Costa Rica began in 2012 one of its most ambitious projects in history; to become one of the 1st carbon neutral countries in the world by 2021. A political bet rather utopian than risky. President Laura Chinchilla -Head of State at that time- consolidated a plan that had been in development since Oscar Arias’s presidency.

Actually, everything started on the run. It was not known in much detail how the inventory was going to be done to determine the country’s gas emissions, nor was there any clarity about the actions to be taken, and the 1st program was a set of ideas that time took shape.

Growth rate of the largest fuel consumers in Costa Rica
Growth rate of the largest fuel consumers in Costa Rica

Laura Mora, the technical consultant for the Partnership for Market Readiness Costa Rica and the Directorate of Climate Change (DCC), agrees that the goal of seeking carbon neutrality in 2021 is political and difficult to comply with, but assures that it was a good point of departure.

The 1st Country Carbon Program Neutrality 1.0, launched in 2012 with a national strategy and an action plan, allowed to awaken the interest of private companies that by their own will adopted practices to reduce their emissions and compensate their footprint.

Carbon-Neutrality for Costa Rica
Carbon-Neutrality for Costa Rica

We cannot -and should not- deny that the efforts have yielded positive results in the private sector, but we should not forget that the bulk of the country’s emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases coming from the country’s vehicular fleet, energy consumption, and the use of fertilizers in agriculture.

In these areas the efforts to attack the problem have been minor, so the country must rethink its actions to achieve carbon neutrality in light of the Paris Agreement, where the goal was set at 2100.

Goal: Carbon-Neutral 2021

In 2012, when we started talking about a Carbon-Neutral Costa Rica by 2021, the goals, inventories, and actions were very simply estimated . Mora clarified that, at that time, it was understood that the country had to compensate 20% of the carbon emissions with its forests but, actually, that did not happen.

2021 Carbon-Neutral program
2021 Carbon-Neutral program

Program 1.0 focused on measures for private companies to take reduction actions that indirectly included the vehicle fleet and energy consumption. However, there are no high-impact direct practices to attack emissions from vehicles that operate on petroleum-based fuels.

On September 28th, the Government announced the launch of “Programa País de Carbon Neutralidad 2.0”, a written document correcting and refining what was developed in the 2012 version.

“For the 5th consecutive year we have maintained the Neutral Carbon Country Brand, granted by the Government of the Republic, which has allowed us to reduce a total of 1,294 tons of CO2 equivalent, in relation to the base year”, explained Luis Mastroeni, Sustainability Manager of the BAC Credomatic Group.

To achieve these results, they invested in a satellite geolocation system (GPS) for their messenger fleet. Consequently, it allowed them to reduce fuel consumption and optimize resources.

Branch of BAC Credomatic with lighting systems which reduce the electrical consumption
Branch of BAC Credomatic with lighting systems which reduce the electrical consumption

The company implemented a series of actions aimed at saving paper consumption and changes in their air conditioning systems. The DCC expects that by the end of the current year, another 20 private companies will join the 2.0 program to achieve some of the 5 C-Neutral certifications that were created.

Municipalities and non-profit institutions may also opt for a certification this very same year, as one of the novelties to expand the spectrum and get all sectors to join this project, which is still utopian. But, step by step, it is becoming reality.

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