fishing vessels.

Gómez lives 200 metres from Taboga island’s only beach, in a town of 1,629 people where the brightly painted houses are roofed with galvanised iron sheets. Located 11.3 nautical miles (21 kilometres) from Panama City, the mainstay of the island is tourism, especially on weekends when dozens of visitors board the ferry that plies between the island and the capital twice a day.

Gómez, who comes from a long line of fishermen, tends to go out fishing at midnight, the best time to catch sea bass. On a good day he might take some 30 kilograms.

“The fishing here is good, but we are dependent on what people on the other islands leave for us,” said Gómez, tanned by the sun and salt water.

The island of Taboga, just 12 square kilometres in area, lies in the Gulf of Panama and is the gateway to the Las Perlas archipelago, one of the most important nodes of coral islands in this Central American country of 3.8 million people.

From the air, they appear as mounds emerging from the turquoise backdrop of the sea, surrounded by what look like dozens of steel sharks, the ships waiting their turn to pass through the Panama Canal.

The isthmus of Panama possesses 290 square kilometres of coral reefs, mostly located on the Atlantic Caribbean coast, which harbour some 70 species. Coral reefs in the Pacific ocean host some 25 different species.

What the fisherfolk do not know is that their future livelihood depends on the health of the coral reefs, which is threatened by rising sea temperatures, maritime traffic, pollution and illegal fishing.

(2)Seabed corals on underwater mountains in Coiba National Park in Panama. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

 Seabed corals on underwater mountains in Coiba National Park in Panama. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

In Coiba National Park, in western Panama, and in the Las Perlas islands, “the diversity of the coral and associated species has been sustained in recent years. We have not detected any bleaching, but a troublesome alga has appeared,” academic José Casas, of the state International Maritime University of Panama (UMIP), told IPS.

“It’s threatening the reef,” said the expert, who is taking part in a project for the study and monitoring of reef communities and key fisheries species in Coiba National Park and the marine-coastal Special Management Zone comprising the Las Perlas Archipelago. The study’s final report is due to be published in November.

Algal growth blocks sunlight and smothers the coral, which cannot survive. Experts have also detected the appearance of algae in Colombia and Mexico.

The project is being carried out by UMIP together with Fundación Natura, Conservation International, the Autonomous University of Baja California, in Mexico, and the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP).

Researchers are monitoring the coral in Coiba and Las Perlas in Panama. They took measurements in March and August, and they will repeat their survey in November.

There are differences between the two study zones. Coiba is little disturbed by human activity; it is a designated natural heritage area and a protection plan is in place, although according to the experts it is not enforced. Moreover, Coiba Park is administered by the National Environmental Authority (ANAM).

A protection programme for Las Perlas, to be managed by ARAP, is currently in the pipeline.

Reefs are essential for the development and feeding of large predators like sharks, whales, pelagic fish such as anchovy and herring, and sea turtles, the experts said.

In Panama’s coral reefs, ARAP has identified species of algae, mangroves, sponges, crustaceans, molluscs, conches, starfish, sea cucumber, sea urchin, as well as groupers, snappers, angelfish and butterflyfish.

Fishing generates some 15,000 jobs in Panama and annual production is 131,000 tonnes, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census.

An Environmental Agenda for Panama 2014-2019 (Agenda Ambiental Panamá 2014-2019), published by the National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON),

Fundación MarViva, Fundación Natura and the Panama Audubon Society, proposes the passage of a law for wetlands protection, emphasising mangroves, mudflats, marshes, swamps, peat bogs, rivers, coral reefs and others.

On the Caribbean coast, coral reefs around the nine islands of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, 324 nautical miles (600 kilometres) west of Panama City, are experiencing bleaching caused by high water temperatures.

This was a finding of a study titled “Forecasting decadal changes in sea surface temperatures and coral bleaching within a Caribbean coral reef,” published in May by the U.S. journal Coral Reefs.
Angang Li and Matthew Reidenbach, of the U.S. University of Virginia, predict that by 2084 nearly all the coral reefs they studied will be vulnerable to bleaching-induced mortality.

They simulated water flow patterns and water surface heating scenarios for the present day and projections for 2020, 2050 and 2080. They concluded that reefs bathed by cooler waters will have the greatest chances of future survival.

Bocas del Toro adjoins the Isla Bastimentos National Park, one of 104 protected areas in Panama covering a total of 36,000 square kilometres, equivalent to 39 percent of the national territory.

“Local communities need education in resource management, sustainable use, fisheries zoning and fisherfolk organisation,” Casas said.

The next phase of the corals project, financed with 48,000 dollars this year and requiring about 70,000 dollars for 2015, will involve quantifying the value of ecosystem services provided by coral reefs.

Gómez has no plans to change his trade, but he can see that his grandchildren will no longer follow the same occupation. “Fishing is going to be more complicated in future. They will have to think of other ways of earning a living,” he told IPS, gazing nostalgically out to sea.

Edited byEstrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Valerie Dee

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Reducing Hunger: More Than Just Access to Foodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/reducing-hunger-more-than-just-access-to-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reducing-hunger-more-than-just-access-to-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/reducing-hunger-more-than-just-access-to-food/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 20:00:33 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137144 A dozen activists from the Stop Biocidio organisation disrupted Greenaccord’s 11th forum on Saturday Oct. 11 to demand that the Italian government clean up illegal toxic waste dumped on their lands and protect agricultural production around Naples. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A dozen activists from the Stop Biocidio organisation disrupted Greenaccord’s 11th forum on Saturday Oct. 11 to demand that the Italian government clean up illegal toxic waste dumped on their lands and protect agricultural production around Naples. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
NAPLES, Italy, Oct 13 2014 (IPS)

“We want healthy food, we want to produce according to our traditions,” farmers and activists demanded during an international forum of experts on agriculture and the environment in this southern Italian city.

It is not necessary to go far to find an illustration of the difficulties facing farmers in achieving that goal, Dario Natale told IPS. He is a young man who lives in the area between the cities of Naples and Caserta known as “Terra dei fuochi” or land of fire, due to the chronic burning of waste, much of it toxic.

“The land is polluted, people get sick and our products are under suspicion. The government has done nothing,” complained the 24-year-old Natale, who belongs to Stop Biocidio, a group that is demanding an end to the illegal dumping or burying of waste in the area, and to the burning of garbage, which began in the 1990s.

That area in the southwest province of Campania is known for the production of vegetables, fruit and mozzarella cheese made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo.

Since the 1990s, the Camorra, the Naples mafia, has taken over the handling and disposal of refuse and toxic waste hauled in from Italy’s industrialised north and dumped in the south, which has caused serious damage to the environment, health and the local economy.“Food insecurity is still a problem and it doesn't mean only access to food, but when, how and how much. There is a real security and a perceived one.” -- Marino Niola

This is one of the problems that will be discussed at the Expo Milan, to be held in May 2015 in that northern Italian city, under the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. In the expo, participating countries will present their situation regarding the production of food, the fight against hunger, and measures adopted to guarantee food security.

These are the same issues that were tackled at the 11th International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, held Oct. 8-11 in Naples under the theme “People Building the Future; Feeding the World: Food, Agriculture and Environment”.

The Forum, organised by Greenaccord, an Italian network of experts dedicated to training in environmental questions, brought together some 200 reporters, academics, activists, students and representatives of governments and multilateral organisations from 47 countries.

During the four days of talks and debates they also discussed issues like the fight against hunger, the role of transnational corporations, and the adaptation of agriculture to climate change.

The nations of the developing South, different experts said, are in an ambiguous situation, because they fight hunger but are only partly successful when it comes to ensuring food security which also involves production and distribution of quality food.

“It’s not just about production of enough food for everyone; it means that every individual must have access to food,” Adriana Opromolla, Caritas International campaign manager, told IPS. “In Latin America, for example, compliance with that right varies. The fact that countries have laws on it does not mean they are necessarily complying.”

Caritas released a report on food security in Guatemala and Nicaragua on Monday during the annual forum of the International Food Security & Nutrition Civil Society Mechanism, held in the Rome headquarters of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Oct. 12-19 is the Food Week of Action.

By 2050, demand for food will expand 65 percent, while the world population will reach nine billion.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014 report released Sept. 16 revealed that the proportion of undernourished people in Latin America went down from 15.3 percent in the 1990-1992 period to 6.1 percent in 2012-2014.

As a result, this region met the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) one year before the 2015 deadline. The MDGs were adopted by the international community in 2000, and the first is to cut the proportion of hungry people and people living in extreme poverty around the world by half, from 1990 levels.

Measures taken in the region have varied. For example, nations like Colombia and Mexico included the right to food in the constitution, while other countries, such as Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador adopted legislation on the matter.

“Food insecurity is still a problem and it doesn’t mean only access to food, but when, how and how much. There is a real security and a perceived one,” Marino Niola, director of the Centre for Social Research on the Mediterranean Diet, or MedEatResearch, at the private Suor Orsola Benincasa University of Naples, told IPS.

In 2004, FAO adopted the “Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realisation of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security”, which are being reviewed this year.

The theme for World Food Day, Oct. 16, this year is Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth”.

“The right to food is an ethical way to address food production and distribution. It has to be guaranteed for importing countries,” Gary Gardner, a researcher with the Worldwatch Institute, told IPS.

In his research, the U.S. expert has found that 13 counties were totally dependent on imported grains in 2013, 51 were dependent on imports for more than 50 percent, and 77 were dependent on imports for over 25 percent.

More than 90 million people in the world are totally dependent on imported grains, 376 million are dependent on imports for more than 50 percent and 882 million are dependent on imports for more than 25 percent.

Opromolla said more budgetary resources are needed, as well as greater transparency in decision-making and more participation by civil society.

“It’s a structural problem,” the Caritas expert said. “Multiple measures are needed, applied in a coherent manner. The commitment by the state is essential, because it must guarantee the right to food.”

Natale is clear on what he wants and does not want for situations like the current one in “Terra dei fuochi”: No more pollution of the soil and water, and government protection of agricultural production. “Our diet is healthy. It doesn’t depend only on pizza and pasta, as the government says. If we don’t produce, where does the food come from?”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Family Farmers Don’t Need Climate-Smart Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/family-farmers-dont-need-climate-smart-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-farmers-dont-need-climate-smart-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/family-farmers-dont-need-climate-smart-agriculture/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 23:36:57 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137092 The 11th International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature has drawn journalists, academics and experts from some 50 countries to Naples, Italy Oc. 8-11 to discuss food, agriculture and the environment in the world. Credit: Emanuele Caposciutti/Greenaccord

The 11th International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature has drawn journalists, academics and experts from some 50 countries to Naples, Italy Oc. 8-11 to discuss food, agriculture and the environment in the world. Credit: Emanuele Caposciutti/Greenaccord

By Emilio Godoy
NAPLES, Italy, Oct 9 2014 (IPS)

Small farmers can look to options like agroecological intensification and innovation, without necessarily turning to climate-smart agriculture, which is promoted by the United Nations but has awakened doubts among global experts meeting in this Italian city.

Alison Power, a professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Cornell University in New York state, said the concept is an umbrella that can encompass too many different factors.

“There are two approaches to grow production, intensification of conventional agriculture and agroecology. In the last 20 years food production has doubled, but problems like poverty aren’t solved only with that,” Power told IPS.“There are two approaches to grow production, intensification of conventional agriculture and agroecology. In the last 20 years food production has doubled, but problems like poverty aren't solved only with that.” -- Alison Power

“So what is needed then is adaptation by small farmers with innovations based on agroecology,” said the expert, one of the participants in the 11th International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature organised Oct. 8-11 by the Italian NGO Greenaccord in the southwestern Italian city of Naples.

Family farmers produce nearly 80 percent of the world’s food. And although more food is being produced worldwide than at any other time in history, the United Nations estimates that over 800 million people are hungry.

The United Nations launched the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture on Sept. 24 in New York, during the U.N. Climate Summit. The alliance brings together governments, non-governmental organisations and large corporations.

The initiative includes techniques such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, intercropping, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, improved extreme weather forecasting, integrated crop-livestock management and improved water management. The aim is to increase the ecological production of food in order to reduce carbon emissions.

