Clean Development Mechanism: La Joya Hydroelectric Project #ClimateChange

La Joya Hydroelectric Project is a 50 MW hydroelectric power plant located in Costa Rica, Cartago province in the area called El Oso. It uses the download of previous existing water reservoir and power plant Cachi diverting it into the cross of the rivers Reventazon and Pejiyabe.

The parties involved in the project are Costa Rica and Spain. Being the developers of the project Union FENOSA Generedora La Joya S.A. and Union FENOSA International S.A.. This project was born with the public biding offer of ICE (Intituto Costarricense de Electricidad) the national company of electricity in Costa Rica in 1999. The offer consisted in the addition of 3 hydraulic blocks to the Cachi Dam of up to 50 MW each with a concession of up to 21 years (including construction time).  One block was assigned to FENOSA in 2000.

Other alternatives were evaluated but none of them complied with the environmental requirements during the bidding due to deforestation and other impacts that increased the countries CO2 balance. What differentiated this projects from the other alternatives proposed was the implementation of technology that had never been used in the country for the download tunnel from the Cachi Dam to the La Joya power plant. This technology consisted in a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) which reduced the environmental impact of the tunnel construction to its minimum.  Finally SETENA (Secretaria Tecnica Nacional de Ambiente) carried out the environmental evaluation and approved the project, which was later presented to ICE. The project was granted to FENOSA and construction started in 2003 concluding in 2006 when it started operating.

The contribution this project makes to the global reduction of green house gas emissions (GHG) is that it substitutes the electric production from planned and already installed thermal power plants that burn fossil fuels. It also helps reducing the country’s dependency on the imports of fossil fuels for electric production. This is also aligned with the countries national energy plan to increase renewable energy sources in its energy mix and becoming carbon neutral for 2021. As the project is a renewable energy production plant it has a zero GHG emission generation once running.

According to the project baseline in the Project Design Document (PDD) the total GHG reduction of the project will be of 803,745 tons of CO2 in 21 years with an annual average of 38,273 tons of CO2. Apart from contributing to GHG emission reduction the project brought several improvements to the communities that surround it such as repairs to water tanks, 200 mts of water pipe lines, telecommunication infrastructure, donation of construction material to build a school, the donation of a lot and ambulance for a medical center and repairs and pavement of roads among others. Making it clear that CDM project apart from offsetting emissions from developed countries can as well contribute to the development of developing countries.




CDM Analysis – Cable Cars Metro Medellín, Colombia

Constructing and operating 6 cable car lines was proposed as a small-scale CDM project for Medellín, Colombia in 2003. The Metrocable is an aerial public transportation tramway that aimed at solving transportation needs of low-income people living in hillside areas. In 2004 this system started to operate and it has expanded through the years. Before the cable car was constructed, people had to use conventional buses with high accidental levels, elevated costs and considerable time loss to get to their workplace.

The operational lifetime of the project is 30 years and it is operated by ETMVA. The project established to cover 16 km and to have more than 200 cabins, each provisioned with solar energy panels. The projected number of passengers for the system is approximately 113.000 per day. Although the cable car is not zero-carbon because it uses energy from the grid, during the 7-certification years (2010 – 2016) the expected emission reduction is 121,029 tons of CO2eq.

The total investment for construction and operation of the cable car system was estimated to be UD$5 – 10 million per kilometer.  The cost for the first 3 lanes was US$29 million.

Baseline of the project
4 legally feasible transport options were analyzed before selecting the cable car system: metro extensions, tram or light duty rail, bus rapid transit systems, and continuation of the current public transport system. It is important to note that:
– The construction of the cable car system was the most expensive alternative, but it was the only that met expected passengers demand
– Topography would make a metro, tram and bus rapid transit systems very difficult to implement
– The cable car system was the most environmentally sound option

The project states that the project without the CDM could not have been implemented. The CDM allows financial flexibility and lowers the risk for ETMVA. It also promotes this new environmentally friendly and innovative technology for transportation purposes around the world.

One of the main issues that should be analyzed is if the project contributes to the sustainable development of the area. Certainly it has huge positive social and environmental impacts for Medellín. There are also considerable economic improvements that should be highlighted.

It is very important to note that since the Metrocable was constructed the criminality rates have decreased significantly.

