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Energy through synergy unites Chiapas with UK

Article - November 5, 2012
One might assume that a region amply endowed with reserves of petroleum and natural gas would take a rather cavalier attitude towards programmes and initiatives aimed at mitigating the effects of global climate change, which has largely been blamed on the hydrocarbons that account for so much of the Mexican state’s wealth
But that Chiapas has a bright green inner core should come as no surprise because so much of the state is green – a third of its surface area lies under thick jungle cover, including La Candona, a rainforest ecosystem that sprawls across Chiapas and down into Guatemala and the southern Yucatan.

Apart from the wealth and diversity of the plant and animal species that live in it, scientists have determined that La Candona generates most of the oxygen that gets breathed on the North American continent. Not less than a fifth of Chiapas’ 73,000 square kilometres are under the protection of one international conservation organisation or another.

Chiapas has taken a leading role in implementing a surprisingly varied range of energy-related initiatives. Four existing dams are set to be refitted as a significant source of clean hydroelectric energy. Still on the drawing board, however, is a plan to make a major investment in wind power, as the local meteorological conditions for generating this type of resource reportedly cannot be bettered. Jatropha curcas, an easy to cultivate, prolific (and poisonous) shrub found all throughout Central America, is packed with seeds containing around 33 per cent oil – oil that makes an ideal ingredient for the biodiesel fuel in demand these days. In fact, says Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines, its resistance to hostile conditions and ease in harvesting makes it ideally suited to small-hold farmer. That the processing plant that transforms this oil into a key biodiesel component uses solar power is a plus, and that this nascent industry is located in Chiapas is certainly another. 

Mexico and the UK have agreed to cooperate in a programme of exchanges aimed at bringing together concerned local government leaders from both countries.

Delegations will host each other for informal encounters and seminars. Says Richard Kemp, Vice-President of the Local Government Association of England and Wales, “The purpose of the visit is for them to see how we do things here, but not so that they can do it our way. It is not to tell them to go and do exactly what we are doing. Instead, we want to set an example for the Mexicans as they find the solutions that best suit their own reality.”