The issue forms part of the agenda of this week’s forum, whose theme is: “People Building the Future; Feeding the World: Food, Agriculture and Environment”. Other topics are the fight against hunger, the role of transnational corporations and adapting agriculture to climate change.

Some 200 reporters, academics, activists and students from 47 countries are taking part in the event organised by Greenaccord, an Italian network of experts dedicated to training in environmental questions.

Worldwatch Institute researcher Gary Gardner at the 11th International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, held Oct. 8-11 in Naples, Italy. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Worldwatch Institute researcher Gary Gardner at the 11th International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, held Oct. 8-11 in Naples, Italy. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Family farmers don’t need climate-smart agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture has been questioned by academics and civil society organisations who say it could foment the use of genetically modified seeds, which they see as a threat to sustainable production.

Stefano Padulosi, with the Nutrition and Marketing Programme of Bioversity International, said the changing climate and loss of natural wealth requires a cocktail of actions.

“It is necessary to strengthen the resilience of food and production systems and adaptation to climate change. It’s urgent to intervene in local farms and strengthen community seed banks,” the expert, who took part in this week’s global meeting, told IPS.

“It’s possible to build local capital, to confront and resolve problems from the communities and improve local stakeholder networks,” he added.

Bioversity International is a global research-for-development organisation that delivers scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural biodiversity to attain global food and nutrition security, based on the assumption that agricultural biodiversity can contribute to improved nutrition, resilience, productivity and climate change adaptation in developing nations.

Climate change, Padulosi said, can affect agriculture because of the reduction of the availability of water, rising global temperatures, the flooding of agricultural areas, or an increase in pests.

By the year 2050, demand for food will grow 65 percent, while the global population will reach nine billion.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that net agricultural yields could shrink by between 0.2 and two percent per decade, as demand grows 14 percent per decade.

Gary Gardner, a researcher with the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, said the measures to be adopted must take peasant farmers into account, because a failure to do so would not make sense.

“Major efforts are needed for conservation of resources and becoming more efficient in their use. But huge gains in efficiency are available for producers, processors, business and consumers,” he told IPS.

Gardner is preparing a chapter on hidden threats to sustainability for Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2015 report.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that 11 percent of the world’s land is highly degraded and 25 percent is moderately degraded.

The U.N. agency estimates that global emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land uses have surpassed 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

At the same time, some two billion tons of CO2 per year were removed from the atmosphere as a result of carbon sequestration in forest sinks.
FAO projects that CO2 emissions could increase 30 percent by 2050.

Agriculture provides ecosystem services such as food, fiber, forage, bioenergy and natural habitats, while it benefits from them at the same time – another reason to promote sustainable practices.

“The services have the potential of growing production and sustainability. Practices like improving genetics of crops, integrated management of plagues and nutrients, development of precision agriculture and the management of soil and water can be optimised,” Power said.

For his part, Gardner calls for preserving the extension and quality of farmland and faster progress in promoting the conservation of farming techniques, as well as incentives to remove marginal land from cultivation.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Biodiversity Offsetting Advances in Latin America Amidst Controversyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/biodiversity-offsetting-advances-in-latin-america-amidst-controversy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-offsetting-advances-in-latin-america-amidst-controversy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/biodiversity-offsetting-advances-in-latin-america-amidst-controversy/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:08:50 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136798 The El Cielo biosphere reserve in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Critics of biodiversity offsetting say it could open up unspoiled natural areas to human activity, and complain that it commodifies ecosystems. Credit: Courtesy of the government of Tamaulipas

The El Cielo biosphere reserve in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Critics of biodiversity offsetting say it could open up unspoiled natural areas to human activity, and complain that it commodifies ecosystems. Credit: Courtesy of the government of Tamaulipas

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 22 2014 (IPS)

Compensation for biodiversity loss, which is taking its first steps in Latin America, is criticised by social organisations for “commodifying” nature and failing to remedy the impacts of extractive industries and other activities that destroy natural areas and wildlife.

“No market mechanism resolves the underlying problem,” Margarita Flórez, executive director of the Environment and Society Association (AAS), a Colombian non-governmental organisation, told Tierrámerica.

“The most serious thing is the environmental liabilities. What should be done about the damage that has already been caused? How do we make sure it’s really compensation and not just remediation?

“We keep losing resources and we haven’t been able to curb the loss at all. This mechanism is plagued with contradictions,” she said.

Since August 2012 Colombia has had a “manual for the allotment of compensation for the loss of biodiversity”, although it is not yet applied. The manual enables businesses to know precisely where, how and how much to compensate for the ecological impact of their activities.

The plan stipulates that compensation must be made in areas that are “ecologically equivalent” to the place that will be damaged, and that it can be carried out in areas listed as a priority by the National Restoration Plan or the National System of Protected Areas.

The compensation or “biodiversity offsetting” activities must last as long as the useful life of the mine or other project, and can entail financing to create or strengthen protected areas or conservation agreements with private property owners or indigenous or black communities on collectively-owned land.

The manual is to apply to projects or works in the mining, oil, gas and energy industries as well as ports, infrastructure, and new international airports.

Excluded are national protected areas, national parks, and biosphere and forestry reserves whose activities depend on special legislation.

Compensation for secondary vegetation ranges between 0.01 and 0.02 square km for every square km affected. And in the case of natural ecosystems, it ranges from 0.02 to 0.1 square km for every square km affected.

In Colombia there are 55 national protected areas, representing 10 percent of the country’s total territory.

Biodiversity offsetting is one of the six Innovative Financial Mechanisms outlined by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which entered into force in 1993 and has been ratified by 193 countries. The treaty is widely seen as the key document on sustainable development.

The other mechanisms are environmental fiscal reform, payments for ecosystem services, green markets, biodiversity in climate change funding, and biodiversity in international development finance.

Currently only one-fifth of the signatory countries have biodiversity offsetting mechanisms, and some 45 programmes are in operation, with an investment between 2.4 and 4.0 billion dollars.

Map of the offsetting factors in terms of representativity of ecosystems and biomes in the biological-geographic districts of Colombia. Credit: Courtesy of the Colombian Environment Ministry

Map of the offsetting factors in terms of representativity of ecosystems and biomes in the biological-geographic districts of Colombia. Credit: Courtesy of the Colombian Environment Ministry

In Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela are the countries with some kind of biodiversity offsetting system, while Ecuador is studying how to implement a mechanism.

Chile, for example, is working on the creation of compensation for biodiversity loss, based on new Environmental Evaluation Service regulations that incorporate the guidelines for offsetting, in a country where protected areas cover 19 percent of the territory.

In Peru, where 166 natural areas cover 17 percent of the country, the guidelines for the design and application of the Environmental Impact Evaluation System’s Environmental Compensation Plan are being debated.

In Mexico, Pedro Álvarez, the head of biological resources and corridors in the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), a government agency, sees it as feasible to combine conservation mechanisms with economic production.

“If communities learn that biodiversity has value, it becomes a good opportunity to generate hope in the management of natural resources,” he told IPS. “But in order for it to work, public funds must be guaranteed for lengthy periods of time.

“In addition, we have to choose the areas with the greatest biodiversity, and prevent it from becoming a situation of ‘if they pay me, I’ll take care of it’,” he said.

The 2013-2018 Sectoral Programme on Environment and Natural Resources indicates that 29 percent of Mexican territory has lost natural ecosystems, in a country with 176 natural areas.

The National Commission on Protected Natural Areas administers the 176 areas, which cover 13 percent of Mexico’s territory.

With the Environmental Compensation Programme for Change of Land Use in Forested Areas, the National Forestry Commission financed 275 projects last year covering 321 square km of land.

“In Colombia, the incentives for conservation have been tiny,” AAS’ Flórez said. “The manual is full of declarations and fails to explain precisely how it can be applied. Details are needed – when, in what conditions, and what will happen if this isn’t applied.”

Tremarctos-Colombia, a system that conducts a preliminary assessment screening of the impacts of an infrastructure project on local biodiversity and provides recommendations regarding the compensatory measures a project will have to assume, can be used in the first phase of the project.

The manual for establishing the compensation for biodiversity loss will be used in the second stage, and in the third stage monitoring will be carried out to compare it to the baseline and guarantee that there is no net loss of biodiversity.

Countries like Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela suffered biodiversity loss between 1990 and 2008, according to the Inclusive Wealth Index, a study of 20 countries led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“New mechanisms must be created,” said CONABIO’s Álvarez. “But it’s not a question of paying people for polluting; that is dangerous. The precautionary principle [the precept that an action should not be taken if the consequences are uncertain and potentially dangerous] must be included in environmental rulings, and there should be a kind of environmental insurance premium in case of accidents.”

The “No to Biodiversity Offsetting!” movement issued a manifesto in November 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland, complaining that it “could lead to an increase in damage, but even more concerning is that it commodifies nature.”

The document, signed by dozens of organisations around the world, says “biodiversity offsetting allows, or even encourages, environmental destruction…[and] is the promise to replace nature destroyed and lost in one place with nature somewhere else.”

Offsetting, according to the signatories, “is beneficial to the companies doing the damage, since they can present themselves as a company that invests in environmental protection, thereby green-washing its products and services.”

The campaign argues that biodiversity offsetting will not prevent loss, and will harm communities and separate them from the environment in which they live, where their culture is rooted, and where their economic activities have traditionally taken place.

One of the aims of the CBD’s strategy for resource mobilisation is to consider offsetting mechanisms, where they are relevant and appropriate, as long as there are guarantees that they will not be used to weaken the unique components of biodiversity.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

 

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A Flood of Energy Projects Clash with Mexican Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/a-flood-of-energy-projects-clash-with-mexican-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-flood-of-energy-projects-clash-with-mexican-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/a-flood-of-energy-projects-clash-with-mexican-communities/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:22:02 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136634 Trees on the bank of the Blanco river that have been felled to make way for a power plant. Hydroelectric projects are threatening biodiversity and the way of life of communities in the state of Veracruz, in southeast Mexico. Credit: Courtesy of Comité de Defensa Libre

Trees on the bank of the Blanco river that have been felled to make way for a power plant. Hydroelectric projects are threatening biodiversity and the way of life of communities in the state of Veracruz, in southeast Mexico. Credit: Courtesy of Comité de Defensa Libre

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 15 2014 (IPS)

Since January, villagers and townspeople near the Los Pescados river in southeast Mexico have been blocking the construction of a dam, part of a multi-purpose project to supply potable water to Xalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz.

“Our rights to a pollution-free life, to decide where and how we live, to information, to free, prior and informed consultation, are being infringed. We don’t want our territory to just be invaded like this any more,” Gabriela Maciel, an activist with the Pueblos Unidos de la Cuenca Antigua por Ríos Libres (PUCARL – Peoples of La Antigua Basin United For Free Rivers), told IPS.

PUCARL is made up of residents from 43 communities in 12 municipalities within the La Antigua river basin. Together with other organisations, it succeeded in achieving a suspension of work on the dam that was being built near Jalcomulco by Odebrecht, a Brazilian company, and the State of Veracruz Water Commission.

The dam has a planned capacity of 130 million cubic metres, a reservoir surface area of 4.13 square kilometres and a cost of over 400 million dollars. It is one of more than a hundred dams planned by federal and state governments, which are causing conflict with local communities.

Infrastructure building on a vast scale is under way in Mexico as part of the country’s energy reform. The definitive legal framework for this was enacted Aug. 11, opening up electricity generation and sales, as well as oil and gas extraction, refining, distribution and retailing, to participation by the domestic and foreign private sectors.

Nine new laws were created and another 12 were amended, implementing the historic constitutional reform that was promulgated Dec. 20.“Fossil fuels should not be given greater priority than a healthy environment. Zoning should be carried out, where possible, to indicate areas for exploitation and to establish constraints." -- Manuel Llano

The new energy framework is expected to attract dizzying sums in investments from national and international sources to Mexico, the second largest economy in Latin America, during the four-year period 2015-2018, according to official forecasts.

On Aug. 18 the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) announced 16 investment projects worth 4.9 billion dollars. Of this total, 27 percent is for public projects and 73 percent is earmarked for the private sector.

In the framework of the 2014-2018 National Infrastructure Programme (PNI), the CFE is planning 138 projects for a total of 46 billion dollars, including hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal energy generation plants, transmission lines and power distribution networks.

“Environmental and social legislation has been undermined in order to attract investment. Laws guaranteeing peoples’ rights and land rights have been weakened. This heightens the risk of a flare-up of social and environmental conflicts. It is a backward step,” Mariana González, a researcher on transparency and accountability for Centro de Análisis Fundar, an analysis and research centre, told IPS.

State oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) is programmed to carry out 124 projects as part of the PNI, totalling over 253 billion dollars. They include gas pipelines, improvements to refineries, energy efficiency measures at oil installations and oil exploration and extraction projects, among others.

The majority of the planned investments are slated for the southeastern state of Campeche, where 43 billion dollars will be spent on the exploitation and maintenance of four offshore oilfields.

In second place is the adjacent state of Tabasco, with projects amounting to nearly 15 billion dollars for shallow water oilfields and for the construction and remodelling of oil installations.

In Veracruz, PEMEX is planning investments of 11 billion dollars in shallow water offshore reserves and building and modernising oil installations, while in the northeastern state of

Tamaulipas it will spend 6.67 billion dollars on deepwater facilities and infrastructure modernisation.
Hydrocarbons licensing rounds

On Aug. 13, the Energy ministry (SENER) determined Round Zero (R-0) allocations, assigning PEMEX the rights to 120 oilfields, equivalent to 71 percent of national oil production which is to remain under state control.

PEMEX was also awarded 73 percent of gas production in R-0.

PEMEX’s current daily production is 2.39 million barrels of crude and 6.5 billion cubic feet of gas.

For Round One (R-1) concessions, SENER called for tenders from private operators for 109 oil and gas exploration blocks and 60 production blocks.

The government estimates the investment required for these projects at 8.52 billion dollars between 2015 and 2018, for exploration and extraction in deep and shallow waters, land-based oilfields and unconventional fossil fuels like shale gas.

The National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), the industry regulator, is preparing the terms for the concessions. Contracts will be assigned between May and September 2015.

Manuel Llano, technical coordinator for Conservación Humana, an NGO, cross-referenced maps of the detailed areas involved in Round Zero and Round One with protected natural areas, indigenous peoples’ and community territories.

He told IPS that the total land area assigned in R-0 is nearly 48,000 square kilometres, distributed in 142 municipalities and 11 states. Most of the assigned area is in Veracruz, followed by Tabasco. R-1 allocations cover 11,000 square kilometres in 68 municipalities and eight states.

The lands affected by R-0 overlap with 1,899 out of the country’s 32,000 farming communities. R-1 areas affect another 671 community territories, representing 4,416 square kilometres of collectively owned land.

Thirteen indigenous peoples living in an area of 2,810 square kilometres are affected by the R-0 allocations. Among the affected groups are the Chontal, Totonac and Popoluca peoples. The R-1 areas involve five indigenous peoples, including the Huastec, Nahuatl and Totonac, and more than 3,200 square kilometres of land.

“It’s hard to say exactly which places will be worst affected. There could be a great deal of damage in a very small area. It depends on the particular situation in each case. I can make reasonable estimates about what might occur in a specific concession area, but not in all of them,” Llano said.

Llano carried out a similar exercise in 2013, when he produced the “Atlas de concesiones mineras, conservación y pueblos indígenas” (Atlas of mining concessions, conservation areas and indigenous peoples). For this he mapped mining concession areas and compared them with protected areas and indigenous territories.

The new Hydrocarbons Law leaves land owners no option but to reach agreement with PEMEX or the private licensed operators over the occupation of their land, or accept a judicial ruling if agreement cannot be reached.

“The institutions have not carried out their work correctly. We know how the government apparatus works to get what it wants. We will oppose the approval of concessions and they will not succeed. We will continue our struggle. We are not alone; other peoples have the same problems,” said Maciel, the PUCARL activist.

Since March, several social organisations have taken collective legal action against government agencies for authorising the dam on La Antigua river and its environmental consequences. Los Pescados river is a tributary of La Antigua.

Between 2009 and 2013, SEMARNAT, the Environment and Natural Resources ministry, gave the green light to 12 hydroelectric and mini-hydropower plants on rivers in Veracruz. Construction has not yet begun on these projects.

Llano intends to compare maps of oil and gas reserves with the concession areas and contracts that are granted, in order to locate the potential resources claimed by the government and identify whether they match the bids at auction.

“Fossil fuels should not be given greater priority than a healthy environment. Zoning should be carried out, where possible, to indicate areas for exploitation and to establish constraints,” he said.
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Valerie Dee

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Mexico’s Wind Parks May Violate OECD Ruleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mexicos-wind-parks-may-violate-oecd-rules/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-wind-parks-may-violate-oecd-rules http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mexicos-wind-parks-may-violate-oecd-rules/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:38:06 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136392 Communities in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca complain that the wind parks being built in their territory violate their human rights. Credit: Courtesy of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defence of Land and Territory

Communities in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca complain that the wind parks being built in their territory violate their human rights. Credit: Courtesy of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defence of Land and Territory

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Aug 28 2014 (IPS)

Four wind farm projects in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, operated or financed by European investors, could violate Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rules, say activists.

Three of the parks are being developed by Electricité de France (EDF) and the fourth is financed by public funds from Denmark and the Netherlands.

Benjamin Cokelet, founder and executive director of the Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER), said the wind farms have committed several violations of human rights, which should be examined by the OECD – made up of the nations of the industrialised North and two Latin American countries, Chile and Mexico.

“EDF’s three wind farm projects claim that the community consultations took place, but we have not seen any evidence that these permits were obtained,” the head of PODER, which is based in New York and Mexico City, told IPS.

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises contain recommendations for responsible business conduct in areas such as human rights, employment and industrial relations, environment, combating bribery and extortion, consumer interests, and taxation.

With respect to the environment, it says businesses should “provide the public and workers with adequate, measurable and verifiable…and timely information on the potential environment, health and safety impacts of the activities of the enterprise”.

Windy isthmus

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec has the strongest potential for wind power in Mexico. Currently more than 1,900 MW are generated by 26 wind parks in the country, where Spanish companies have taken the lead.

In this oil-producing country, renewable energies account for nearly seven percent of total supply, without including large hydroelectric dams. But the government has set a target for renewable energy sources to represent 23 percent of consumption in 2018, 25 percent in 2024 and 26 percent in 2027.

Wind energy is projected to produce 15,000 MW by the start of the next decade.

It also says companies should “engage in adequate and timely communication and consultation with the communities directly affected by the environmental, health and safety policies of the enterprise and by their implementation.”

EDF, through its subsidiary EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN), owns the Mata-La Ventosa wind farms. Another subsidiary is co-owner of the Bii Stinu park, while a third operates the Santo Domingo wind farm.

The three projects are in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the southern state of Oaxaca, which is the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

The Mata-La Ventosa farm generates 67.5 MW, Bii Stinu 164 and Santo Domingo 160.

The other project that has been questioned is Mareña Renovables, with a generating capacity of 396 MW, in the Oaxaca coastal community of San Dionisio del Mar, on the Pacific Ocean.

This project is currently at a standstill because of legal action brought by members of the community whose land it is being built on.

According to PODER statistics, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which is 200 km wide and has a surface area of 30,000 square kilometers, there are at least 20 wind park projects, controlled by 16 different companies.

The isthmus is also home to 1,230 agrarian communities, mainly indigenous “ejidos” or communal lands. Of the five indigenous people on the isthmus, the largest groups are the Zapotecs and Ikoots.

Reports from PODER indicate that conditions are favourable to business and negative for the local communities.

“The irregularities show collusion between public and private actors,” the organisation says.

The result is asymmetrical relationships and abusive leasing arrangements, characterised by the concealment of the permanent damage that the wind parks cause to farmland, the lack of fair compensation for damage, and extremely low rental payments for the land.

One problem was the lack of translators and interpreters for the local indigenous languages in the negotiations between the companies and the communities.

The right of local and indigenous communities to free, prior and informed consent is enshrined in the International Labour Organisation Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

But this right has not been respected by the companies building the wind farms in the isthmus, PODER says.

Cokelet said the companies have thus failed to comply with international social and environmental standards.

In December 2013 the EDF EN joined the United Nations Global Compact, a set of 10 voluntary, non-binding principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption for public or private signatories. In December this year, the EDF EN must present its report on compliance with these principles.

Construction of the Mareña Renovables wind farm complex was brought to a halt in 2013 by court rulings favourable to the affected communities.

The project consists of two wind parks that would produce a total of 396 MW, with an investment of 1.2 billion dollars. The project is partly owned by PGGM, the Netherlands’ largest pension management company.

The project also has nearly 75 million dollars in financing from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and a 20 million dollar loan for the electricity purchaser from Denmark’s official Export Credit Agency (EKF).

In December 2012 the international Indian Law Resource Center filed a complaint on behalf of 225 inhabitants of seven indigenous communities with the IDB’s Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (ICIM).

The complaint seeks damages given the absence of adequate consultation with the communities at the start of the project and the lack of measures in its design and execution aimed at avoiding negative impacts.

In September 2013, the IBD’s Panel of the Compliance Review Phase admitted the complaint. The panel is now preparing the investigation of the case, in order to draw up a report and proceed to oversee compliance with its provisions.

EDF’s Mata-La Ventosa also received a 189 million dollar loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. In addition, the IFC channeled another 15 million dollars from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).

Roberto Albisetti, IFC manager for Mexico and Central America, acknowledged to IPS the risk of complaints against the wind farms in Oaxaca, although he said the IFC’s independent grievance mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), had not received any up to now.

“The handling of the communities has been very serious,” he said. “We invested a lot of money in the consultation processes, because it is better to prevent than to face complaints later.”

In 2010, the IFC disbursed 375 million dollars for the construction of Eurus, another wind park in Oaxaca, which generates 250 MW.

Mareña Renovables, PGGM’s project, is also exposed to international legal action, on another flank.

Fomento Económico Mexicano (Femsa), Coca Cola’s bottler in Mexico, would be the biggest consumer of the electricity generated by the wind park. Femsa is the second-largest shareholder in the Dutch brewing company Heineken International.

Femsa also signed the U.N. Global Compact, in May 2005, and is to present its compliance report in March 2015. Heineken, meanwhile, joined in January 2006 and handed in its report in July.

Cokelet said Denmark’s EKF export credit agency, which also signed the Global Compact, could face legal action before the OECD for violating its principles to promote sustainable lending in the provision of official export credits to low-income countries.

Heineken and PGGM, which could also face complaints of violating OECD guidelines and principles, are in the same position, he added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Mexico’s Orphanages – Black Holes for Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mexicos-orphanages-black-holes-for-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-orphanages-black-holes-for-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mexicos-orphanages-black-holes-for-children/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:35:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136195 Children taken in by the Villa Infantil Irapuato, which has high standards of care – unlike many other orphanages in Mexico. Credit: Courtesy Laura Martínez

Children taken in by the Villa Infantil Irapuato, which has high standards of care – unlike many other orphanages in Mexico. Credit: Courtesy Laura Martínez

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Aug 18 2014 (IPS)

Homes for orphans or children in vulnerable situations in Mexico lack the necessary state regulation and supervision, which leads to scandalous human rights violations.

“The situation is very serious,” said Laura Martínez, director of the non-governmental Patronato Pro Hogar del Niño, in the city of Irapuato in the central state of Guanajuato, some 300 km north of Mexico City. “The higher interests of the children aren’t taken into account. Their rights are violated.

“There is no national census on where they are, who takes care of them, under which methodology. We should be well-regulated, well-supervised. The regulations are not followed and there is no legislation on this,” she told IPS.

Her shelter, known as the Villa Infantil Irapuato, has been taking in children since 1969 and has a capacity to house 40 orphans or children in an at-risk situation, between the ages of six and 20. Since 2003 it has applied its own care protocol.

The children are referred by the state office of the National System for Integral Development of the Family (DIF), and the shelter receives public and private financing.

Orphanages in Mexico operate in a vacuum of legislation, official records and supervision, with widespread problems of noncompliance and a lack of professionalism and funding – a situation that experts say is in violation of international treaties signed by Mexico.