The additionality of the project was demonstrated by 3 factors:

  1. First of its kind: by 2003, no similar mass transportation system operated in Latin America. There were only 2 similar comparable systems in in USA. The project promotes environmentally friendly and innovative technology for mass transportation.
  2. Investment barriers: the implementation of the metro system in Medellín had overrun costs and a 7-year overlay, which caused a deficit ETMVA and a restriction to get loans and to invest in high-risk projects.
  3. Technological barriers: since the project is unique technical knowledge has to be constructed. Staff needs to be trained and know-how needs to be assimilated.

Even though these are important arguments, the additionality of the project is questionable. By being the main transportation system for poor areas in Medellín it was an immediate problem to be addressed. In fact, the project was part of the governmental plan, which means that CDM was not necessary. Furthermore, since the construction of only one line was not economically feasible, the developer of the project waited until the second and third lines were near to be implemented to invest in the whole project. The funds for constructing a critical transport system for the city cannot rely on a third party.

By being a first of its kind, the project requires initial technological and know-how transfer and development. All the processes and equipment demand innovation, research, national and international cooperation. The construction phase and new environmentally sound technologies were acquired form other countries and have an annual technology improvement factor. Additionally, the operation and maintenance requires intensive training and thus capacity building. Developing high-standard security and monitoring measures will also promote technological progress. This system sets a standard for Colombia and for other cities that can use similar systems as transport solutions.

Due to the high levels of research and development and to the involvement of expert firms, the project presents low vulnerability to future climate change. Previous environmental studies and climatological projections were done in order to guarantee that the project was going to provide safe service in the log term. Additionally, the high operational standards and investment for operation and maintenance ensure that the climate will not threaten the functioning of the system.

The real results of the project are outstanding; more than 450.000 people benefit directly or indirectly by the Metrocable. By 2011, 3 lines of the system had transported more than 47 million people, which represent a total saving for the people of approximately 22.5 million euros. Its operation avoids consuming 1.730.376 gallons of diesel fuel, a reduction in the emission of particulate material, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Although the additionality of the project is not transparent enough, the Metrocable is an example of sustainable mobility and of a complete development strategy: it not only operates with clean technology but it has significant social and economical impact. For me, one of the key aspects of the project is the sense of belonging that it has created and social integration, equity and security. I do believe it has improved significantly the quality of life and development to the city. The project has still a long way to go, its main challenge is to look for constant innovation and to keep generating growth to the people.

To know more about the Metrocable watch the following video!

Pinche aquí para ver el vídeo

Chaves, Erica. El ‘Metrocable’ de Medellín, el teleférico de los pobres. More information:

Clean Development Mechanisms Project Design Document Form (CDM SSC PDD) Version 03 in effect as of: 22 December 2006. UNFCCC.  More information:

Metro Magazine. Medellín´s Metro. More information:


Clean Development Mechanism project in Vietnam #Climate Change

You don’t know yet what is a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)? Watch this video (2:33 min) first!

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The CDM helps developed countries to reduce emissions and comply with the Kyoto protocol targets and supports developing countries to undertake investments for sustainable development and emission reduction.

The parties involved in the CDM project I want to share with you are Vietnam as host party with Dai Viet Company Limited and Investment and Trade Consultancy Company Limited; and Germany with RWE Power AG as Certified Emission Reductions (CER) buyer. The following picture indicates its location, which is around 20 km away from Buon Ma Thuot City in Vietnam.

Location of the project activity in Dak Nong Province, Vietnam, Source: CDM-PDD, page 4

The “Project 4291: Methane Recovery and Utilization Project of Dai Viet Co. Ltd, Vietnam” is a Greenfield project which treats industrial wastewater of Industrial Alcohol processing factory. This factory generates about 2,250 m3/day of wastewater while using cassava to produce 150,000 liters of alcohol. It requires heat from an on-site boiler for the production process.

The CDM project suggests to implement an anaerobic digester treatment system to capture biogas which can be used to heat the boilers in the production process. Furthermore it wants to prevent the release of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere from wastewater treatment. It therefore reduces GHG emissions by capturing the methane and the substitution of the coal as a fuel for the boilers. Here you can see a flow chart with the project boundary:

Flow diagram of the project boundary, Source: CDM-PDD, page 10

The baseline scenario: Without the CDM project the wastewater would be kept in open ponds and the methane (CH4) would emit straight into the atmosphere. Additionally the factory would use coal to generate heat to run the boilers. The chance that the project activity would be implemented without the CDM investment is very unlikely, because the proposed technology needs a high initial investment compared with other technologies.

