Costa Rica and the Importance of Renewable Energy around the World

The importance of renewable energy has had a persistent presence on social media and in the news in the past few years, accompanied by ominous but important warnings of the consequences of continuing fossil fuel reliance. For me personally, it is something that has been a key focus in the past few months, through promoting CAFOD’s current Power to Be campaign and having recently returned from Costa Rica, one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world.

The edge of the Arenal Lake

The edge of the Arenal Lake in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. The lake was created by the construction of a hydroelectric dam, which provides 12% of the country’s electricity.

My name is Emily and I began volunteering with the CAFOD Liverpool Office earlier this year as a campaigns volunteer during the final year of my history degree at the University of Liverpool. I decided to volunteer because of the more general reasons; wanting to make a more direct contribution to the local community and raising awareness of the bigger global issues through campaigning, but more specifically I was particularly interested in how organisations like CAFOD interact with both governments and communities around the world. Through my dissertation research into the way in which the US government prioritised its aid and the impact this had on the lives of ordinary Salvadoran citizens, the importance of the work of organisations like CAFOD to people in the poorest parts of the world became inescapably obvious and was one of the main reasons that I decided to volunteer with CAFOD in particular.

 

I recently spent several weeks travelling through Central America and in Costa Rica more specifically. One of the main things I noticed was that everywhere I went in Costa Rica, even in the most remote places, there were constant reminders of the country’s environmental outlook and renewable energy targets. These included everything from the little things, like signs on every single toilet detailing what not to flush and eco-

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One of the several art installations made from recycled materials in San Jose, Costa Rica.

friendly shower systems, to the more obvious, such as the solar panels on most buildings across the county. In 2015, Costa Rica broke the record for the most days without using fossil fuels to generate power, reaching 75 consecutive days at the beginning of the year. In 2016 it managed to use 98% clean energy for its total power consumption throughout the year and the government has claimed that the country hopes to be carbon neutral by 2021. This is a substantial achievement and a definite victory for the environment, made even more impressive when compared with countries such as the USA, which only managed to use 15% renewable energy in 2016. The benefits of these environmental policies are also clear to see; the air is noticeably cleaner than I’ve ever experienced before and signs of climate change aren’t nearly as obvious as they are elsewhere.

 

Costa Rica provides an excellent example of the environmental benefits of focusing on renewable energy, whilst CAFOD’s current Power to Be campaign highlights the other side; the transformation of people’s lives that is possible through improving access to renewable energy in the world’s poorest places. Nearly one in six people don’t have access to electricity, yet renewable energy resources are sufficient enough to potentially supply the world’s energy demands. It is estimated that wider energy access would improve literacy rates, education and generally improve the quality of life for an incredibly large proportion of people. Given that connecting to energy grids fuelled by fossil fuels is so expensive in many poorer countries, increasing access to renewable energy would not only be better for the environment, but would make a significant impact on the lives of nearly a billion people.

 

The focus on renewable energy is also present at home in the UK, a big part of CAFOD’s LiveSimply award, which encourages communities to show how they have been living sustainably with creation, as well as living simply and solidarity with people in poverty. By encouraging communities to live sustainably with creation, CAFOD encourages the

Montezuma Beach

Montezuma Beach, Costa Rica. A beautiful example of how the government’s commitment to clean energy helps to preserve the natural environment.

use of small cleaner energy resources, such as solar panels, among other initiatives such as recycling and reducing their carbon footprint. The centrality of renewable energy to a variety of CAFOD projects, both globally as well as at home, together with the commitment of governments in Costa Rica and 47 other developing countries that have committed to becoming 100% reliant on renewable energy, demonstrates that total reliance on renewable, cleaner energy is becoming a much more realistic goal.

Get involved with CAFOD’s campaigns

Written by Emily McIndoe, CAFOD Liverpool volunteer

An “Inspiring” Day With Fr Peter Hughes and Sarah Croft in Wrightington

St Joseph’s Parish Centre, Wrightington played host to an “Inspiring” and “Great” day on Saturday, 8th July 2017.

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Some of the audience members.

Fr Peter Hughes SSC, a Columban Missionary, was our keynote speaker, and will be speaking at the National Justice and Peace Network annual Conference, as a result the event was a joint event with our friends at the Liverpool Justice and Peace Commission.

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Fr Peter During his talk.

During a “wonderful” talk that “provided much food for thought” Fr Peter described the influence that climate change is having on the indigenous communities in Peru. He went on to describe a new scheme, backed by Pope Francis, called REPAM “Red Eclesial PanAmazónica”, which transaltes to “PanAmazon Ecclesial Network”. The scheme allowed the leaders of indigenous communities in Latin America to talk about their experiences in front of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights at the UN.

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Fr Peter, with some of CAFOD’s volunteers.

You can watch the talk by going to youtube.com/watch?v=YS9YHNh0uDc the audience were then invited to ask questions, which you can watch at youtube.com/watch?v=Yww2UBkcs8k

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Some of the audience posing for a photograph.

After the event Fr Peter said “I spoke today from a Latin American perspective about climate change. As Catholics, we all have our own part to play in helping to fight against poverty and climate change across the world.”

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CAFOD’s Campaigns Manager Sarah Croft.

After a short break, Sarah Croft, who is CAFOD’s Campaigns Manager spoke about CAFOD’s Power to Be campaign which calls on Melanie Robinson, the UK’s representative at the World Bank,  to support renewable energy which tackles poverty, so everyone can have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential. It was said that Sarah “did a great job in explaining the new project”.

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The audience enjoying one of the talks.