In this country of 118 million people, with some 45 million children under the age of 18, there are around 700 public and private homes providing shelter to 30,000 children. But the Red Latinoamericana de Acogimiento Familiar (Latin American Foster Care Network) estimates that there are roughly 400,000 children in Mexico without parental care, including 100,000 who live on the streets.

The latest scandal over how these institutions are run broke out on Jul. 15, when the attorney general’s office announced that 596 people, including 458 children, were rescued from the “La Gran Familia” shelter in Zamora, a city in the western state of Michoacán. They were living in squalid conditions, in rooms infested with cockroaches and rats, according to the authorities.

Residents said they were raped, beaten, held against their will, and forced to beg. “We believe it is necessary to avoid institutionalisation and to have a general law on alternative care, and we urgently need clear, detailed information on children in institutions.” Martin Pérez

The home, which was founded in 1947, was run by Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, known as “Mamá Rosa”. She was deemed unfit to face prosecution because of her age and health problems, but six of her collaborators have been charged with kidnapping, child abuse and sexual abuse. The centre was shut down permanently on Jul. 30.

“The state is 30 years behind in terms of guaranteeing the rights of children in public policies,” said Martín Pérez, executive director of the Mexican Network for the Rights of Children. “The state has never supervised these establishments; every once in a while something comes to light and it remembers them and turns its attention to them.”

Since the state does not provide funds, it does not exercise oversight either. “And that leaves children in a vulnerable position. The shelters become a black hole; no one knows what educational method they’re using…what damage is caused,” Pérez told IPS.

Although the “Mamá Rosa” case was the highest profile scandal, whenever one of the orphanages or children’s homes makes it into the news, they all have one thing in common: irregularities in the way they are run.

On Jun. 17, the authorities rescued 33 children ages five to 17 and 10 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 from the Casa Hogar Domingo Savio in the central city of Puebla, in response to signs of abuse by the director of the home.

In 2011, 19 children were freed from the Instituto Casa Hogar Nuestro Señor de la Misericordia y Nuestra Señora de la Salette in Mexico City. The victims of abuse had received death threats to keep them from reporting the conditions they were held in.

Two years earlier, the authorities removed 126 mistreated youngsters from the “Casitas del Sur” shelters run by the non-governmental organisation Reintegración Social. They also found that 15 had gone missing, three of whom are still lost.

The Social Assistance Law requires the health ministry to monitor the homes for children. But the supervision is practically nonexistent.

International concern

For over a decade, Mexico has been in the sights of international bodies for these practices.

In its recommendations to the Mexican state in 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern over the large number of children placed in private institutions without any supervision, and suggested the creation of a directory and database of children in private homes.

“The Committee is concerned about lack of information (number, conditions of living, etc.) on children separated from their parents who are living in institutions. The Committee notes the large number of children in institutions managed by the private sector, and regrets the lack of information and oversight by the state on these institutions,” the document says.

The Committee, which monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, recommended that the state establish regulations based on children’s rights and introduce effective legislation, reinforcing existing structures such as the extended family, improving training of staff and allocating increased resources to the relevant bodies.

In the February 2014 report “The Right of Boys and Girls to a Family. Alternative Care. Ending Institutionalization in the Americas”, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged Organisation of American States (OAS) member countries to “properly regulate the operation of residential care facilities and carry out proper oversight, investigating them and, where appropriate, punishing any violations of children’s rights that take place in these facilities.”

“Institutionalising children continues to be a common response to these situations in the countries of the region, although evidence shows that the way many residential institutions currently operate does not guarantee that the rights of the children who are put in them are protected, and exposes them to situations of violence, abuse, and neglect,” the IACHR concluded.

Civil society groups in Mexico plan to launch an offensive to pressure the state to fulfill its obligations.

During the 69th session of the pre-sessional Working Group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, to be held Sept. 22-26, a delegation of children, along with UNICEF – the U.N. chidren’s fund – and non-governmental organisations, will present a report in Geneva on the situation of children, including minors without parental care.

In May-June 2015, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, made up of 18 independent experts, will evaluate Mexico.

And the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Children, Rosa María Ortiz, will visit Mexico in October to draw up a report on the situation here.

“We believe it is necessary to avoid institutionalisaton and to have a general law on alternative care, and we urgently need clear, detailed information on children in institutions,” said Pérez of the Mexican Network for the Rights of Children.

Martínez, the head of the Patronato Pro Hogar del Niño de Irapuato children’s home, said it is important to take a close look at what kind of care each organisation provides. “The current model is too welfare-oriented. And who can guarantee monitoring of the cases? There is another approach that should be followed – working for a child’s development.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Human Development – Latin America Less Than Halfway Therehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/human-development-latin-america-less-than-halfway-there/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-development-latin-america-less-than-halfway-there http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/human-development-latin-america-less-than-halfway-there/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:13:56 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135798 Leobardo Gómez tries to eke out a living playing the harmonica on the streets of Mexico City, because injuries caused by a workplace accident have kept him from returning to construction work. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Leobardo Gómez tries to eke out a living playing the harmonica on the streets of Mexico City, because injuries caused by a workplace accident have kept him from returning to construction work. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jul 28 2014 (IPS)

Construction worker Leobardo Gómez has been out of work for nine months since he slipped and fell to the street on a construction site in the Mexican capital in October.

“I broke two ribs and I still can’t work,” the 44-year-old, who came to Mexico City from the southern state of Puebla, told IPS. “The doctor told me I have to rest, and my social security coverage has run out. My body is still in pain.”

Gómez, who has worked from a very young age, said that while he is recovering, he goes around to cafés and restaurants playing the ten songs he knows on the harmonica, for spare change.

For people like Gómez, who fall through the cracks, Latin America and the Caribbean should push to achieve universal access to social services and policies to boost formal employment in order to make faster progress towards human development, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and experts recommend, while pointing to the improvement in human development indicators made in recent years.

In its 2014 Human Development Report “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”, published Jul. 24, the UNDP notes that Latin America is the developing region with the highest level of human development.

But it also warns that progress has slowed down in the last five years in comparison with the 2000-2008 period, and that vulnerabilities threaten to revert the progress made.

High and medium HDI

On the UNDP Human Development Index, Chile is the highest ranking Latin American country, listed 41st of the 187 countries studied – having moved one place up between 2012 and 2013.

In the category of high human development it is followed by Cuba (44, the same ranking as in 2012), Argentina (49, same ranking), Uruguay (50, two places up), Panama (65, two places up), Venezuela (67, one down), Costa Rica (68, one down), Mexico (71, one down), Brazil (79, one down), Peru (82, one up), Colombia (98, same ranking), Ecuador (98, same) and the Dominican Republic (102, same).

The ranking of the Latin American countries in the level of medium human development remained unchanged between 2012 and 2013: Paraguay (111), Bolivia (113), El Salvador (115), Guatemala (125), Honduras (129) and Nicaragua (132).

The only country that classified as having low human development was Haiti, which continued to rank 168 out of 187.

“Inequality is the main problem,” Emilia Reyes, an expert on inequality issues, told IPS. “Equality has an inherent link to the structure of the state, which has depended on the elites for so long, with the idea that there is an invisible hand that has actually never existed, and without any recognition that people have value.”

Reyes, in charge of policies and public budgets with a gender focus in the non-governmental organisation Gender Equity: Citizenship, Work and Family, said “It’s time for a structural reading of development that takes into account the social and environmental impacts of the concentration of wealth.

“In Latin America we don’t have a focus on sustainable development,” she added.

The Human Development Index scores range from 0 (the lowest) to 1 (the highest). The Index is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education levels and incomes. The HDI of Latin America as a whole increased from 0.73 in 2010 to 0.74 in 2013. Chile is in top place, with an HDI of 0.82, followed by Cuba and Argentina (0.81), with Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras bringing up the rear.

School attendance and dropout rates remained basically the same between 2010 and 2013. But per capita income did grow: from 12,926 to 13,767 dollars.

The UNDP warns that Latin America’s progress in human development slowed down 25 percent since 2008. It also stresses that, despite experiencing the largest fall in inequality, this region remains the most unequal in terms of income.

Inequality declined in Latin America and the Caribbean, in part due to the expansion in education and public transfers to the poor, says the report.

The study states that inequality declined in 14 nations in the region between 1990 and 2012, while it grew in only four. In two others, there was no clear trend.

In 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries, nearly seven percent of the population experiences multidimensional poverty, while an additional 9.5 percent is at risk of falling into this kind of poverty, marked by multiple deprivations in education, health and living standards.

Liliana Rendón, a professor in the economy department of the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, said “progress and growth in the indicators should be treated cautiously, because it is only reflected in a small part of the population, which experienced an increase in wellbeing.”

Rendón pointed out that the rise in human development occurred concomitantly with growing income inequality in several countries. “The poor do not only suffer from an income deficit; poverty also includes shortcomings in healthcare, education and other problems. Income must translate into wellbeing, taking social, environmental and policy aspects into consideration,” she said.

Despite the strong growth in productivity, real wages in the world have remained stagnant. But in the region, they rose 15 percent between 2000 and 2011.

Vulnerable employment also declined in the region, from nearly 36 percent in 2010 to 31.5 percent in 2012, while the proportion of the workforce living on less than 1.25 dollars a day was also reduced in that period.

The UNDP recommends universal provision of basic social services, stronger social protection policies, and full employment, as a means to promote and secure progress in human development.

These elements would also reduce vulnerabilities, whose triggers include financial shocks, food price fluctuations, natural disasters and violent crime.

One of the novelties in the report is the inclusion of the Gender Inequality Index, where Latin America and the Caribbean is in first place among developing regions.

Argentina, Barbados and Uruguay are among the 16 countries in the world where female HDI values are equal to or higher than those for males.

“The state cannot generate economic, social and cultural development for just 49 percent of the population, males, because women face insurmountable barriers in access to those spheres. That means reducing discrimination, expanding opportunities and recognising obstacles to social protection,” Reyes said.

The UNDP also recommends the creation of a Latin American Monetary Fund to complement global funds and to build up reserves, help stabilise exchange rates, provide short-term funds to members and offer oversight.

The region already has a Latin American Reserve Fund (FLAR), created in 1976 and made up of Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, which have provided total capital of 2.37 billion dollars.

“Inequality hinders development, so public policies should focus on achieving a more equal society,” Rendón said. “Public policies should focus on more and better spending in the fight against poverty, with better redistributive effects.”

In her view, “This can be achieved with sustained economic growth that allows universal investment in health and education, and by guaranteeing the quality of such services.”

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Mexican Farmers Oppose Expansion of Transgenic Cropshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/mexican-farmers-oppose-expansion-of-transgenic-crops/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexican-farmers-oppose-expansion-of-transgenic-crops http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/mexican-farmers-oppose-expansion-of-transgenic-crops/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 22:39:08 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135558 A bean cleaning plant in the northern Mexican state of Zacatecas. Credit: Courtesy of Secretaría de Agricultura

A bean cleaning plant in the northern Mexican state of Zacatecas. Credit: Courtesy of Secretaría de Agricultura

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jul 14 2014 (IPS)

Bean grower Manuel Alvarado is part of the majority of producers in Mexico who consider it unnecessary to introduce genetically modified varieties of beans, as the government is promoting.

“There is no study showing superior yields compared with hybrid or regional seeds. People are still unaware of what transgenic products are, nor the effects they have, but some of the things that are known about them are not good,” said Alvarado, the head of Enlaces al Campo, a bulk beans sales company in the city of Fresnillo, in the northern state of Zacatecas."There can be no biosecurity with transgenics: they cause genetic erosion (loss of genetic diversity)." -- Silvia Ribeiro

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) may cause a number of problems, among them the possibility that “transgenics will contaminate native and hybrid seeds, which have higher germination rates than transgenics,” Alvarado told IPS.

Bean farmers in Mexico face a context of overproduction, low prices and increasing imports, in a country where there are 300,000 bean producers, half of them small scale farmers.

Alvarado has obtained yields of between 12 and 16 tonnes per hectare from 10 native varieties of beans on 15 hectares of land. He has also tested 28 commercial maize hybrid seeds, obtaining up to 15 tonnes per hectare on 14 hectares of land.