The CDM project will contribute to environmental sustainability by:

Additionally the project introduces a new technology in wastewater treatment and plans to build human capacity through training. The estimated reduction will be 119,309 tCO2e GHG emissions annually and the CDM displaces about 11,478 tons of coal.

From the viewpoint of the vulnerability to future climate change this small-scale CDM project has a small positive impact on the climate resilience of Vietnam. The project leads to better water quality in the surrounding areas and hence contributes to food security due to clean water for irrigation. The impact on the human capital is not very high, because this project needs well grounded staff and the number of planned trainings remains unknown.

The German company RWE Power AG has a high knowledge of CDM projects and is very interested to obtain the CERs in order to fulfill the obligation to reduce greenhouse gases. They state, that the investments into CDM projects are “key components of our climate change strategy”.

Resources, last accessed 19.02.2012:

CDM – Executive Board (2006) CLEAN DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM PROJECT DESIGN DOCUMENT FORM (CDM-PDD) Version 03 – in effect as of: 28 July 2006,

Overview of all documents: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Project 4291: Methane Recovery and Utilization Project of Dai Viet Co. Ltd, Vietnam,

#Rural Development#: A food insecurity outlook

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), by the end of 2008 there were about 850 million undernourished people. Other sources, such as Oxfam International, affirm that it reached 1 billion people by 2009, due to the prolongation of the 2008 food crisis effects. Despite this awful situation, if we take into account the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set by United Nations, we are on the track to reduce the proportion of hunger people in the world, hence reaching the target, as we can see in the table below.

Although it seems to be contradictory, it’s not rare to see important representatives of countries and international organizations claiming that the current economic system promoted this improvement. Sometimes it seems that they forget they are treating with people, with human life, not with percentages. If nowadays we have almost the same number of hunger people in the world, it means we have not improved the situation at all. Taking a further look at the distribution of famine in the world, we can see a huge increase in the number of undernourished people in the least developed countries (>20%), indicating that the gap between rich and poor has been widened. Obviously, the conclusion is that the current situation is worse than we had in the 90’s. Population growth makes up the statistics and the problems remain hidden behind “proportions”. Rich countries sometimes benefit from the situation whereas poor countries cannot afford to solve the problem by themselves.

Many of the main challenges faced by poor countries can be clustered into two topics: global markets and food resilience. The first topic means that from an external point of view, poor countries have been deprived from food security especially by the prices volatility, since most of poor countries are net importers. According to a document of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD),  food prices rose by 83% between 2005 and 20086, with maize prices nearly tripling, wheat prices increasing by 127%, and rice prices by 170% between January 2005 and June 2008. “At present, there is a lively debate as to whether these developments were the result of factors adversely affecting food supply, or whether they were caused by excessive speculation in food commodities derivatives” (De Schutter, 2010). There are also arguments supporting the increasing demand as a driver for prices spike, pushed by China and India, but this is not coherent with the available data.

This huge dependence on external markets stems basically from the internal vulnerability of those countries, what means low food resilience. According to FAO, the population is expected to grow about 34% until 2050 and almost all of this increase will occur in developing countries. The same study affirms that food production should increase by 70% to meet our future needs.

So, how should we tackle the existing food insecurity and go beyond to assure that we can support the increasing population? According to FAO, “Investment in agriculture will improve the competitiveness of domestic production, increase farmers’ profits and make food more affordable for the poor. Private investment will form the bulk of this investment, but public investment has a catalytic role to play in supplying public goods that the private sector will not provide.” However, the current situation reveals that poor countries are often not attractive to private investors and governments are not financially able to promote public investments in the necessary scale.

In this sense, there are important measures to be undertaken. From the public sector, a higher share of the national budgets should be invested in this long term achievements, as well as the money coming from international aid. A legal framework for encouraging private investments is an alternative to be adopted in some countries, at the same time it assures that when the money flows into the system, it really contributes for the local social development, for preserving the environment and reinforcing local culture.

A good example of this situation in the future can be the expansion of biofuels’ production in Africa. An article published recently by “Nature” indicates that Africa food production in Africa can be boosted by biofuels’ production, improving the food security in the continent. The reasons are many, such as the availability of untapped land, the investments and researches that the sector could promote in agriculture, etc. According to it, “bioenergy projects in Africa be expected to demonstrably improve food security at a local level”(…)” To achieve this goal will require planning and monitoring. Emerging frameworks and standards for evaluating bioenergy” (…)”Private–public partnerships are in principle attractive ways to harness the economic engine of private enterprise in order to realize social benefits” (…)”The first step towards reaching ‘win–win’ outcomes with respect to bioenergy, food security and poverty reduction is to recognize that such outcomes are possible.”