The discussion then turned to the LiveSimply Award which is an opportunity for Catholic communities – parishes, schools, religious orders and chaplaincies – to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si’ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”. Livesimply is beginning to take off across the Archdiocese, with St Anne’s Ormskirk for example hosting a Livesimply weekend to celebrate the parish reaching the midway stage.

You can watch Sarah talking about Power to Be and Live Simply by visiting youtube.com/watch?v=e9MD9Zta5jw

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Sarah Croft listening to a question from the audience

Unfortunately the local MP was unable to attend, so for the final session of the day Sarah Croft spoke about the MP Correspondent Scheme which is a scheme that enables you to help ensure that the voices of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are heard in the corridors of power.

Sarah’s talk can be seen at youtube.com/watch?v=fW6ocLwKAY4

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Colette from CAFOD Liverpool leading the group in a closing prayer.

After the event Sarah said “We are privileged and inspired to have heard first-hand how our sisters and brothers in Latin America are responding to the Pope’s call to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. We have our part to play in the UK too.”

The day then ended with a shared lunch, you can see all of the videos in one place by clicking youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5UUtVasGFc-wnmD4j_YjtyHpUYB5a1iY

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Some of CAFOD’s volunteers standing together, outside St Joseph’s Parish Centre

CAFOD supporters in Liverpool start their Power to Be campaign

We believe that every child can, and should be able to, achieve great things. But with one in six people still living with no electricity, the reality is that this isn’t always the case.  But with investment into local, renewable energy, children’s lives can be transformed.

 

Volunteers from Holy Name and Our Lady and St Philomena kickstart their Power to be card signing

Volunteers from Holy Name and Our Lady and St Philomena, Fazakerley, kickstart their Power to be card signing

In our latest campaign, Power to be, we are encouraging schools and parishes in the Liverpool Archdiocese to speak up and give children across the world the ‘Power to be’ by signing CAFOD’s campaign action cards.

The cards are part of a petition which calls on Melanie Robinson, the UK’s representative in the World Bank, to invest in local and renewable energy which tackles poverty.

Nearly 90 per cent of people without electricity live in villages. It can be expensive and difficult to extend the main grid to homes, schools and clinics in rural areas. The cheapest, fastest, and most efficient solution is usually to provide mini-grids powered by renewables.

Parishioners from St Benet's kickstarted their Power to be Campaign at a CAFOD evening in June

Parishioners from St Benet’s, Netherton, kickstarted their Power to be Campaign at a CAFOD evening in June

By taking our Power to Be campaign action cards into your local parishes and schools, and by sharing them with your friends, pupils and families, you can help to make a difference.

Those in the Liverpool Archdiocese are already showing their support for the campaign, including Archbishop Malcolm McMahon.

Archbishop Malcolm said, “I’m delighted to support CAFOD’s campaign to the World Bank which will enable children in the poorest places to access the education they deserve and to aspire to a brighter future.”

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon signed his card for the Power to be Campaign

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon signed his card for the Power to be Campaign

You can also use this opportunity to Speak Up about climate change at this year’s Week of Action from 1-9 July.  Take a card, gather your friends and meet with your newly elected local MP’s to show that you care about energy access for the world’s poorest people.

If you would like to receive campaign action cards to share in your parish or school, please order them online or call 0300 011 5680.  For further information, contact the CAFOD Liverpool Volunteer Centre on 0151 228 4028 or email liverpool@cafod.org.uk

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Come and hear Fr Peter Hughes

CAFOD Liverpool will be proud to welcome Father Peter Hughes, an Irish priest who has spent the last three decades living and working with poor communities in Peru, when he visits Wigan on 8 July 2017 to share his experiences of the impact of climate change on local communities.

The event, which is being co-hosted by the aid agency CAFOD and the Liverpool Justice and Peace Commission, will be held at St Joseph’s Parish Centre in Wrightington, Wigan on Saturday 8 July and begins at 9.30am. It will hopefully be attended by local West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper.

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Father Peter Hughes was born in County Mayo, Ireland, but having lived in Peru has become an expert in the conditions in South America. He is touring the UK with his lecture ‘Listening to the cry of the earth, and the cry of the poor’, which is a response to Pope Francis’ call for people to care more for the earth and each other.

Father Peter works with bishops across Latin America to support indigenous communities living in the Amazon rain forest, and is an adviser to the Instituto Bartolome de las Casas and CELAM, the collegial council of Latin American bishops.  He recently made a presentation to the United Nations in New York.

CAFOD representative, Sarah Croft, said: “We are privileged and inspired to hear first-hand how our sisters and brothers in Latin America are responding to the Pope’s call to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. We have our part to play in the UK too.

“That’s why people in Wigan are adding their voices to CAFOD’s Power to be campaign – calling for World Bank support to enable the poorest communities around the world to have access to local, renewable energy to tackle poverty without harming the earth we share.”

The event is being held as a part of the Climate Coalition’s Speak Up Week of Action, which encourages CAFOD supporters to meet up with their MPs to discuss climate change.

There will also be an opportunity to hear about CAFOD’s latest campaign, Power to be.  One in six people around the world are still live without electricity. As local, renewable energy is usually the cheapest, fastest and most efficient solution to bring power to the poorest communities, CAFOD is calling on Melanie Robinson, the UK’s representative at the World Bank, to focus UK spending on renewable energy that will allow children to reach their potential.

To find out more about the event or to attend, please contact Colette at CAFOD Liverpool by calling 0151 228 4028 or by emailing Liverpool@cafod.org.uk

The talk will be followed by a shared lunch, so please bring something to share.

We look forward to seeing you there!