In 2013, beans were grown on an area of 1.83 million hectares in Mexico and 1.28 million tonnes were produced, with overall yields of 1.79 tonnes per hectare, according to the Observatorio de Precios (Price Observatory), an independent group providing information and analysis for food producers and consumers.

The northern states of Zacatecas, Durango and Chihuahua are the main producing areas.

Cultivation of GMO in Mexico is turning away from concentration on maize and soybeans, after various legal appeals in 2013 banned their planting. The Mexican government and the industry are expanding their sights now to include beans and wheat, among other crops.

On Apr. 22, the National Institute of Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock Research (INIFAP) presented an application to the National Service for Agri-Food Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) for experimental planting of transgenic beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) on 0.12 hectares in the central state of Guanajuato.

The application is based on the research paper “Resistance to Colletotrichum lindemuthianum in transgenic common bean expressing an Arabidopsis thaliana defensin gene,” funded by the National Council for Science and Technology and the Agriculture ministry and published in 2013 in the Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Agrícolas.

Producers and activists distribute beans on Paseo de la Reforma avenue in Mexico City on Jul. 3, demanding better conditions for their product. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Producers and activists distribute beans on Paseo de la Reforma avenue in Mexico City on Jul. 3, demanding better conditions for their product. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The five authors, scientists at INIFAP, engineered five independent lines and 20 transgenic bean plants expressing the defensin gene. These plants proved resistant to two strains of the pathogenic fungus Colletotrichum lindemuthianum, which causes the fungal disease anthracnose. Non-genetically modified plants were not resistant.

Anthracnose, rust, angular leaf spot and root rot are diseases that affect beans in Mexico, which has 70 different varieties of the crop.

Silvia Ribeiro, the Latin America director of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), complained about the use of public funds to promote this kind of research which she views as a new “trick” to take over staple food production.

“The use of public resources for GMO research increases dependence on technology. It would be better to devote these funds to supporting the vast reservoir of wisdom on bean farming among campesinos (small farmers), and to promote preventive pest management and agroecosystems,” she told IPS.

SENASICA has received four applications this year for experimental and pilot plots of transgenic maize in 10 hectares in the northwestern staes of Sonora and Sinaloa from Pioneer, a U.S. seed company.  A further four pilot project applications for 85,000 hectares of genetically modified cotton in different states have been made by U.S. giant Monsanto.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre has also presented five applications for experimental planting of transgenic wheat on half a hectare in the central state of Morelos, adjacent to Mexico City.

In 2013, SENASICA received 58 applications for experimental, pilot and commercial planting of transgenic maize on a total of over five million hectares, presented by Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta (Switzerland) and Dow Agrosciences (U.S.).

Another 29 applications for experimental, pilot and commercial planting of transgenic cotton were made by Monsanto and Bayer (Germany), which also requested three experimental permits for soybeans on 45 hectares in the southeastern states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán and the southern state of Chiapas.

U.S. company Forage Genetics applied for an experimental alfalfa plantation on 0.38 hectares in the northern state of Coahuila.

“They want to shift the focus of the debate away from the fact that only companies present applications, and show that there is a national research capability,” Catherine Marielle, the coordinator of the sustainable food systems programme of the Group for Environmental Studies, an NGO, told IPS.

In July 2013, 53 individuals and 20 civil society organisations mounted a collective legal challenge against applications to plant transgenic maize, and in September a federal judge granted a precautionary ban on such authorisations.

The Agriculture and Environment ministries and the companies involved presented more than 70 rebuttals of the ruling, but the case “will take time,” according to court sources.

Since March 2014, organisations of beekeepers and indigenous communities have won two further provisional protection orders against commercial transgenic soybean crops in Campeche and Yucatán.

In June 2012, the Agriculture ministry authorised Monsanto to plant transgenic soybean commercially on an area of 253,000 hectares in seven Mexican states, including Campeche.

“We have perfected technological packages on how to prepare the soil, what seed to use and what fertilisers to apply. In the medium term we want to move to using organic fertilisers. All this would be scuppered if transgenic beans are imposed,” producer Alvarado said.

At present farmers sell beans for 30 to 45 cents of a dollar per kilo. With a state subsidy of a similar value, growers can recoup their production costs.

In Alvarado’s view, farmers could compete with U.S. imports “if we organise in the production zones, and the state stockpiles, provides credit to producers and value is added” to beans.

Although GMOs have been commercialised since the mid 1990s, nearly all transgenic crop production is concentrated in 10 countries: United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Pakistan and Uruguay, in that order.

Most transgenic crops are used for livestock forage, but Mexico wants maize, at least, to be used for human food.

The government supports GMO, according to agricultural officials, because in the medium and long term they are a means of confronting climate effects on food production and guaranteeing food security.

“Mexico does not need transgenics. The country has never produced as much maize as it produces now. Besides, there can be no biosecurity with transgenics: they cause genetic erosion (loss of genetic diversity),” because contamination of conventional crops is inevitable, said Ribeiro of ETC Group.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

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FATCA Just a Band Aid for Latin American Tax Evasionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/fatca-just-a-band-aid-for-latin-american-tax-evasion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fatca-just-a-band-aid-for-latin-american-tax-evasion http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/fatca-just-a-band-aid-for-latin-american-tax-evasion/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 10:09:58 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135375 Capital flight from developing countries of the South. Credit: Tax Justice Network

Capital flight from developing countries of the South. Credit: Tax Justice Network

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jul 4 2014 (IPS)

The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act is unlikely to contribute much to combating persistent tax evasion in Latin America, which will require more national and multilateral instruments, experts say.

FATCA, as it is better known, was approved in March 2010 and finally came into force on Jul. 1 after a number of delays. It is a reciprocal agreement, which means that other countries may learn which of their citizens have accounts in the United States.

The law requires governments and financial institutions worldwide to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) financial information about U.S. citizens who are resident or have assets abroad.

“The limiting factor for developing countries is that it is bilateral. Mexico, for example, would benefit from receiving information about its residents who have accounts in the United States, but these residents may also have accounts in other jurisdictions,” analyst Andrés Knobel of the London-based Tax Justice Network told IPS.

Knobel and other experts consulted by IPS say that tax evasion and avoidance have reached such proportions that firm national policies and multilateral instruments will be needed to combat them. FATCA could coexist with and support these.

Knobel also complained that, although there is reciprocity between the U.S and its partners, the exchange is unequal.

The U.S.  “demands more information from its partners but gives less. The information is supposed to be for tax purposes, but the authorities decide what they use it for,” he said.

Under FATCA, banks, investments funds and other financial institutions must identify U.S. citizens’ accounts abroad and notify the IRS of their account numbers, balances, names, addresses and U.S. identification numbers.

The law covers investments greater than 50,000 dollars. Institutions that fail to comply risk the withholding of 30 percent of any payments originating in or passing through U.S. territory.

The IRS has registered over 77,000 institutions worldwide out of a total of between 200,000 and 400,000 that should adhere to FATCA. In Latin America 3,800 institutions have come to an agreement with the IRS so far, while 800 have not.

The U.S. has signed bilateral agreements with over 70 countries, in two categories.

The first requires financial institutions to report information about U.S. citizens to their national tax authority, which is to advise the IRS. The second calls for the financial agency to report the information directly to the IRS.

“FATCA has potential for preventing tax evasion, but better mechanisms are needed to process the information quickly and take action as a result,” academic Benito Rivera, of the Faculty of Higher Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told IPS.

“Agreements have been signed, but fiscal paradises have not been touched, although some transactions have been identified,” he said.

In its report on Tax Administration 2013, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that in Chile, taxpayers’ fiscal debt had increased continuously between 2005 and 2011.

Average growth during this period was 13 percent. The country has a tax burden of nearly 20 percent of GDP.

Mexico, with a tax burden of 18 percent, had similar growth figures, although data since 2010 are lacking. This is also the case with Brazil, which has a tax burden of 32 percent, and Colombia, with 17 percent.

In Argentina the tax burden has fallen by 48 percent, although the level of tax debt is still high. Its present tax burden is 33 percent.

The OECD estimates that at least 500,000 individuals in Latin America have a combined fortune of seven trillion dollars, with no certainty that they are paying appropriate taxes.

The Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) puts income tax evasion at nearly 50 percent in Argentina, 47 percent in Chile, 64 percent in Ecuador and 42 percent in Mexico.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also warned of tax avoidance and evasion by means of “financial engineering.”

In the document “Spillovers in International Corporate Taxation,” published in May, the IMF indicates that foreign direct investment (FDI) that leaves Brazil turns up in known fiscal paradises like the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.

In another example, it says that FDI arriving in El Salvador comes from countries like Panama and the Cayman Islands.

“With FATCA, more information will be available, but there will be loopholes for rich companies and individuals to avoid the exchange of their information,” Knobel said.

He recalled that “for a long time, organisations have been asking for automatic information exchange. We asked for public registers of final beneficiaries, the real owners of any financial activity that takes place.”

The U.S.-Mexico FATCA agreement, signed in November 2012, shows the disparity in the information provided. Mexico is required to report the total amount of interest, dividends and other income generated and paid by the account assets, as well as total income from sales of possessions that are recorded in the account.

But the U.S. will only inform Mexico of the total amount of interest paid on a deposit account, dividends or any other source of income.

In the case of Chile, the national tax authority must ask U.S. account holders for their tax identification number and written consent. It must report annually to the IRS the number and balance of non-consenting accounts.

Under the agreement, the U.S. “shall cooperate with Chile to respond to requests to collect and exchange information on accounts held in U.S. financial institutions by residents of Chile.”

There are at least 60 tax havens in the world, including U.S. territories like the northeastern state of Delaware, which has big tax discounts. For this reason, Washington has negotiated favourable bilateral agreements.

The Tax Justice Network’s 2013 Financial Secrecy Index ranks the U.S. in sixth position, behind Switzerland, Luxemburg and Hong Kong, among others. In Latin America, only Panama is placed among the top 20.

In February, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs criticised the FATCA in its report “Offshore Tax Evasion: The Effort to Collect Unpaid Taxes on Billions in Hidden Offshore Accounts.”

The report criticised the thresholds for reporting accounts, the failure to aggregate data from different institutions and potential tax evasion through offshore shell companies.

The law will not solve the problem of reporting information; its regulations have created a number of loopholes, the report says.

“It will take a few years for it to meet its goals. It would be desirable for the competent authorities to meet regularly to analyse procedures and speed of action,” Rivera said.

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No Limits to Shale Gas Chemicals in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/no-limits-to-shale-gas-chemicals-in-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-limits-to-shale-gas-chemicals-in-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/no-limits-to-shale-gas-chemicals-in-mexico/#comments Sat, 28 Jun 2014 14:02:52 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135238 A cocktail of polluting chemicals is used in hydraulic fracturing, the method used to extract shale gas, for example at this fracking well in the U.S. state of Texas, on the border with Mexico. Credit: United States Government

A cocktail of polluting chemicals is used in hydraulic fracturing, the method used to extract shale gas, for example at this fracking well in the U.S. state of Texas, on the border with Mexico. Credit: United States Government

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 28 2014 (IPS)

The new legal framework for Mexico’s oil industry has not placed controls on the use of harmful chemicals in the extraction of unconventional fossil fuels, and environmentalists and experts fear their consumption will increase in an industry that is opening up to private capital.

The energy reform “will exacerbate the use of chemicals. The new laws do not address this problem. We need to know what is used, because otherwise we cannot know the consequences. That’s why we want a ban on ‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracturing),” activist Claudia Campero, of Canada’s Blue Planet Project, told IPS.

A package of nine initiatives, including eight new laws and modifications to 12 others on fossil fuels, water, electricity and oil funds, came before the senate in the last week of June, after being debated since Jun. 10 by the Energy Commission.

On Dec. 11, 2013, Congress reformed articles 25, 27 and 28 of the Mexican constitution, opening up exploration, extraction, refining, transport, distribution and sales of hydrocarbons to private, local and foreign investors.

This reform dismantled the foundations of the 1938 nationalisation of the oil industry.

“Many chemicals have not been tested, and new ones are being developed all the time. Companies use trade secrets as an excuse to withhold information." -- Claudia Campero, of Canada’s Blue Planet Project
Analysis of the projects of state oil giant Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), as well as reports from the U.S. Congress and the local oil industry, give an idea of the amount of chemicals used to extract shale gas.

Natural gas trapped in underground shale rock is released by the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure, which fractures the rocks. The method is known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

The gas extraction and recovery process requires large amounts of water and chemical additives, some of which are toxic. Drilling and horizontal fracking generate enormous quantities of waste fluid.

The waste liquid contains dissolved chemicals and other pollutants that need to be treated before they are disposed of, and even afterwards, according to experts and environmental organisations like Greenpeace.

PEMEX’s enviromental impact study for the 2007-2027 Regional Project in Cuenca de Sabinas Piedras Negras, in the northern states of Coahuila and Nuevo León, says that “the liquid wastes generated will be sludges.”

Other Latin American Models

Countries like Brazil and Colombia have already put blocks of natural gas deposits, both conventional and unconventional, out to tender for exploration and extraction, and have created regulations.

The Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) granted 240 blocks of crude and gas in November 2013.

On Apr. 10 the ANP issued resolution 21 stipulating that operators must disclose all chemical products used for processing, transport and storage, including quantities and compositions and their potential impact on human health and the environment.

Operators must also describe chemicals to be used in fracking, and stipulate whether they are inert or may potentially react on contact with groundwater, rocks, plants and human beings, and the control measures being applied.

In Colombia, the National Hydrocarbons Agency is preparing fracking guidelines. This year the agency is offering 25 oil and gas areas, including shale gas.
The waste is classified as dangerous under Mexican regulations and is made up mainly of diesel, barium sulphate and bentonite, a cocktail that is toxic for human health and the environment.

The document says that drilling and fracking will require harmful chemicals like bentonite, lime, calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, caustic soda, additives, emulsifiers and soaps. These substances can damage skin, lungs, liver and eyes.

The project would allocate 34,000 hectares out of the total of 4.5 million hectares in the Sabinas Piedras Negras basin for gas exploration and exploitation. Gas extraction would take place on an area of 21,270 hectares, within which 8,035 hectares would be reserved for drilling.

The Poza Rica Altamira y Aceite Terciario del Golfo 2013-2035 regional oil project, in the states of Veracruz (southeast), Hidalgo (centre) and Puebla (south), is planning to use similar chemicals.

In March, PEMEX presented the environmental impact study for this project to the environment ministry, but withdrew it in May because it would have affected natural protected areas in Puebla. It is expected to reintroduce the project on a more limited geographic scale.

The state-owned company has drilled 18 shale gas wells, five of which are about to complete their exploratory phase, in Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Veracruz. PEMEX plans to operate a total of 6,500 commercial wells over the next 50 years, but shale gas exploitation may end up in private hands because of the energy reform.

PEMEX has identified five regions with potential shale gas reserves, from Veracruz to Chihuahua, on the border with the United States.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) ranks Mexico sixth in the world for technically recoverable shale gas resources, after China, Argentina, Algeria, the United States and Canada, in an analysis of 137 reserves in 41 countries.

PEMEX had no information on how the levels of chemical substances they use compare to Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) concentrations.

According to Greenpeace, the fracking fluids used during the life of one well require 380,000 litres of additives.

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, a U.S. organisation that compiles and disseminates scientific information about health and environmental problems caused by exposure to chemicals that interfere with hormone actions, identified 944 products containing 632 chemical substances, many of which are potential endocrine disruptors, that are used in hydraulic fracturing.

The U.S. national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry, FracFocus, reports over 72,000 fracking wells in the country and lists 59 chemicals, consistent with those injected by PEMEX in its wells, including methanol, isopropanol, carbonates and acids.

Mexico’s National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) has drafted regulations for shale gas operations, but IPS ascertained that these contain no limits on the use of chemicals.

“The problem with the chemicals is the leftover waste, which must be removed from contact with persons and treated to prevent harm to people and the environment. We are going to specify that it must be treated,” Néstor Martínez, a member of the CNH, told IPS.

The CNH draft regulations cover water use and pollution, use of dangerous chemicals and production of earth tremors. They seek to reduce work accidents, prevent pollution by waste fluids and chemicals, and reduce the environmental footprint.

The regulations refer to types of drilling slurries, the quality of well sealing, hydraulic fracking methods and the discharge of fluids and solids.

PEMEX’s contractors will have to present the CNH with a good management plan that includes specifications to be complied with in those areas.

“Many chemicals have not been tested, and new ones are being developed all the time. Companies use trade secrets as an excuse to withhold information,” Blue Planet’s Campero said.

The Environment ministry is due to begin reviewing the regulations for drilling wells and discharging waste in October.

(END)

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Latin America’s Forests Need Laws – and Much Morehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/latin-americas-forests-need-laws-and-much-more/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-americas-forests-need-laws-and-much-more http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/latin-americas-forests-need-laws-and-much-more/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 16:29:26 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134886 A Jun. 7 session of the second GLOBE Summit of World Legislators in the Mexican Congress. Nearly 500 legislators from some 90 countries took part in the gathering in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A Jun. 7 session of the second GLOBE Summit of World Legislators in the Mexican Congress. Nearly 500 legislators from some 90 countries took part in the gathering in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 9 2014 (IPS)

Latin America’s parliaments have failed to protect the forests and to guarantee their sustainable use, despite the fact that a number of countries have laws on forests, legislators from the region said at a global summit in the Mexican capital.

There are problems in areas such as respect for the rights of local communities, budget allocations for the protection of forests, land tenure guarantees, forest floor carbon ownership, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from sustainable use of forests.

“We aren’t working with the communities, and we don’t have the technical capacity to include international standards; the government is fearful and more worried about bringing in forest investment in activities like mining, without any responsibility for the environment,” Colombian Senator Mauricio Ospina of the left-wing Alternative Democratic Pole told IPS.

Ospina was one of the nearly 500 legislators from more than 90 countries who took part in the Jun. 6-8 second GLOBE Summit of World Legislators in Mexico City, organised by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International).

The summit agenda focused on the struggle against climate change and efforts to protect forests and natural capital.

Colombia, which has 60 million hectares of forest, is one of the 18 nations of the developing South taking part in the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (U.N. REDD), which was launched in 2007.

U.N. REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. It finances national programmes to fight deforestation, reduce carbon emissions and foment access by participating countries to technical and financial support to combat climate change.

U.N. REDD was launched as a collaborative programme of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) and the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

The aim goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

Preventing deforestation is essential because trees capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into carbon in their trunks and branches and in the soil. When forests are cut down, not only do they stop absorbing carbon, but also the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere as CO2. Moreover, forests are critical to rainfall and play a key role in the water cycle through evaporation and precipitation.

In June 2013, U.N. REDD approved an allocation to Colombia of four million dollars for activities such as the creation of a forest inventory, the development of social and environmental safeguards, and the identification of benefits.

Colombia is carrying out 10 U.N. REDD projects and another 23 forest initiatives. Since 2008, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has approved an additional 3.6 million dollars in funds for the country.

The REDD+ action plan for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation is a platform of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that incorporates elements like conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks and the sustainable management of forests.

Peru is also moving forward in the design of a REDD+ strategy, facing challenges similar to those of the rest of the region.

“We have to work in the communities, providing them with tools,” Congresswoman Marisol Espinoza, of the governing Peruvian Nationalist Party, told IPS. “Those who take care of the forests are their guardians and should be paid for what they do. We hope the new laws will strengthen this new approach to preserving forests.”

Peru is developing a national REDD+ strategy that has a handicap: it has no mechanism to resolve disputes over land property rights, according to the article “REDD+ Readiness progress across countries: time for reconsideration” published in May in the British journal Climate Policy.

There are currently 19 REDD+ projects and another 18 forest initiatives in that Andean nation, which is set to receive 3.8 million dollars from the FCPF.

The 20 authors of the study published in the Climate Policy journal, who assessed the cases of Peru, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cameroon, found that progress had been made in planning, coordination, demonstration and pilots.

But they said measurement, reporting and verification of forest carbon, audits, financing, benefit sharing, and policies, laws and institutions faced major challenges.

They suggested a “rethink of the current REDD+ Readiness infrastructure given the serious gaps observed in addressing drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, linking REDD+ to broader national strategies and systematic capacity building.”

Mexico, which is moving forward in fits and starts in its national REDD+ strategy, has some 65 million hectares covered by trees in the territories of around 2,300 communities, according to the Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry (CCMSS).

“There are still important steps to take to create a legal framework that would provide a sound coherent foundation for the successful application of REDD+,” Mexican lawmaker Lourdes López, cochair of the Globe International forestry initiative, told IPS. “The priority is to support sustainable forest producers and grant facilities to small producers.”

López, of Mexico’s Ecological Green Party, is promoting the reform of the 2003 General Law on Sustainable Forestry Development, to cut red tape surrounding forestry initiatives, foment commercial forest plantations, and step up certification of good management practices.

She also wants to regulate businesses like carpentries and furniture stores, to ensure that the lumber they use was legally obtained.

There are 11 REDD+ projects and another 38 forest initiatives in Mexico. In March, the FCPF and the government signed an agreement for 3.8 million dollars to complete the process of consultation and preparation of the REDD+ national strategy.

The government is about to open up the consultation process in order for the strategy to begin to be implemented next year.

The declaration of the second GLOBE Summit of World Legislators, to which IPS had access before it was released, only alludes indirectly to the forestry issue, by emphasising the approval of robust laws that support sustainable development, including forests and REDD+.

The parliamentarians urged governments and the U.N. to press international financial institutions for environmental programmes like REDD+ to involve national legislators, in order to “develop capacities and share best legislative practices.”

In response to a question from IPS, Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change, predicted significant changes in international financial institutions and the nations with the greatest forest capital with respect to the increase in REDD+, at the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Kyte said that since December “we have more than 300 million dollars” to support forest projects.

In Espinoza’s view, it is essential that forest protection schemes do not reproduce poverty.

One country that the rest of the region looks to is Costa Rica, a world pioneer in setting the goal of reaching carbon neutrality in 2021. According to official estimates, the Central American nation will emit close to 21 million tonnes of carbon in 2021, and it hopes to compensate for 75 percent of this total by carbon capture in its forests, which cover 52 percent of the national territory.

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Mexico’s Biodiversity Under Siegehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/mexicos-biodiversity-under-siege/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-biodiversity-under-siege http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/mexicos-biodiversity-under-siege/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 23:43:56 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134820 Mangroves in the Marismas Nacionales Biosphere Reserve, which has the most extensive mangrove forest system along Mexico’s Pacific coast, could be lost if the Las Cruces hydroelectric dam is built, warn environmentalists and local residents. Credit: Courtesy of WWF

Mangroves in the Marismas Nacionales Biosphere Reserve, which has the most extensive mangrove forest system along Mexico’s Pacific coast, could be lost if the Las Cruces hydroelectric dam is built, warn environmentalists and local residents. Credit: Courtesy of WWF

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 5 2014 (IPS)

The Las Cruces hydroelectric project in the northwestern state of Nayarit is one of the threats to biodiversity in Mexico, according to activists.

“It will have an impact on the Marismas Nacionales wetlands reserve, because the dam will retain 90 percent of the sediment which is necessary for the survival of the ecosystem,” said Heidy Orozco, executive director of the non-governmental organisation Nuiwari.

Besides, “the hydrological regime would be modified and the low-lying jungle would be flooded,” she told IPS.

Nuiwari, which forms part of the Free San Pedro River Movement, has been dedicated since 2006 to protecting the San Pedro river basin, where the dam would be built.

The Federal Electricity Commission plans to build and operate the hydropower plant 65 km north of the city of Tepic, in Nayarit. It will have an installed capacity of 240 MW and a 188-metre high dam, with a reservoir covering 5,349 hectares.

The environmental impact study for the dam acknowledges that subsistence-level farming and small-scale livestock production will be replaced by fishing activities in the reservoir.

The Marismas Nacionales Biosphere Reserve, the most extensive mangrove forest system along Mexico’s Pacific coast, is the year-round habitat for 20,000 water birds and is a winter home to more than 100,000 migratory birds.

