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Solís to suspend Costa Rica’s carbon neutrality goal

April 8, 2014

If elected, Citizen Action Party presidential candidate Luis Guillermo Solís will abandon Costa Rica’s 2021 carbon neutrality goal, Reuters reported Friday.

Solís, the last man standing after National Liberation Party candidate Johnny Araya suddenly announced the indefinite suspension of his campaign last week, will most likely be elected Costa Rica’s next president on April 6.

According to Solís’ environmental advisor Patricia Madrigal, the party plans to set a more realistic date for carbon neutrality, likely around 2025.

Madrigal told Reuters this week:

“We don’t think it would be possible to reach carbon neutrality by 2021, because the most important tasks to reduce emissions in the country are yet to be done.”

The goal, set in 2009 by then-president Óscar Arias, was chosen to line up with Costa Rica’s bicentennial. This would have made Costa Rica the first carbon-neutral country in the world.

It was not until 2012 that the government released its plans for reaching carbon neutrality. According to the timeline, the country should be in the second phase of implementation, but large chunks of the first phase have not yet taken effect.

“Right now you can put a big check mark next to the part of the plan that called for carbon mitigation through forests,” Environment Minister René Castro told The Tico Times in January, then still confident the government could reach the 2021 goal. “The problem is the transportation sector. That part of the plan is moving, but it is moving very slowly.”

According to data from the country’s Environment Ministry, transportation generates nearly 70 percent of Costa Rica’s carbon emissions.

Last year Riteve SyC, the company in charge of mandatory vehicle inspections in Costa Rica, reported that more than a third of Costa Rica’s vehicles are 13-20 years old. A 2013 study from the University of Costa Rica  also found that traffic congestion in the country’s capital increases emissions by up to 30 percent.

To offset these emissions, the carbon neutrality plan stipulated that 20-25 percent of the country’s busses and taxis would need to switch to carbon-neutral alternatives by 2014. According to Leiner Vargas, the head researcher for the government’s carbon neutrality plan, this has not happened.

“Have you been in an electric taxi recently? Because I certaintly haven’t,” Vargas told The Tico Times. “There has been no political volition to get this done. There are no real incentives for anyone in public transportation to switch to a more efficient vehicle.” 

Vargas estimates that about 10-15 percent of the overdue first phase has been completed. The rest, he says, “is beautifully laid out on paper.”

 

 

 

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