EL PAÍS offers the América Futura section for its daily and global informative contribution to sustainable development. If you would like to support our journalism, subscribe here.
Bogotá hosted a conversation this Wednesday that was as urgent as could have been a few decades ago. The International Summit on Sustainability and Eco-Innovation brought to the table a key issue for the present and the future of the planet: sustainability. Nearly thirty high-level panelists explained all aspects of a crucial term to address the climate crisis. “Today we are struggling to contain its effects and try to regulate a world that has already changed,” argued Susana Muhamad, Colombia’s Environment Minister, in the opening address. “The question is: How can we as a society live without the use of fossil fuels? The future may not be better, but we can make it more aware, supportive, just and inclusive,” he added.
Convinced that the transition requires innovation and environmental justice, Joseph Oughourlian, President of PRISA Media, highlighted the existing consensus in Colombia on the existence of climate change; a reality not shared on the continent. For Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica, this is one of the biggest warnings: “Denial and populism are the biggest threats. Sustainable development is a viable option that interests all of Latin America. If it was possible in my country, it can also be achieved in others. We have everything we need for that.”
Denial, fossil fuels, biodiversity, education and the role of the private sector were the main topics of the six talks of this great event organized by PRISA Media and Santillana together with the University Externado de Colombia, the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Cundinamarca (CAR) and CAF Development Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean. Pepa Bueno, director of the newspaper EL PAÍS, and Juan Carlos Mora, president of Bancolombia, explained the role of companies in the energy transition. When asked if it was profitable to promote sustainable economic development, the manager replied that a balance had to be struck between economic, social and environmental goals: “The way to survive in the long term is to balance these three variables. And from an economic perspective, it’s not about earning less, it’s about earning just enough. No more and no less”.
Jan Martínez, director of El País America; Alicia Montalvo, Manager of Climate Action and Positive Biodiversity at CAF; Laura Chinchilla, former President of the Republic of Costa Rica; Rita de Cassia Mesquita, Biodiversity Secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment; in the panel Positive Biodiversity in the Face of Climate Change.NATHALIA ANGARITA
The challenge of education for sustainable development was another central pillar of the largest sustainability summit in Latin America. In the region that has taken the longest to resume face-to-face classes post-pandemic, and on the continent that is experiencing the greatest learning losses, the challenges are multiple. In a talk moderated by Diana Calderón, MD and Hora 20, director of Caracol Radio, much of the debate revolved around technology and how to make it an ally.
“Policy decisions have gravitated toward distributing devices before knowing if connectivity was good or if content was relevant to upload to digital platforms,” said Rosa Junquera, PRISA’s Director of Sustainability. 40% of the Latin American population does not have access to connectivity or electronic devices. That’s why Carolina Montes, director of the department of environmental law at Externado University, also emphasized the need to update the pedagogical strategies of teachers: “We have to make sure that they meet the needs of the students” those who have access to the Internet , and those who have none”. “We arrived at sustainability through innovation and based on trial and error. We need to be more pioneers and less sheep,” added Mauricio López, Director of Global Compact Colombia.
“Consumers are critical in the transition”
Ricardo Roa, President of Ecopetrol, underlined the company’s commitment to sustainability, while also putting the customer at the center: “Consumer demand is crucial. They are the ones who will decide whether or not to make this transition.” Although the Colombian recalled the company’s sustainability goals that in 2040 alternative energies would account for 35%, 20% more than at present, he also insisted the support of conventional energy: “We will protect the traditional business.” fossil fuels, because that is the main source of resources for the transition. They make up 80% of the income.”
Establishment of the International Summit for Sustainability and Eco-Innovation on August 23, 2023 in Bogotá, Colombia. NATHALIA ANGARITA
The idea that everyone – civil society, the private sector and governments – has an important role to play in mitigating climate change was a theme throughout the summit. “To achieve the macro goals, we must work at the micro level: in every home, in every company, in every organization,” said Mario Pardo Bayona, CEO of Asobancaria, at the Positive Biodiversity Against Climate Change conference. , moderated by the director of EL PAÍS America, Jan Martínez.
In Latin America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, the impacts of climate change are much higher than CO2 emissions. Therefore, the panellists wanted to go beyond a debate on how to curb emissions. “Biodiversity is much more; it is a source of wealth in itself. We need to start seeing it as an asset, as a new economic model,” explained Alicia Montalvo, CAF Manager for Climate Action and Biodiversity Positive. This green bank invests 40% of its resources in this portfolio. “Transition is still a very flexible word, but it is necessary. We need to move forward and environmental departments need to talk to funders to make sustainable projects a reality.”
For Rita de Cassia Mesquita, secretary for biodiversity at the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, the new Brazilian government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is good news for the Amazon, but “not everything is done”: “We have reduced the number by 60%”. Deforestation, but nature shows us its limits and we need to start to push our limits.” And he concluded: “Environmental justice cannot stay on these bodies, it has to reach the edges.” To those on the front lines stand.
The role of cities
80% of Latin Americans live in cities. Oliverio García Basurto, President of Andemos, therefore spoke of the importance of infrastructure and public transport in Latin American cities: “Bogotá is the city with the highest traffic jams in the world. We have to start pushing people out of the cities and encouraging the growth of other small towns because that is not sustainable.” An idea shared by Jaime Pumarejo, Mayor of Barranquilla: “Cities have a great responsibility. It is a fallacy to think that metropolises have nothing to do with biodiversity, we have bodies of water, forests, parks… We are all connected and our actions have an impact on the increase or decrease of the environment.”