The reserve is recognised as a Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

In the Marismas – which means marsh – Reserve more than 300 species of animals have been reported, 60 of which are endangered or threatened, especially due to overuse and destruction of habitat, and 51 of which are endemic, according to the Ramsar Convention, in effect since 1975.

Fishing activity that depends on the wetland ecosystem generates between 6.5 and 13.5 million dollars a year for local communities, according to official figures.

Furthermore, the dam would destroy 14 sacred sites and ceremonial centres of the
Náyeri or Cora, Wixárica or Huichol, Tepehuano and Mexicanero indigenous communities.

Protection of biodiversity and the distribution of benefits are the core focuses of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation, signed in Nagoya, Japan in 2010.

The protocol, which complements the Convention on Biological Diversity, in force since 1993, stipulates that every signatory must adopt measures to ensure access to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources and held by indigenous and local communities.

The protocol establishes that such knowledge must be “accessed in accordance with prior informed consent” and under “mutually agreed terms”.

“Parties shall in accordance with domestic law take into consideration indigenous and local communities’ customary laws, community protocols and procedures, as applicable, with respect to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources,” the protocol adds.

Pedro Álvarez-Icaza, general coordinator of Biological Corridors and Resources in the government’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), described the difficulties in complying with these stipulations.

“The big problem is how the benefits are to be distributed,” he told IPS. “Who do they go to – the community? The person providing the information? A group of people? I’m also worried about false expectations – about the idea that a plant could give rise to a medicine, and people spend 10 years waiting for that to happen.”

The government official also said “the legal framework is not necessarily the most up-to-date. The key is to strengthen the capacity of local and indigenous communities and raise their awareness of their right to the fair distribution of benefits.

“The important thing is information, so that if a country wants to patent a resource, it has to demonstrate that the information was obtained through a benefit-sharing agreement, with prior, informed consent,” he said.

With financing from Germany’s technical cooperation agency, GTZ, CONABIO is carrying out the project “Governance on Biodiversity: Fair and Equitable Benefit-Sharing Arising from the Use and Management of Biological Diversity”, to establish a group of pilot cases to serve as reference points.

The initiative, which has a budget of six million euros (8.2 million dollars), is to run though 2018.

“As long as the autonomy of indigenous peoples is not recognised and traditional knowledge is not valued, it is a mere expression of good intentions. There will be no fair and equitable distribution of benefits,” independent consultant Patricia Arendar told IPS.

Mexico is one of the 12 most biologically diverse countries in the world. The country has identified 2,692 species of fish, 361 amphibians, 804 reptiles, 1,096 birds, 535 mammals and over 25,000 plants, according to CONABIO statistics.

The Commission also indicates that there are 127 officially extinct species, 475 endangered, 896 threatened and 1,185 species subject to special protection in Mexico.

The Sectoral Programme of Environment and Natural Resources 2013-2018 indicates that natural ecosystems have been lost in nearly 29 percent of Mexican territory while the ecosystems in the remaining 71 percent are surviving with different levels of conservation.

Natural capital is one of the issues on the agenda of the Jun. 6-8 Second World Summit of Legislators of GLOBE International (the Global Legislators Organisation) in Mexico City, which will draw nearly 500 parliamentarians from more than 80 nations.

With financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Mexico’s environment ministry is leading the analysis of options for adapting the country’s legal framework to the Nagoya Protocol. The alternatives are modifying the law on wildlife, passed in 2000, or creating a specific new law.

So far, 92 countries have signed the Nagoya Protocol. But only 36 of the 50 needed for it to enter into force have ratified it. The only Latin American countries to have done so are Honduras, Mexico and Panama.

“Without a state policy for the protection of biodiversity, it is very difficult to develop strategies around the Nagoya Protocol, for example,” Arendar said. “It’s not a priority in today’s politics. There are more natural land and marine areas, and greater knowledge about biodiversity, but we’re still losing biodiversity.”

“The dam shouldn’t be built,” argued Orozco. “It is unacceptable from any point of view; the few benefits don’t justify the terrible permanent impacts. We demand that Mexico live up to international environment and human rights treaties, but experience from other cases indicates to us that this doesn’t always happen.”

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Mexico – Both Victim and Victimiser in Cyberespionagehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/mexico-both-victim-and-victimiser-in-cyberespionage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-both-victim-and-victimiser-in-cyberespionage http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/mexico-both-victim-and-victimiser-in-cyberespionage/#comments Sun, 01 Jun 2014 08:27:49 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134682 Map showing the NSA’s collection of intelligence from computer networks around the world. The colour scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Credit: Creative Commons

Map showing the NSA’s collection of intelligence from computer networks around the world. The colour scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Credit: Creative Commons

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 1 2014 (IPS)

A lack of controls, regulation and transparency marks the monitoring and surveillance of electronic communication in Mexico, one year after the revelations of cyberespionage shook the world.

This Latin American country of 118 million people was one of the targets of the massive illegal cyberespionage practiced by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). But no substantial changes have been made in response, to prevent further interception.

“There is no legislation on surveillance and intervention, no good practices for companies,” Jesús Robles, with the non-governmental organisation Propuesta Cívica, told IPS. “There is a legal vacuum. They could be gathering metadata.”

Metadata is information that describes other information – data generated as people use technology, such as the date and time of a phone call, the location where someone last accessed their email, who sent or received an email, or where someone made a phone call and how long it lasted.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported on Jun. 5, 2013 that the NSA had been collecting the telephone metadata of the customers of Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile phone provider, both within and outside the United States.

It was just the first of a series of leaks to the press about the secret operations of the agency, made by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor, now hiding under guard in Russia, which granted him political asylum.

The NSA used the PRISM internet surveillance programme to spy on a number of countries, including Mexico, in areas like anti-drug efforts, energy and security.

And with BLARNEY, the international version of the PRISM programme, the United States intercepted the communications of several embassies in Washington, including Mexico’s. Using another tool, Boundless Informant, it illegally intercepted phone calls and email that passed through U.S. telecoms networks.

On Sep. 1, 2013, U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed that in 2012 the NSA had spied on the email of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, in the latter case during his presidential campaign.

The United States has ignored Mexico’s protests, including a diplomatic note demanding an investigation and a condemnation by Congress.

Greenwald’s online U.S. publication The Intercept reported on May 19 that a surveillance programme, Mystic, collects metadata on the nearly 100 million cell phones operating in Mexico.

“Not much has been done,” Cédric Laurant, one of the four founders of the Mexican non-governmental group Son Tus Datos (It’s Your Information), dedicated since 2012 to advocating the protection of privacy in communications, told IPS. “If the public knew more, they could pressure local and foreign businesses to exert more pressure on the government.”

Mexico also acquired computer programmes to record voices and track phone calls, emails, chat conversations, visited website addresses and social networks.

Since 2010, Mexico’s Federal Law for the Protection of Personal Information Data guarantees the right to privacy and establishes that, if an institution wants to transfer information to third parties at home or abroad, it must give the owners of the information notice and explain the purpose for which it was authorised.

But the law’s guarantees were undermined when a Law on Geolocalisation entered into force in 2012. This legislation allows the government to gather, without notification and in real time, geographic data from cell-phone users.

Furthermore, the new national penal procedures code in effect since March allows the authorities to access real-time geo-location data without a court order.

In March 2013, the interdisciplinary Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto in Canada
reported that FinFisher surveillance software command and control servers, made by the U.K.-based company Gamma Group, were hosted on two Mexican Internet service providers: Iusacell, a small provider; and UniNet, one of the largest in Mexico, a subsidiary of Teléfonos Mexicanos (Telmex).

After this was discovered, Propuesta Cívica and the digital rights collective ContingenteMX asked the Federal Institute for Access to Information and Data Protection (IFAI) to investigate the Obses company for the use of the programme.

In March IFAI approved sanctions against Obses for selling FinFisher to the government at more than double the market rate. Obses is a Mexican firm that has received dozens of no-bid governmental projects.

On May 12 a British court ruled that UK Revenue & Customs acted unlawfully in refusing to disclose information on the status of an investigation into the export of British Gamma International’s FinFisher surveillance technology, paving the way for a review of the programme’s sales abroad.

In February, Citizen Lab produced two reports on the use of spy programmes. In one of them, “Mapping Hacking Team’s ‘Untraceable’ Spyware”, it reported that agencies in 21 countries used or use the Remote Control System (RCS), sophisticated computer spyware marketed and sold exclusively to governments by the Milan-based Hacking Team, including Mexico, Colombia and Panama.

The RCS can copy files from a computer’s hard disk, record Skype calls, emails, instant messages, and passwords, and turn on a device’s webcam and microphone to spy on a target.

Citizen Lab reported that it mapped out “covert networks of ‘proxy servers’ used to launder data that RCS exfiltrates from infected computers, through third countries, to an ‘endpoint,’ which we believe represents the spyware’s government operator. This process is designed to obscure the identity of the government conducting the spying.

“For example, data destined for an endpoint in Mexico appears to be routed through four different proxies, each in a different country.”

And in another article, “Hacking Team’s U.S. Nexus”, Citizen Lab said that in at least 12 cases, U.S.-based data centres are part of a “dedicated foreign espionage infrastructure.”

Citizen Lab states that in tracing these “proxy chains,” it found that U.S.-based servers appeared to assist the governments of 10 countries, including Mexico and Colombia, in espionage and/or law enforcement operations.

Citizen Lab found 14 IP addresses, 12 of which are apparently still active.

Mexico’s legislation does not require telecommunications companies to reveal government requests about the activities of Internet users.

“The action taken has not proven to be effective; rights are violated,” Robles said.

“Awareness-raising is needed among users so that a larger number of them exercise mass pressure on companies, in order for users to take privacy into their own hands, using new tools that are available,” Laurant said.

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Mexico’s Climate Laws Ignore Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/mexicos-climate-laws-ignore-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-climate-laws-ignore-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/mexicos-climate-laws-ignore-women/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 10:40:10 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134169 The Ajusco forest, one of Mexico City’s green lungs and water sources. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Ajusco forest, one of Mexico City’s green lungs and water sources. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 8 2014 (IPS)

The rural communities of San Miguel and Santo Tomás Ajusco, to the south of Mexico City, are preserving 3,000 of their 7,619 hectares of forest in exchange for payment for environmental services. But the inequality in the communities is far from ecological.

The 484 men and 120 women who own plots of between half a hectare and eight hectares are organised in the Comisariado de Bienes Comunales (“commissioner’s office for communal goods”). To preserve the forest and care for the water, they receive trees, seeds, greenhouses and other supplies from the federal government and the authorities in the state capital.

There are numerous jobs, ranging from guarding the forest to prevent logging or fires to filling out official paperwork.

And the benefits provided are not insignificant.

Since 2012, this group of ‘comuneros’ – peasants farmers who work communal lands – has been participating in the programme for payments for environmental services financed by the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) and the private construction firm Ingenieros Civiles Asociados (ICA), who provide 123 dollars a year per hectare for keeping the forest clean, growing living barriers, and planting trees.

The work is not done on all plots at the same time, but in a rotating fashion, so the benefits circulate around a surface area of 220 hectares.

In addition, between 2012 and 2013, CONAFOR granted them around 300,000 dollars for the restoration of micro-basins.

But women only participate in reforestation and garbage collection activities.

“We’re going to reforest up to July, when the rainy season starts,” Alma Reyes, a 42-year-old mother of three who is one of the 120 female ‘comuneras’, told IPS. “The problem is that the jobs available to women are very limited.”

Reyes overcame decades of exclusion in 2010, when she successfully ran for the position of secretary of the Comisariado, one of the organisation’s three highest-level posts.

But her term ended in August 2013, and Reyes doubts that another woman will be elected to the position.

“A sexist majority prevails, and the laws are not enforced,” she said. “Women have no influence over what is done, in the distribution of benefits or in decision-making.”

In 2013, similar payments were approved for 52,000 hectares of forest land around the country. And for a period of five years, CONAFOR earmarked 77 million dollars in environmental services on 471,000 hectares.

At first glance, the projects have borne fruit: most of the children in the communities attend school, people eat three meals a day, and villagers have stopped leaving. But statistics are needed to gauge the improvement in living conditions for both men and women.

The case of the ‘comuneras’ from Ajusco illustrates how the role of women is not taken into account in Mexico’s laws on climate change.

