In December, the government of Peru will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, but the country has a spotty record when it comes to environmental protection. Last month Peru passed a law that many critics say greatly weakens the power of the country’s Ministry of Environment. The law takes away the Ministry’s ability to regulate air, soil and water quality standards and its ability to regulate harmful substances. The law also limits the Ministry’s ability to establish nature reserves and fine mining companies for accidents or spills. All of this is set against the backdrop of a long history of environmental problems in the country. In the past five years there have been oil spills in the jungle region, pipeline bursts that have made hundreds of people sick, and violent protests against mining companies that resulted in eight deaths in 2012.
Frank Bajak, chief of Andean News for the Associated Press, has been reporting from Lima on environmental issues in Peru for the last three years. He joins us to explain how the new legislation has weakened the position of the Ministry of Environment, even as Peru gets ready to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference.