10 Environmental Victories Latin America Applauded in 2015 | Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) Skip to content Skip to navigation

Panama Bay, Panama. | Credit: Alejandro Maimone, Fundación Albatros Media

10 Environmental Victories Latin America Applauded in 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, we’d like to draw your attention to the environmental stories and successes that make us so proud to do what we do. Our attorneys work tirelessly to defend the right to a healthy environment in the Americas. Achieving long-sought victories, listening to world leaders take a stand for the environment, and seeing national governments set precedents in conservation provide us with the inspiration to continue to fight for our Earth, full speed ahead.

Here’s a rundown of the stories we, and our readers, were most excited about this year:

1. The legal protection of Panama Bay Wetlands

In February, the Panamanian government approved a national law that bestows protected-area status on the Panama Bay Wetland Wildlife Refuge. Though recognized as an ecosystem key to freshwater supplies and biodiversity preservation, the Panama Bay wetlands have been threatened in recent years by infrastructure and development projects.

AIDA welcomed the law, which our attorneys helped to strengthen, as a breakthrough in national wetland protection and an important example for other countries in the region. (read more)

2. Colombia suspended the aerial spraying of glyphosate

In May, the Colombian government suspended the widespread spraying of glyphosate – a toxic chemical recently recognized as a carcinogen – in rural areas across the country. The spraying was part of a US-finance program to destroy coca and poppy crops. While proving ineffective in the war on drugs, the spraying has for years damaged sensitive natural areas, water sources and wildlife, destroyed crops, and displaced vulnerable populations.

AIDA has advocated for 17 years for the program’s suspension, which comes now as an important advance for justice and environmental law in Colombia. (read more)

3. Better protections for Loggerhead Turtles

Mining was finally added to the list of activities threatening loggerhead turtles (caretta caretta) throughout the region. In June, the member parties of the Interamerican Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Marine Turtles (CIT) signed a policy intended to protect the threated species and its habitats.

They also pledged to work to implement conservation plans in countries where they do not yet exist. (read more)

4. Pope Francis urged the protection of the planet

The holy leader of the Catholic Church has been extremely engaged this year in the support of the environment. He published his encyclical Laudato Sí, which calls to protect “our common home,” the Earth. In it, he acknowledged the important work of organizations, called on world leaders to act to combat climate change, and stressed that failure to protect the environment will cause greater inequality worldwide. He also visited the United Nations General Assembly and called on decision-makers to find the political and moral will to act.
We celebrate the importance of a world leader like Pope Francis speaking so strongly in favor of the environment for the people of Latin America, where the majority of the population is Catholic. (read more)

5. The Santurbán Páramo was protected

Building upon a law to protect páramos, the Colombian government took the important step this year of beginning to define the borders of these vital ecosystems, which collectively produce 85 percent of the nation’s potable water. AIDA advocated alongside many national organizations and communities for the protection of the Santurban páramo, and helped compel the government, when defining its boundaries, to protect 76 percent of Santurbán’s total area from exploitation.
Although parts of the Santurbán are still at risk, the government set a powerful precedent for protecting freshwater sources from the ravages of mining. (read more)

6. Chile created the largest marine reserve in the Americas

The Chilean government in October announced the creation of the largest expanse of protected ocean in the Americas, in turn aiding in the conservation of a unique array of marine life. The marine protected area, roughly the size of Italy, stretches between the mainland of Chile and Easter Island. It’s impressive size accounts for nearly eight percent of the world’s protected ocean areas.

Off-limits to fishing and governed by no-take protections, the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park sets a powerful example for coastal nations worldwide. (read more)

7. Peru created one of the largest protected areas in the world

3.3 million acres! That makes the brand new Sierra del Divisor National Park one of the largest protected areas in Latin America. Announced in November, to the acclaim of international conservationists and local communities alike, the park’s creation is intended to protect the indigenous peoples and rich biodiversity of the area from threats arising from logging, mining and drug trafficking. (read more)

8. Belize banned oil exploration in its reef system

The second largest coral reef system in the world will remain protected from offshore oil exploration, thanks to a new national policy approved December 1. The Belize Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site comprised of 7 protect areas over 3,400 square kilometers, is the equivalent of 15 percent of Belize’s marine territory. (read more)

9. World leaders adopted a new climate accord

In a historic meeting this December, world leaders successfully created a new global climate accord, in hopes of maintaining an emissions cap that will limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Though a long road remains ahead in the fight against climate change, the so-called Paris Agreement is an important step in ensuring all countries, developed and developing, can effectively work to prevent and prepare for the adverse effects of a changing climate. (read more)

10. YOUR commitment to protecting the natural world

That’s right – YOU are one of the year’s biggest stories. Environmental activists and concerned citizens around the world have long been rising up to make their voices heard. In Paris and around the world this year, unprecedented numbers of people took to the streets to call for climate action, the protection of natural places, and respect for the indigenous cultures that have long been the guardians of this Earth. 

Every time you decided to walk or bike instead of drive; to recycle or compost your waste; to buy local and to eat smart; to work, volunteer or donate to an environmental cause, you helped combat climate change and contributed to the fight for justice for the environment and all the creatures that call this planet home. 

All the best stories that come to light, all the struggles and successes, none of them would be possible without the passion and voice of the people! 

So THANK YOU, and Happy New Year!

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