De Schutter, O. (2010), Food Commodities Speculation and Food Price Crises: Regulation to reduce the risks of price volatility. United Nations Special Rapporteur On The Right To Food.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – (FAO 2011), The State of Food Insecurity in the World: How does international price volatility affect domestic economies and food security?, Rome.

Oxfam International (2011), Growing a Better Future Food justice in a resource-constrained world.

Lynd, L. & Woods, J. (2011), “Perspective: A new hope for Africa” in Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science, ed. 474, S20–S21.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development – UNCTAD (2009), Trade and Development Report.


Climate Change: Animal Waste Management System GHG Mitigation Project, Brazil

This project proposes to apply to multiple swine CAFOs (located in Minas Gerais and Goias, Brazil) a GHG mitigation methodology which is applicable to intensive livestock operations. The proposed project activities will mitigate AWMS GHG emissions in an economically sustainable manner, and will result in other environmental benefits, such as improved water quality and reduced odour. In simple terms, the project proposes to move the designated farms from a high-GHG AWMS practice, an open air lagoon, to a lower-GHG AWMS practice, an ambient temperature anaerobic digester with capture and combustion of resulting biogas. Sites will be constructed throughout the project crediting period in a phased approach as site owners find it reasonable and financially practical.

Introducing progressive AWMS practices throughout the region could result in an annual reduction of over 4.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) annually.

Furthermore, the proper handling of this large quantity of animal waste is critical to protecting human health and the environment.

Energy problems are also a major issue in rural regions of Brazil. Anaerobic digesters produce biogas containing a high percentage of methane, which can be used for localized energy (either heat or electricity) production. The proposed GHG mitigation project satisfies the Brazilian government priorities for environmental stewardship and sustainability while positioning the project activity participants to develop and use renewable (“green”) energy.

This project activity will have positive effects on the local environment by improving air quality and will set the stage for future possible on-farm projects (such as changes in land application practices) that would have an additional positive impact on GHG emissions with an attendant potential for reducing groundwater contamination problems.

This project activity will also increase local employment of skilled labour for the fabrication, installation, operation and maintenance of the specialized equipment. Finally, this voluntary project activity will establish a model for animal waste management practices, which can be duplicated on other CAFO livestock farms, dramatically reducing livestock related GHG and providing the potential for a new source of revenue and green power.

According to Brazil‟s Inter-Ministerial Commission on Global Climatic Change, manure management is an important issue that needs to be solved. Failure to do so will allow existing problems (e.g., increased (insect) pest populations, problems with allergies and livestock disease, including foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) which exists in Brazil), to continue unabated. To this end, Brazil has in recent years required all CAFOs to transition from single to multi-lagoon systems, and even more recently has required them to line the bottom of their primary sedimentation lagoon to prevent effluent seepage.

Establishing a positive model for other livestock operations is essential.

The proposed GHG mitigation project satisfies the Brazilian government priorities for environmental stewardship and sustainability while positioning the project activity participants to develop and use renewable (“green”) energy.

This project activity will have positive effects on the local environment by improving air quality (by reducing the emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and odour, for instance) and will set the stage for future possible on-farm projects (such as changes in land application practices) that would have an additional positive impact on GHG emissions with an attendant potential for reducing groundwater contamination problems.

This project activity will also increase local employment of skilled labour for the fabrication, installation, operation and maintenance of the specialized equipment. Finally, this voluntary project activity will establish a model for animal waste management practices, which can be duplicated on other CAFO livestock farms, dramatically reducing livestock related GHG and providing the potential for a new source of revenue and green power.

In the end, concerning the vulnerability, this program could be seen as a step forward for the improving of health situation and management of cattle’s manure; in the other hand, it doesn’t influence the water supply or the resilience of the territory, only a major energy indipendence with an autonomous production of renewable energy.

The final evaluation of the program is without any doubt positive; it includes within many advantages as: reduction of GHG emission, renewable energy production, health improving for the population, new “green” business and employment.

Furthermore is clear that this kind of programs is almost impossible to establish without an external (economic) help which in this case come from a CDM program, that finally results vital to gain the fixed goal.


