Costa Rica surprises the world by positioning itself as a global environmental leader. Now the Central American nation is embracing the ultimate ecological challenge with a detailed plan to decarbonize its economy by 2050.
Many countries have vowed to do the same – cutting emissions is a key commitment of signatories to the Paris Agreement. But Costa Rica is one of the first to turn the promises into a solid plan and make sense of them in economic and social terms.
Costa Rica has been a pioneer in the protection of peace and nature. With effective policies that involve the State, citizens, scientists, and the private sector, the country aspires to achieve its goals and set an example for the region and the world. Costa Rica is going to decarbonize the economy because it makes economic and social sense, the nation’s message is that sustainability and growth can, and should, go hand in hand.
What does the Decarbonization Plan consist of?
The Decarbonization Plan consists of maintaining economic growth on an upward curve and at the same time generating a downward curve in the use of fossil fuels, in order to stop polluting.
How is this generated?
Clean public transport, smart and resilient cities, proper management of solid waste, sustainable agriculture and better logistics. Costa Rica’s environmental achievements are impressive: more than 98% of its energy is renewable, forest cover reaches more than 53% of the territory after hard work to reverse decades of deforestation, and about a quarter of the land areas they have been converted into protected areas or reserves.
This does not mean that the decarbonization challenge is less daunting or easier to achieve than in other countries. But Costa Rican leaders are unfazed. They have already broken other schemes in the past. Costa Rica has a long history of achievements in environmental terms.
Costa Rica’s National Decarbonization Plan includes medium- and long-term goals to reform transportation, energy, waste management, and land use. The goal is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, which means that the country will not produce more emissions than it can offset, through actions such as maintaining and expanding its forests.
The plan will help the country meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but those global goals are not the only drivers. The authorities say they want to change the development paradigm and build a system of consumption and production that generates an environmental surplus instead of a deficit.
Inspiring other nations
In fact, this country of 5 million inhabitants produces only 0.02% of global emissions. Despite this, it wants to inspire nations with the largest carbon footprints to achieve the urgent and necessary transformations to prevent global warming and its destructive effects.
The biggest challenge
The biggest challenge for Costa Rica will be the decarbonization of the transport sector, which generates 40% of the country’s total emissions. The goals of the National Plan are ambitious: by 2050, all public buses and taxis will be zero emissions, and an electric train will provide transportation in the capital city, San José.
Legislation has also been introduced to grant tax breaks to companies that buy bicycles for their employees and install bike racks. Municipalities will also be required to build bike lanes.
Urban sectors where mobility is based on clean energy are aspired; communities that are committed to technology, but thinking about the well-being of people, their freedom and their right to privacy; where clean air is breathed; that manages waste sustainably and where you are in contact with nature to find peace of mind.
Beyond transportation, the Decarbonization Plan also establishes that by 2050 the entire country will have solutions for the collection, separation, reuse, and disposal of waste, and that forest cover will increase to 60%.
Officials say they plan to introduce fiscal reforms, including pollution taxes, and harness the country’s clean energy potential to spur green growth and phase out fossil fuels.
Environmental reform will be needed to create modern, digitized and flexible institutions capable of managing the transformation. Among the institutions that will be affected are the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, and the Public Transportation Council.
Example to the world
With this bold plan, Costa Rica wants to show the world that clean and green development is possible and profitable. Playing a key role in the campaign to get States to commit to more ambitious environmental goals, focusing on three priorities: sustainable communities and mobility, nature-based solutions and the blue economy.