As the climate change movement began moving beyond “Save the Planet” slogans and doom and gloom guilt messaging, a new breed of business oriented climate change activism emerged. With its overall impressive environmental credentials Costa Rica was in a good place to become a natural leader in this arena. This has brought important benefits to the Costa Rican economy and protecting its biodiversity.
Perhaps one day Costa Rica will get around to cleaning up its urban river system. But not many foreign tourists spend time in downtown San Jose, Pavas or Desamparados.
Salome Montero is part of the new generation of climate activists who combine a passion for promoting climate justice and protecting the environment with cool headed business sense about actually making it sustainable. In this interview Salome shares her insights and inspiration.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Santa Maria de Dota, a community that is surrounded by mountains and coffee farms. My childhood was all about that: coming back from school to play outside near the rivers, and spending the weekends with my grandparents, who were proud farmers and used to take me to the fields. I had the privilege of attending the local public schools, and while I grew up I discovered my affinity and love for nature and the environment. I spent my last two years of secondary education under the International Baccalaureate modality, right before moving to the Grand Metropolitan Area to continue my studies in the university.
When did you start getting involved in environmental issues?
Since my early days at school I was an active kid in projects, volunteering, and environmental conservation activities, and I can recall how climate change appeared on my radar for the first time, thanks to the well-known documentary named “An Inconvenient Truth”, but it was not until I started my BA that the interest in climate and environmental issues really increased.
My formation in business and my concern for the environment allowed me to explore the many consequences of doing business as usual, and learning first handed how most of the productive sectors are approaching global issues without greater understanding of their social and environmental impacts.
I realized in many ways how things had to change in the way we function as a society, and I wanted to contribute to those who were diving in those waters already. That is how I ended up focusing my professional efforts in Sustainable Development, Climate Policy, Nature-based Solutions Consultancy, and some of my personal time on Climate Education causes.
Tell us about your participation in the last United Nations Climate Summit (COP). What did Costa Rica achieve in this conference?
I got the opportunity to attend the COP 27 thanks to the efforts of an NGO focused on climate education, and the government’s openness to welcome young professionals to join the work of the Costa Rican delegation. I mostly followed the negotiation tables on climate finance with the intention of experiencing how these multilateral negotiations are held, as well as learning the functions and duties of our negotiators.
Costa Rica went with a very structured agenda on adaptation to climate change and agroforestry; a quite different path than the one that it was leading in the past years that was more focused on mitigation. I believe Costa Rica has been doing its part in the last decade, and has been assuming a role of leading by example and pressuring the rest of the Parties to engage on more ambitious measures on mitigation and finance for the adaptation of the most vulnerable nations.
We have witnessed progress regarding our Nationally Determined Contributions, the development of National Plans on Decarbonization, Adaptation, and Action for Climate Empowerment, and most recently on a new Blue Carbon Strategy.
I do consider that we have many opportunities ahead on building alliances and finding synergies among the private sector, public institutions, and the civil society; in order to build resilience in all of our communities and ensure their well-being at at the same time.
You are involved in climate change education programs. Please tell us about them.
I believe that when it comes to climate change, education at the early stages is very important to form human beings with a great sense of compassion, critical thinking, and willingness to do good in our communities. It is also critical that we start engaging the youth in climate conversations to achieve continuity of the processes and agreements over time with a deep understanding of the challenges of the present and a sense of urgency, and specially engaging young people from different contexts and realities.
For me, supporting and building programs that intend to reach vulnerable communities is a goal for this year, and my intention is starting in the place where I was raised by implementing a climate educational program with the support of important community groups and stakeholders.
What do you think of Michael Moore’s movie Planet of the Humans?
It denounces biomass energy and emphasizes the limits of solar and wind power to meet energy supply. Renewable energy has been under discussion since their beginnings, but it is also a fact that technological development moves and advance at a really fast pace – today, for example, solar energy is even cheaper than oil, and we rely on more sustainable materials and processes to build the required infrastructure to produce it and for storage compared to 10 years ago.
Michael Moore did a great service in pointing out how important it is to be more judgmental and demand accountability and better governance policies, considering that there are other planetary boundaries and social foundations that are also critical for our wellbeing as well.
Gladly the case of solar and wind power has been improving exponentially, but I do consider that relying only on both to “save the planet” is not going to be enough, we also need exponential climate solutions, changes in our production systems, and an incredible amount of political will and actions coming from different fronts.
Do you think it is preferable to purchase oil from countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela or Canada with its Athabasca Oil Sands?
I think that the answer to that question depends on diverse factors for different States, but it is important to consider the political stability and human rights records of some of these countries, as well as the significant environmental impact that oil production has in the region of Athabasca for example.
Again, the social impacts and environmental harm are equally important, and it is crucial to demand accountability and transparency in these areas when investments on these projects are proposed.
What do you make of Germany’s management of its energy supply?
From my perspective there have been good and not so good elements on the energy supply management in Germany, but I will highlight the political commitment and an increase in policies for transitioning to a less carbon intensive economy, and the shift from a clear dominance of coal and oil to a more diversified energy system.
Germany has also implemented successful transition policies, which has mitigated and compensated the negative impacts of the shift for regions that were historically dependent on economic activities like coal mining. As many other countries, there are still challenges on infrastructure costs and managing the stability of the renewable energy production which they might be in hurry to solve given the economic and political events that we have seen lately.
Any other thoughts or messages on climate change and your activities that you would like to share with our readers
As human beings, we must not forget that climate must always be seen as part of the environment and sustainable development as a whole. If we intend to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, we have a long road ahead full of inequalities, injustice, and obsolete economic systems to overcome.
I read a few days ago that climate change is not something binary –it is not the case that there will either be climate change, or no climate change– but it makes a huge big difference how much warmer it gets: a big difference in the lives of people from our communities, on the survival of our ecosystems, and on the possible human conflicts that we can avoid. We are all members of either the society, a community, the public or private sector, and the actions we take always have an impact on how warmer our world will get.
I encourage young people and young professionals to think about these when choosing a professional path or leading community activities, and to remember that sustainable development will always be a team effort.