CAFOs= Confined Animal Feeding Operations
AWMS= Animal Waste Management System




RD. The idle speculation

As always in a crisis, there are winners. The food price crisis has led speculators play and wins in the commodities exchange. However, is financial speculation the major factor towards the agricultural commodities prices increases and volatility? Seriously, I have my doubts.

What it is behind the surge of food prices requires a more deep analysis and understanding, than point the finger to speculation activity. The usual claim (that it’s all about speculators) falls short to the complexity of the problem and it causes. Don’t forget the financial crisis.

It is true that too much non-commercial participation can cause distortions and erratic price changes, but only in the short term. But also it is true that to little speculation results in tow liquidity and potentially in large seasonal price swings (Gilbert, C.L. (2008)). Since for every buy is a sell, prices could not be driven up for a long period of time (The Economist, 2011). In fact, there is little empirical evidence that investors cause a more than fleeting distortions to commodity prices. The failure seems to be more complicated.

Food prices have risen between 40% and 60%, not only grains but also to sugar and other products. For example, the high prices of corn have an effect on other foods, because corn is used to feed cattle and chicken as well. According to the global food import bill (FAO 2011), 2010 registered the same picks of 2008, year of the worst food crises ever.

This situation represents a huge burden for the poorest countries to continue buying food from the global market at these high prices and with a depreciated dollar. The increase is not only in the prices; the vulnerability to poverty is threat for poor consumers. Last year, more 40 million people were move into poverty and 1 billion reach the status of malnourishedand hunger.

Data suggest that we are facing a huge global harvest failure (Krugman, 2011) which effects have being intensified by a growing world population, changes in habits, weather conditions, and low stocks and agriculture productivity.

Production is going down, meantime the challenge to feed an increasing world population is getting bigger. By 2050 the world’s population will reach about 9 billion and the demand for food will increase by between 70% and 100% (FAO 2011). This is enough to exert pressure on commodity prices. Besides, it is important to consider that demand for basic food (grains) are highly-price inelastic, it means people will not consume less even if prices are higher.

In addition, most of the decline of wheat and grain production occurs in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in were weather didn’t help too much, against all expectations. Canada also experienced weather related low yields for several crops. So, sever weather events have affected agricultural production. The Russian extreme heat, the dry weather in Brazil, and La Niña, El Niño produce droughts and floods. The unexpected changes in weather not only affect the production, but also create a cascade effect with strong market reactions and soaring prices. As a response of the harvest failure, responded with exports restrictions and close markets for exports. This created panic on importers, especially on North Africa and Middle East, regions that depends on Russia supply.

Nevertheless is well known that this protectionist measures, at least in the US, does not respond as a defensive mechanisms. Subsidies are raising the price of corn and diminishing the amount of grain for food. The real objective, hidden under the claim to protect small farmer, is to promote ethanol production in the benefit of some other “farmers” (big, very big in these case). This subsides at end encourage the inefficient use of global land, and makes pressure in the commodities prices.

Among all these causes, there is a common denominator. The main market failure relies in the lack ethics foundations (agreements and rules). Ethics not as an abstract morality, but as practical rules. Even regulation can’t correct the whole problem, could have an important role in avoiding abuses and perverse incentives. Agricultural commodities are not the same as other financial assets. What is in game is people life. Transparency and control (with positions limits for example) in transactions of agricultural commodities. Initiatives as the one leader by the World Development Movement should be listen, yet they focus just in one cause of the problem. It is necessary to understand the problem, create awareness and demand our rights, in a solidarity basis.

The Economist: “The future of food. Crisis prevention. What is causing food prices to soar and what can be done about it?” Feb 24 2001. From the print edition.

Krugman, Paul: “Soaring Food Prices”. Blog NY times, Feb 5, 2011.

Krugman, Paul: Droughts, Floods and Food. The opinion pages. The New York Times. February 6, 2011.

FAO Food Price Index.

Gilbert, C.L. (2008): “How to understand high food prices”. Paper presented at FAO expert’s meeting on Policies for the Effective Management of Sustained Food Price Increases. Trade and Markets Division. Rome. 10-11 July 2008.

Javier Blas, What’s driving food prices? Financial Times. Nov 8, 2010.

Financial Time. Why are food prices rising? Economy.

Worthy, Murray: “Broken Markets”. World Development Movement. Chicago, September 2011.