The General Climate Change Law in effect since 2012 makes virtually no reference to participation by women.

The only mention of the subject, in article 71, says the plans drawn up by the states must “always seek to achieve gender equity and the representation of the most vulnerable populations.”

“All laws can be perfected,” legislator Lourdes López, chair of the congressional commission on the environment and natural resources, told IPS. “We are reviewing it, because when the law is applied, details are found. We want to ensure follow-up on the climate change plans and on how the executive branch implements them.”

López, who belongs to the Green Ecological Party and heads the Mexican chapter of the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International), is one of the advocates of greater reforms.

The law made the target of reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 obligatory, subject to the availability of funding and technology transfer, according to the most comprehensive study on climate legislation, which analysed the laws of 66 countries and was published in February by GLOBE International, a global network of parliamentarians concerned about the environment.

Martha Lucía Micher, a lawmaker from the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), believes laws and decision-making must do a better job of including women.

“How can policies be developed if women are ignored?” asked Micher, chair of the gender equality commission. “How can sustainable projects be promoted if women don’t participate? We aren’t sufficiently represented in decision-making on climate change.”

The two legislative commissions presided over by López and Micher, as well as female activists and academics, set up a working group to propose changes to laws on climate change, with the aim of including a gender perspective.

This country of 118 million people is highly vulnerable to climate change and is already suffering the manifestations of global warming, such as more frequent and devastating storms, severe drought, a rising sea level, and a loss of biological diversity.

Over half – 51.3 percent – of the population lives in poverty, and many women, especially in rural areas, bear the brunt of the impact of climate change, because they are responsible for making sure their families have clean water and food, and for taking care of their families in case of disasters.

The absence of a gender focus in the country’s climate laws contrasts sharply with other areas.

The National Development Plan 2013-2018 stipulates that a gender angle must be incorporated in all government programmes, in order to achieve equality between men and women.

And the National Programme for Equal Opportunities and Non-Discrimination against Women 2013-2018 orders the incorporation “of a gender focus in the detection and mitigation of risks, emergency response and reconstruction in natural and manmade disasters,” and in “policies on the environment and sustainability.”

Leticia Gutiérrez, a policy adviser with the Alianza MéxicoREDD+ (REDD+Mexico Alliance), told IPS that “under the prevailing approach, women are still seen as a vulnerable group and the focus is on the promotion of productive projects without managing to have an impact on the structural causes of gender inequality.”

The Alianza sponsored a study that analyses Mexico’s main laws and policies, as well as public spending dedicated to equality between men and women in relation to the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism.

The document, drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global Gender Office, concluded that although there is a legal and institutional framework that requires the inclusion of gender considerations, a gender focus is not yet sufficiently included in a cross-cutting manner in forestry, agriculture, environment and climate policies.

Mexico is ranked 21 out of 72 countries on the IUCN Environment and Gender Index (EGI). The top country on the list is Iceland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo is in last place.

The achievements and proposals “sound great,” said Alma Reyes. “I hope they are put into practice, because gender equity is demanded from all sides.”

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Mexico’s Climate Change Law – More Than Just Empty Words?http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/mexicos-climate-change-law-just-empty-words/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-climate-change-law-just-empty-words http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/mexicos-climate-change-law-just-empty-words/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:58:50 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133804 Firewood is still the main fuel used by Mexico’s poor, like this woman cooking in the southern state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Firewood is still the main fuel used by Mexico’s poor, like this woman cooking in the southern state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 21 2014 (IPS)

When Mexico’s climate change law went into effect in October 2012, it drew international praise. But what has happened since then?

The best illustration of the lack of action so far is the Climate Change Fund, created under the law to finance adaptation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives, with national and international funds.

In 2012 it was assigned just 78,000 dollars for administrative operations, but was given no funds to finance projects. And this year there is not even a specific budget allocation for the Fund. Its operating rules are ready, but they have not been published.

Other problems in the implementation of the law have to do with the creation of a national climate change system, the effective reduction of greenhouse gases, and an assessment of adaptation and mitigation measures, according to public policy analyst Carlos Tornel with the non-governmental Mexican Environmental Law Centre (CEMDA).

These aspects are essential “in order to know what is being done at the three levels of government [federal, state and local], which would give us more concrete information on priorities for adaptation and mitigation,” Tornel told Tierramérica.

“Moreover, no mechanisms were established to evaluate the impact of the measures and to know where the money goes and how efficiently it is used,” he added.

Mexico was one of the first countries in the world to pass a specific law on climate change.

The law made the target of reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 obligatory, subject to the availability of funding and technology transfer, said the most comprehensive study on climate legislation, published in February by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International), which analysed the laws of 66 countries.

Mexico is the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Latin America, after Brazil, emitting 748 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year.

In June, the government published its National Climate Change Strategy, which is to guide policy-making over the next 40 years.

It also created the Intersecretarial Commission, made up of 13 secretariats or ministries, and the Council, which includes scientific researchers.

A more concrete measure was the updating of the methodology used to measure contaminants released by motor vehicles.

But of Mexico’s 32 states, only 14 have drawn up a state plan on climate change, just seven have passed their own laws, and only 11 have measured their CO2 emissions.

“The government has failed to align all policy-making instruments behind the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Greenpeace Mexico’s communications director, Raúl Estrada, told Tierramérica.

Mexico, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, is already suffering the manifestations of global warming, such as more frequent and devastating storms, severe drought, a rising sea level, and a loss of biological diversity.

Mexico’s climate change law establishes measures to guarantee the optimal use of gas in industrial and oil installations, to promote the harnessing of the energy potential of waste products, and to create economic and financial incentives for the development of environmentally responsible businesses and industries.

But none of these actions has been carried out.

A new tax of three dollars per tonne of CO2 generated by the mining industry, the burning of gasoil and other fossil fuels, and the production of steel and cement was put into effect in January. Natural gas, considered less polluting than other hydrocarbons, is exempt.

But the energy reform that entered into force in December 2013, which opened up the oil industry to foreign investment, threatens compliance with the emissions reduction goals.

The reform is aimed at exploiting more “oil and shale gas, which would increase greenhouse gases…something that contradicts the climate change law, which seeks to minimise them,” Estrada said.

“The reform is a risk…if we start to exploit unconventional hydrocarbons like shale gas,” Tornel said.

“But it creates a window of opportunity, because it opens up competition in the generation and distribution of electricity so renewable energy sources can start to compete,” he added.

However, this “is possible only if the government generates incentives for those sources to become more competitive,” he said.

Mexico’s target is for 35 percent of the electricity generated in 2024 to come from clean sources. Nuclear energy and hydropower dams currently account for 17 percent of the total.

To comply with the climate change law, the government must present an evaluation of adaptation and mitigation policies in October.

But the process for selecting the non-governmental members of the team charged with that task, who will come from the scientific, academic, technical and industrial communities, did not get underway until Apr. 4.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

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Civil Society Wants More Influence in New Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/civil-society-wants-influence-new-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-wants-influence-new-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/civil-society-wants-influence-new-development-agenda/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:48:27 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133755 One of the debates at the first high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico City. Credit: Mexican government

One of the debates at the first high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico City. Credit: Mexican government

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 17 2014 (IPS)

Making international cooperation more effective requires a civil society with greater influence in the negotiations of the development agenda that the world’s governments are to adopt in 2015, civil society representatives said at an international meeting in Mexico.

The first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was held Apr. 15-16 in the Mexican capital, where civil society organisations demanded that a human rights focus be incorporated in international development aid flows.

At the gathering, the GPEDC also called for international cooperation to include a more enabling environment for civil society organisations (CSOs), as well as greater transparency and better accountability.

“There are two key issues: preserving the Partnership, which is complex due to its plurality and diversity of opinions, and improving the monitoring of issues,” the executive director of Oxfam Mexico, Carlos Zarco, told IPS.

The GPEDC, which brings together over 100 governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), emerged in Busan, South Korea in November 2011 with the aim of finding novel approaches to development aid.

That aid is now flowing along new paths, such as growing South-South cooperation, with an expanding role of emerging nations as donors, and triangular cooperation, where one developing country cooperates with another, with financial support from a nation of the industrialised North.

Against that backdrop, the United Nations members are negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be adopted in 2015 to extend and expand the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by the international community in 2000, which have only been partially met.

Three years after Busan, “There is a shrinking space for CSOs, with more restrictive policies. Governments choose which CSOs to consult with, there are limited public consultations with CSOs,” María Theresa Lauron, an activist with the Asia-Pacific Research Network, told IPS.

Lauron said there was a growing trend to restrict access to information. She also mentioned new forms of financing that limit the effectiveness of NGOs, and growing pressure on CSOs that voice criticism, to get them to align themselves with the governments of aid recipient nations.

The first high-level meeting of the GPEDC drew some 1,500 delegates of governments, academia, international agencies and civil society, who focused on issues like mobilising development aid resources at a national level, South-South and triangular cooperation, and participation by the business sector.

At the start of the meeting, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for continued strategies of oversight, transparency and accountability and efforts to fight corruption, and said a strong commitment to reducing poverty was needed – a reference to the first of the eight MDGs, which is to halve extreme poverty from 1990 levels.

CSOs complain that a portion of development aid goes to financing infrastructure works like large hydropower dams, gas pipelines and roads that violate the rights of local communities and generate conflicts in recipient nations.

The principles established in Busan call for ownership and leadership of development strategies by aid recipient countries, a focus on results that matter to the poor in developing countries, inclusive partnerships among development actors based on mutual trust, and transparency and accountability to one another.

They also emphasise the need for recipients of development aid to work together and form partnerships, to have a greater influence in designing development strategies, and to guarantee that the funds will be used effectively in projects.

The report “An enabling environment for civil society organisations: A synthesis of evidence of progress since Busan”, which was analysed at the meeting, found practices that reduce social participation in international cooperation.

It cited, for example, multiple, vaguely worded regulations; costly, complex procedures for registering organisations; vague arguments for not allowing an organisation to register; legal proceedings against activists critical of government policies; and blocked access to international financing.

“Governments decide where CSOs can work,” Vitalice Meja, executive director of Reality of Aid Africa, told IPS. “Areas such as environment, human rights and extractive industries face threats. We need to revise the punitive laws and establish a national dialogue with governments and CSOs.”

One example is Bolivia, one of the 12 countries studied in the report. The “Pilot study on Enabling Environment Bolivia” found that there were leaders of social organisations questioning the work of NGOs and their role as intermediaries in the management of resources, as well as government criticism of NGOs for supposed meddling in projects.

“The calculating position of some NGOs in response to the risk that the current government will accuse them of being traitors or of opposing the process of change, lead[s] them to silence their critical voice,” concludes the report by Susana Eróstegui of the National Union of Institutions for Social Action Work in Bolivia.

These conditions, the report says, hinder the work of NGOs in the post-2015 agenda.

For that reason, the GPEDC launched the Civil Society Continuing Campaign for Effective Development, which from now to the end of 2016 will work to assert the right of NGOs to participate in development policies.

The goal will be to establish development aid policies that are clearly influenced by civil society’s positions on human rights, democratic ownership and inclusive partnerships, and global, subregional and regional dialogue to push for international standards on an enabling environment.

During the high-level meeting, Mexico’s conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto presented an inclusive cooperation strategy, whose focus, IPS learned, would be a plan for Africa managed by the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation, seeking to emulate programmes that Brazil has carried out in Africa.

One new phenomenon is that emerging economies such as Brazil, China and South Africa are taking on different roles in the field of development aid, and are reluctant to accept the same standards as those followed by traditional donors from the industrialised North.

“There are many requirements for traditional aid, and none for emerging economies,” said Oxfam Mexico’s Zarco. “These have to accept standards” in terms of national ownership, transparency, accountability and inclusive development, he added.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) presented “Making Development Cooperation More Effective: 2014 Progress Report”, which found a slow pace of compliance with the Busan agreement and “mixed results”.

“Much more needs to be done to transform cooperation practices and ensure country ownership of all development efforts, as well as transparency and accountability among development partners,” says the report, which is based on data from 46 countries that receive development cooperation.

The report was drawn up under the auspices of the Global Partnership, which is jointly supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the OECD.

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