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  • May 18, 2018

CIF@10 - The Journey Begins

Nicoletta Forlano 

Here I am. On the first leg of this journey to learn and share what climate finance investments can do, for ordinary people, like you or me.

As I land in Bogotá, Colombia, I think how relevant CIF is for this city. The thick pollution is so tangible, I ask myself about the safety of its citizens.

As I land in Bogotá, Colombia, I think how relevant CIF is for this city. The thick pollution is so tangible you ask yourself about the safety of its citizens, especially children, pregnant women, cyclists, or joggers. The fleet of 337 hybrid buses, 180 of which are supported by CIF, may still be a drop in the ocean, but it’s a start. That fleet transports 150,000 passengers each day, and collectively travels 17 million kilometers per year.

They represent an important step in the right direction, that of a lower carbon approach to transport. A response to a problem that can be tackled, and that we no longer can avoid tackling. Seeing is believing, and seeing the hybrid buses rushing through the busy avenues brings hope for a city that is among the most polluted in South America.

What brings even more hope are conversations with CIF’s partners in this effort and hearing how our contributions have a multiplying effect, bringing in more hybrid buses, by attracting other investors. What makes this even more compelling, is the impact the project has on transport policies that – in the end – will benefit Bogotanos in many ways, not only from a health perspective, but also the value added by more integrated tariffs and bus routes. That’s exactly what we hope our initial investments will do, wherever they may be, in whichever field: bring in more investments, open markets, create opportunities whose benefits will go beyond those directly involved, and ultimately benefit all of us, as we create a more sustainable, equitable world.

Next stop is Chile. Melipilla is a town close to Santiago, and home to a little over 100 thousand people. While its population is not that big, its area is huge, at over 1300 square kilometers, making it bigger than New York City, which is about 1200 square kilometers. CIF and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are investing in energy efficiency in Melipilla – and other cities in Chile. Too often this option is overlooked. Yet, energy efficiency can help save a lot of money and avoid a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere. We met the Mayor and his team, the CEO of the company that, through CIF’s and IDB financial support, is providing LED lighting in the city, and we heard another story of deep territorial and social transformation.

From an impressive drop in crime, as more spaces are better lit, delivering a greater sense of security, to citizens regaining ownership of public spaces, and increased social interactions, we beamed proudly as he spoke about how the budget savings have allowed him to channel funds to bring drinking water where there was still none. From LED public lighting to access to safe drinking water—these are the dots climate finance connects.

Buoyed by Melipilla’s impact story, we head to the Atacama Desert, to visit the highest geothermal station on the planet – and the first in South America, Cerro Pabellon’s 4500msl station. This state of the art geothermal plant was developed by ENEL Green Power and ENAP, with support from CIF and IDB. While the geological condition provides an excellent energy output, the extreme logistic and conditions pose a great challenge for workers, given the reduced physical capacity due to the very high altitude.

In March 2017, this geothermal station started providing clean energy, in a region where access is not necessarily a given. While Cerro Pabellon represents a state of the art geothermal provision of clean energy, and where we learned about its highly-automated control system from a young woman engineer working at the station, we were also captivated by another story. That of Janett Troncoso.

Not far from Cerro Pabellon lies the village of Ollague, a few kilometers from the Bolivian border. Janett lives there. Thanks to the Cerro Pabellon project, Janett and other local families have moved from 5 to 24-hour access to electricity. Think about that for a minute: could you give up 19 hours of electricity each day, in your life?

That 19 hours is the difference between a world of opportunities and one without. Janetts told us she has enrolled on an online degree course, she now owns a fridge, which means improved food safety, and has finally set up a laundry service with friend, bringing new income, to pay for a mortgage. As she very simply told us, this is life-changing.

How many more Janetts are there, in Chile? In other countries? As long as there are some, we, CIF and the global development community, have an unfinished agenda and a job to do.