Climate Change: CDM Solar Cooker

CDM is a cooperative mechanism established under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework convention on Climate Change. The purpose of CDM projects is to assist non annex 1 parties in achieving sustainable development while allowing annex I countries to meet their emission targets through carbon credits generated through implementation of projects. CDM is subject to authority and guidance of the parties serving the meeting of COP/MOP to KP and is supervised by an executive board. Eligible projects include:
• end use energy efficiency improvements,
• Supply-side efficiency improvements
• Renewable energy
• Fuel switching
• Agriculture ( CH4 and NO2 reduction projects )
• Industrial process
• Sinks projects (only afforestation and reforestation)
The active stakeholders involved are the executive board, the project participants, designated national authority and the designated operational authority. The baseline for a CDM project is the scenario that reasonably represents the anthropogenic emissions by sources of GHS that would occur in the absence of the proposed project. The baseline should be constructed for a project on a specific basis and in a transparent and conservative manner. It should take into account project boundary, leakage potential, and relevant national and/or sectorial policies and circumstances such as sectorial reform initiatives, local fuel availability, power sector expansion plans, and the economic situation in the project sector.

The aims of CDM Solar Cooker Project Aceh 1 was to demonstrate by a pilot project that fuel efficient projects can be completely financed through Certified Emission Reductions. It can be reframed in other countries to reduce world wide climate change and consequences arising from the burning of fuel wood. The main criteria to be fulfilled are to successfully transfer sustainable technology and through the use of modalities and procedures with the objective of ensuring transparency, efficiency and accountability through independent auditing and verification activities. CDM additionally ensures compliance with UN Millennium Goals. Concept of CERS for making devices of high quality and long durability accessible to people who most need it to overcome disadvantages of conventional cooking. Through the use of prefabricated kits, these kits allow for production of high capacity and high quality to ensure transparency, efficiency and accountability. This will bring about poverty eradication, education and gender goals through the transfer of equipment and know-how. The project can minimize expenses for fuel and generate income. IT improves health standards by avoiding smoke in the kitchen and accidents due to traditional cooking, provides high quality drinking water and improves life conditions.

The solar cooker is a powerful project that fights against poverty and alleviating fuel cost. The external advantages are through sustainable technology. Furthermore, a CDM project creates short term jobs. The solar cooker began in Indonesia and has been implemented in 126 countries. This is a positive example of CDM projects.

Climate Change: Cable Car Metro in Medellin, Colombia

Imagine riding high above the hills as you start your morning commute. With the busy traffic and  small communities under your feet, the ride is smooth, quick and cheap. This is the idea behind the Cable Cars Metro project constructed in Medellin, Colombia. Operated by Empresa de Transporte Masivo del Valle de Aburrá Ltda (ETMVA), the project envisioned the installation of six cable cars which would be connected to the local metro, providing a mass transit option in the hilly town.

Four of the six cable cars have already been built. Lines K, J, Arvi and Centro Occidental connect with the metro at various points, allowing hassle free and safe transit, which also cuts greenhouse gas emissions. The last three cable cars are yet to be constructed, but will contribute to current reduction of 20,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

Saving the Environment

The town of Medellin is surrounded by hills where steep roads, crowded houses (that are often constructed illegally), high pollution and never ending traffic is common staple. This project has contributed to the decline of pollutants such as: particulate matter (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), resulting in less ozone formulation and overall global GHG release.

The global environment is not the only party that received a boost from the project. The local community, where the cable cars were constructed, experienced a positive impact as well. Due to a decrease in local bus usage, which was old and released much exhaust, the new form of transit helps minimize the number of car accidents.  It also lowers the probability of individuals suffering from respiratory disease thanks to improved air quality.

Without a doubt, the local community is most excited about the social benefits this project has brought them. The addition of foot bridges (which make crossing from one neighborhood to the other much easier),  computer centers (where students can do homework), and decline in gang activity, has significantly improved local living conditions. Of course, the creation of new job opportunities has played a big influence, adding new sources of income and giving the locals something to be proud of.

The reason this project has been such a success lies in its preparation process, in which local stakeholders were extensively included. Individuals who had to be displaced due to construction signed agreements with the municipality, ensuring that all members were taken care of.

Innovation Risks

As is true with any innovative idea, the high moving cable cars were not always seen so favorable. By being unique, it is the first mass transit cable car system of its kind, meant the community required an adjustment period. Even today, some locals still prefer the use of buses and taxis, restraining the community from even further GHG reductions.

A second barrier lies in the corruption woes of the ETMVA. Plagued by the cost and length of its previous project, the construction of the local metro, the ETMVA faced investment barriers, as not many investors wanted to donate to a company faced with lawsuits. In addition, the construction of the fist cable car route also experienced higher costs than predicted. A whopping 1.28 million USD  in additional costs, which made questions of corruption impossible to ignore.

The last barrier relates to the new technology required in building such a mass scale transport system, many kilometers above the ground. The questions of safety, maintenance and operation of these cable cars required a lengthy period before being approved. Nonetheless, the fact that all cable cars operate in the same manner, with a maximum capacity of 10 individuals in one car, the success of this transit system can be easily duplicated in other cities and countries. In fact, countries such as Panama and Brasil have already asked Colombia for consultation and aid with their own cable car projects.


It is without a doubt that the construction of this small scale project has had many positive influences on this Colombian community. The better quality of life, thanks to less traffic accidents and costs, has also made Medellin more green. The area in which it was constructed is quite poor, but since the completion of the project and reduction of GHG emissions, a more tranquil and sustainable way of life has emerged.

Keeping in mind that Medellin is not located in the coast line of the country, and does not face immediate climate change effects, its long-term contribution to the community is more than likely. The fact that the neighborhood is not located next to great bodies of water or glaciers means that no direct negative impact will harm the project. In fact, the construction of these sustainability projects tries to mitigate any major negative impacts Colombia might face in the future.

This success story is nicely summarized in a video report that can be seen here:

Pinche aquí para ver el vídeo


CDM. (2009). “Cable Cars Metro Medellin, Colombia.” UNFCCC. Accessed February 16, 2012 from:

Gjelten, Tom. (2009). “Climate Change Poses Threat to Colombian Coast.” NPR. Accessed on February 16, 2012 from:

Unknown. (2011). “Eco-friendly transport in Colombia.” Deutsche Welle. Accessed February 16, 2012 from:!


Climate Change: Alto Tuluá Hydroelectric Power Plant (Colombia)

The main goal of this project is to build a minor hydroelectric power plant that will have a total capacity of 20 MW. The energy input will come from the Tuluá river. The main reason to build this power plant is to meet the expected increase in electricity demand of the Cauca Valley and also to improve the energetic system efficiency in general. The figure on the right provides us with basic technical information about the plant.

Basic technical data

It will be located in the middle section of the river, between 1,800 and 1,516 metes above sea level. Electricity will be generated by two 10 MW turbines, which will supply the Colombian electricity system 114. GWh per year. In addition to that, there are two parties involved in this project: Empresa de Energia del Pacifico S.A. (EPSA) E.S.P. and a spanish company named Gas Natural SDG S.A.

The main contribution to sustainable development is the fact that the electricity produced has no direct GHG emissions. the electric energy generated by the hydroelectric plant will partially shift the energy coming from thermal plants. It means that the project will contribute to a global reduction of GHG emissions. Moreover, it will contribute in the reduction of fossil fuel consumption and of course in the increase of renewable energy sources use. Those three issues are all part of the Colombian sustainable development priorities. There is another important contribution derived from the ones mentioned above. In fact it will help the region not to significantly depend on fossil fuel energy generation.

Colombia will also contribute from the technology transfer point of view. The technology needed to build such a plant comes from the most developed countries (like Spain). Attracting investment flows to Columbia (with which new technologies come) it will contribute to its knowledge improvement for future sustainable development projects. The society will become more aware of new available technologies and what they can benefit from it. In my opinion it is a very important aspect, because it may create a social pressure on the authorities to start following such innovative projects.

This project has also an important social role. The plant will be located in a poor region, where the quality of life is quite low. The power plant existence will contribute to regional development. Its region inhabitants might finally meet basic needs like sanitation, light or going even further better educational facilities. Apart from that the project will create jobs in three areas:

1.  Construction (316 direct jobs as workers or technicians)

2.  Execution of activities of the Environmental Handling (10 direct and 20 indirect jobs)

3.  Execution of 1% of the Investment Plan (15 direct and 15 indirect jobs)

Tulua river is situated in the Tulua county (darker orange in the middle of the map).

EPSA will also make different kinds of donations for the community development. They will cover special environmental training, institutional strengthening of the cleaning up policies, Environmental Handling Plan and others (infrastructure projects in education, cleaning up potable water or electrification).


