July 23, 2019
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Sustainable tourism and renewable energy are keys for LatAm growth

By Alfonso Fernandez

Panama City, Jun 25 (efe-epa).- Costa Rica has hit the milestone of generating 300 consecutive days' worth of electricity from renewable energy, and Barbados is talking about the effect of global warming on its economy and on the rapid growth of sustainable adventure tourism.

Examples of such issues to be dealt with in the near future in Latin America dominated the second day of Sustainability Week in Panama City on Tuesday, a key regional forum organized by IDB Invest and running through this coming Friday.

The need to adapt to - and mitigate - climate change, as well as achieving development that includes all social strata are central elements in the discussions among the hundreds of participants at the conclave.

Costa Rica, which recently broke its own 300-day record for consecutive days using electricity generated from renewable sources, is a global reference point for other nations looking to diversify their energy production.

"We've had a law for 70 years that laid the groundwork, stipulating that electricity in Costa Rica must be generated from our country's natural sources and resources. A very visionary law because it also talked about inclusiveness, bringing electricity to the whole country and was responsible regarding the environment," Irene Cañas, with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, told EFE.

"As a consequence, nowadays almost the entire population has access to electricity and all from renewable sources: hydroelectric, geo-thermal, wind power, biomass and solar," she added.

The effects of global warming are already being felt throughout the region, and the Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable areas.

Loretto Duffy, with the Caribbean Cooling Initiative, an organization focusing on increasing the efficiency of air conditioning systems, warned that in Barbados, for example, in the past there had been "rainy and dry seasons, (but) now there is the hot season. In the Caribbean. Imagine."

"And for a sector like tourism, which in the Caribbean is the main source of income, it's fundamental to develop sustainable and renewable energy," he said.

IDB Invest is focused on involving the private sector in all these questions and is aware that the size of the challenge sometimes is insurmountable for governments in the region and can only be met with the support of private firms.

"The enormous challenges of the region, the enormous gaps, are opportunities for the private sector," said Javier Rodriguez de Colmenares, IDB Invest's infrastructure director.

"Here is where IDB Invest comes in to mobilize the local economy toward sustainable investments," he said.

He noted, in addition, how the scenario has changed recently, given that earlier no environmental or social analyses were done but now it's the companies themselves that are carrying them out.

Another interesting element is the growing demand for sustainable tourism focused more on individual and adventure experiences, and it is in this area that Latin America can be a heavy hitter.

"All the big tourist zones began with backpackers. Our idea is to maintain that spirit. We don't want to offer leisure. We want to give something more, to nourish the soul," said Moshe Levi, the CEO of Casi Cielo, a tourism project in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Levi said that the aim "is to join technology and nature, to create an ecosystem that will be economically viable," emphasizing that "global adventure tourism moves more than $700 billion (yearly) worldwide, with a growth rate in double digits."

IDB Invest, a member of the Inter-American Development Group, is a multilateral development bank committed to promoting the economic development of its member countries and with a portfolio of more than $12.1 billion currently under management.

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