Costa Rica’s Commitment: On The Road To Carbon Neutrality

    Aligning its national priorities with global climate action

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    The scientific evidence currently available has shown that the benefits of decisive early action far outweigh the costs of inaction. If we do not drastically and immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, we risk serious disruption to the complex environmental, economic, health, moral, political and social systems – all interrelated – that sustain civilization as it is, as we know it today.However, this collective action, necessary to avert the impending catastrophe, remains one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. Its magnitude and urgency for action will challenge the global governance system and highlight the relationship between developing and more developed countries over the next decade. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must be able to find equitable solutions and reduce emissions as much as possible. The world has fallen far behind in the fight against global warming. We cannot afford any more delays. The most developed countries and the rapidly growing large developing countries have a greater responsibility for climate action, but this cannot be an excuse for smaller countries to do nothing.

    Costa Rica has decided to respond to this challenge and align its national priorities with global climate action. The government has prepared a far-reaching strategy to combat climate change and remains committed to becoming a carbon neutral country. We aspire to build a society in which the achievement of well-being does not imply a reduction or a risk to the well-being of others. In the words of the President of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias, “we do it with the hope that, perhaps, we will be able to show the world that, ultimately, what needs to be done can be done.” Costa Rica is a small country, but this is its important contribution to the problem of climate change.

    Climate change is one of the priorities of the government’s work program. The new Administration, which came to power in 2006, included it as such in its national development plan. Both nationally and internationally, the government has announced its commitment to transform Costa Rica into a leading country in the battle against climate change. A comprehensive economic plan is being developed with the participation of all economic sectors, relevant government agencies and academic institutions. Likewise, a number of important segments of the private sector and the media themselves have shown their enthusiastic support for this objective. Society is beginning to share the vision that I have been defending — that “a carbon-neutral economy is at the same time a competitive economy” — . We will not only share with the rest of the world the responsibility for the phenomenon of climate change, but we will also try to develop the necessary capacities to turn complicated mitigation objectives into opportunities that allow us to realize our potential sustainable development.

    The strategy to combat climate change, clearly oriented towards action, is defined around five strategic components: measurements; mitigation; vulnerability and adaptation; capacity building; and education, culture and public awareness.

    climate change


    This component will develop an accurate, reliable and verifiable measurement system, which will be equipped with integrated monitoring mechanisms.


    This strategic component focuses on creating a carbon neutral country with a vision that integrates complex environmental, economic, human, social, moral, cultural, educational, and political issues, as well as the national procurement strategy. The promotion of carbon neutral businesses and communities, among other stakeholders, will provide incentives for action and for the introduction of additional differentiators in the procurement strategy. The actions include the following main elements: reduction of emissions by source, which includes energy, transport, agriculture, land use (changes in land use and reduction of deforestation), industry, solid waste management and tourism (and transport international air related to the latter), among other sectors; enhancement of carbon stocks through reforestation and natural regeneration of forests; and development of carbon markets in the domestic and international spheres of production.

    The program against deforestation

    Which includes participation in the Coalition of Countries with Tropical Forests and a new tree planting campaign that will be linked to the Wangari Maathai campaign of the United Nations, represents part of the actions planned by Costa Rica, through which the country’s experience in reforestation will be strengthened. Through a system that includes various mechanisms, such as the payment of environmental protection services and improved forest recovery, Costa Rica has managed to increase its forest area, from 21% in 1986 to 51% in 2006. Its Forest planting and protection efforts will continue to focus on high-quality environmental services, including biodiversity conservation, protection and conservation of water resources, development of local communities and promotion of scenic beauty, plus beyond solving the carbon problem.

    The relationship of all this with a competitive strategy constitutes an important element of our design. Climate change, along with environmental, energy and food security degradation, will have a profound impact on sustainable economic growth. The value of companies, as well as their growth and profitability, will depend on the risks and opportunities associated with climate change. How companies manage these risks and opportunities becomes the key to translating their efforts into success. We are creating the conditions to induce responsible and competitive behaviour, including in our economy. As recognized by the companies participating in the Carbon Disclosure project, the main economic, financial and competitive risks of climate change are associated with exposure to the following factors:


    Competitive risks:

    As a result of the shift in consumer demand from high-carbon products and services to low-carbon or carbon-neutral products and services. Carbon differentiation will also be a relevant factor, while clean products, services and processes will offer important competitive advantages in the future.

    Reputational risks:

    Due to the perception by consumers that companies do nothing.

    Legal risks:

    Due to exposure to potential local and international regulations.

    Economic and financial risks:

    As a result of the effects of extreme weather events on assets and infrastructure.

    The main opportunities offered by climate change are related to education, culture, innovation and the rapid technological changes that are observed in the various existing economic sectors, as well as the development of new sectors oriented to environmental issues. Climate change will have a significant impact on most economic sectors and society in general. How countries and companies respond to this phenomenon will determine their future economic, financial, and human development, as well as their environmental and social well-being. Future sustainable human development will depend on how we respond to climate change.


    This strategy includes a series of studies aimed at identifying vulnerabilities and designing mechanisms to apply measures to reduce the effects of climate change, research and monitoring, early warning systems and capacity building to improve adaptation capacity in an integrated manner. of the country from the economic, social, environmental and biophysical point of view. This adaptation strategy will include among its main components water resources, health, agriculture, infrastructure, coastal areas and marine and terrestrial biodiversity, as well as preparation to face disasters and management of the risks associated with these. The objective will be to reduce the vulnerability of the different sectors and ecosystems.

    Capacity building

    For a nation to be capable of applying a global strategy to combat climate change, it is necessary to foster its capacity to respond consciously to this phenomenon, measure and mitigate its causes, and communicate at all levels of society what the way to adapt to its consequences.

    Education, culture and public awareness

    It is necessary for the population to get involved and commit to the fight against climate change, thus building a social decision-making system for the application of the strategy. Individual habits and consumption patterns must be made compatible with the imperatives of climate change. If we really want to make a difference, the population must be informed and re-educated, and actively involved in issues related to climate change.

    Costa Rica’s strategy to become carbon neutral is a combination of broad and concrete voluntary commitments that reinforce each other and integrate climate-related issues into development planning. Likewise, these commitments allow the design of policies tailored to national circumstances, while at the same time producing an increase in competitiveness by attracting foreign direct investment. This strategy is consistent with our local and global responsibilities. However, a broader international regime to combat climate change will not only be of great help to us but also to other developing countries, which will be able to introduce the necessary policy and sectoral approaches to achieve further emission reductions.

    For example, programmatic credits are needed under the Clean Development Mechanism, or through other mechanisms, to finance sector and policy-based activities. This will make it possible to assume important commitments in the sphere of national policy, such as strengthening energy security through greater use of renewable sources, as well as improving energy efficiency.

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