The justification of the project is very simple. First of all it is a power plant that will cover the expected increase in electricity demand. It will use a clean energy source, i.e. water from Tuluá river. Moreover, due to it construction the volume of the river will not change. Among other justifications in the PDD document we can find that it is not a landfill gas project nor with biomass combustion. That the project does not replace fossil fuels by renewable energies in the site where the project activity is carried out. Moreover, the power density of the river is quite high and it surpasses 4W/m2.

The project will change the quality of life of the community not only by adding value (electricity, sanitation, education facilities) but will actually provide some of the inhabitants with jobs. As far as the environmental impact is concerned, if the hydroelectric plant wouldn’t be built, there would be another fossil fuel plant. It would degrade the ecosystem of Cuaca Valley and of course would badly influence the community. In addition to that the GHG emissions reduction would not be met in a same way.

In my opinion this project is a certain success if all of the stakeholders will meet with the expectations. Hydroelectric plants are one of the cleanest power plants available especially when they are build on low-scale. Moreover the project climate resilience is very high. Its good performance depends only on a relative high level of water in the river. The plant will be located in a region that fortunately has a lot of precipitations, so I do not think it will have a significant effect.


1. CDM PDD – “Alto Tuluá Minor Hydroelectric Power Plant”, March 21, 2011

Rural Development: Food crisis analyzed on the example of Guatemala

When I visited Guatemala, seeing all the richness of fruits, vegetables and other food offered on the markets,  I had no idea that Guatemala could face severe food crisis. Unfortunately I was wrong.

Even if there are huge fields where food is grown, all the best land are used for export products, not for feeding Guatemalans. 60% of the population are rural families, most of them fight for survival via farming, but the left over land is very poor or unsuitable for growing food, so they struggle to feed their families. Guatemala is constantly forced to ask for food aid thanks to lack of access to arable land. In addition, the trade policies of wealthy countries undercut their aid policies. For example, Canadians have given the most food aid to World Food Program (WFP) so far, but this way they also undermined the local markets. Furthermore Australian, Canadian and American cheap food products – because via  “negotiated” free-trade with Guatemala- are flooding into the land, leaving local growers without any chance on their own markets,  while restricting import tariffs are in place to safeguard the own wheat and corn producers. Without access to those markets or arable land,  farmers can neither generate income nor grow enough food to feed their own families. (1) Wouldn’t it be better to use local products for food aid, if available?

The drought caused by lack of rain in the last years also was made worse by rising food prices, the global financial crisis, cost increases for agricultural items, such as fertilizer and pesticides, and a decrease in job opportunities.(2) The increasing palm oil business expands in Guatemala unregulatedly, causing severe problems: pays workers only poverty wages, contaminates the ground and water supply with agrochemicals, encroaches on protected tropical forest areas, and takes land away (even via landgrabbing) from producing food for people to eat. (3)


Unfortunately malnutrition and chronic food shortages are not unusual in Guatemala. Lack of investment in small-scale agriculture has reduced food production over the years, and the country now has the highest rate of malnutrition among children under five in Latin America: nearly 50 percent (indigenous children 70%) according to the WFP. Oxfam is helping local organizations and citizens in following areas:

All this sums up to a cost, which is much smaller than the food aids. Which one is the more intelligent solution then?

Furthermore, investing in local, small scale agriculture (i.e. increase equity and mechanization, fight soil reduction, develop infrastructure etc.) and local market (i.e. enable better access to credits ) is needed. This way we can assure, that food production takes place in the area where most of the vulnerability can be found. Investing in small scale farmers can be productive, efficient, sustainable and competitive. There are some success stories to take as examples i.e. in Vietnam and Brazil.

Guatemala is only one on the list of countries fighting severe food crisis. Food insecurity, climate change effects, oil peak, population growth, soil erosion, water contamination can easily lead to humanitarian disasters in many regions, which again cause international insecurity. It is in everyone’s interest to deal fairly with the challenges mentioned before, isn’t it?

Beyond think tanks we need now more than ever think+do tanks, like the one below, to solve the food crisis in a sustainable and fair way:

Pinche aquí para ver el vídeo



(1) Pail Webster(2011): Canada’s Role in Guatemala’s Food Crisis, Retrieved from,2

(2) UN (2010): Lack of funding for Guatemalan food crisis appeal sparks concern at UN

(3) Global food crisis: Palm rush proves costly for Guatemala’s small farmers

(4) Chris Hufstader: Food crisis in Guatemala (2009) Retrieved from



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