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Don’t cry for me, Patagonia

In a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, Greenpeace Argentina has criticized a planned project to build a coal-fired power plant in Patagonia. The campaign was launched to time with an official visit of Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to the United States.

The advert, titled ‘Don’t cry for me, Patagonia’, criticized the national government’s decision to move forward with the construction of a coal-based power plant in the town of Rio Turbio, Santa Cruz. ‘This is the first step in a plan to begin large-scale coal use as an energy source,’ said Juan Carlos Villalonga, Greenpeace campaigns director.
‘A woman with long-term vision would not risk the glaciers and water reserves in Argentina,’ the text reads, referring to the President. ‘The government is putting its money on coal as an energy source – and thereby damaging in the worst way any contribution to climate change mitigation,’ said Eugenia Testa, political director of Greenpeace Argentina. 

Producing electricity from coal – a fossil fuel – as the national government wants to do, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions which affect our atmosphere and cause global warming. The process of climate change is putting at risk the continued existence of the glaciers, one of the country’s main reservoirs of fresh water. Given this situation, coal is simply not a sustainable option, and we will all live with the consequences. Just because coal was promoted and encouraged in the middle of the last century does not mean it is right to do so now. 

The advertisement, published in Monday’s edition (12 April) of the Washington Post, tells the President that ‘by investing in green jobs and promoting wind energy in Patagonia, your administration has the opportunity to generate a clean, efficient, modern and decentralized power supply’. ‘Argentina must have a responsible attitude towards climate change, including in domestic decisions, especially if the President is to claim that industrialized countries must assume their responsibilities,’ explained Testa. Unfortunately, the current decision shows that the government is not acting responsibly in relation to climate change. In short, it is not too different from what happens in international climate discussions: delays in decision-making, double-talk and then everything remains the same, which is worse.  

Recently, Greenpeace alleged that the national government had made payments of $142 million to the Spanish company Isolux Corsán, for the construction of the power plant in central Rio Turbio, a whole year before the filing of the environmental impact study. 

‘We are still awaiting the explanations of the national government and Isolux. We would also like to see the provincial officials – who these days are very angry with Greenpeace – put in the same kind of energy to demand an explanation from Isolux regarding the payments and the environmental impact study,’ said Villalonga, adding that ‘to start using coal for large-scale power in Argentina is completely irrational, both environmentally and economically, and must be avoided. Argentina has many better options for development of the energy sector.’ 

The world has enough technically accessible renewable energy to meet current energy demands six times over. We need an energy revolution that replaces dirty energy sources such as coal with wind and solar energy and other modern technologies.

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