Carbon neutrality has never been so easy. Just click here: www.fonafifo.com. With those instructions, tourism officials, together with the National Forest Financing Fund (FONAFIFO), announced the public launch of “Clean Trip,” a program that will allow visitors to Costa Rica to offset and compensate for carbon emissions produced during travels to and from the country.
An agreement signed this week by FONAFIFO, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), and the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) seeks to spur a new form of ecoconscious travel to the country and set a global trend, according to government officials.
“Now, anyone coming to Costa Rica can choose to make their voyage carbon neutral,” explained Alberto García, a FONAFIFO representative.
The concept is simple, García said: Visitors use a nifty online calculator to determine the number of tons of carbon produced in their travels to and from Costa Rica.
The calculator includes every major airport in the world, from Alaska to Saudi Arabia.
Each ton of carbon produced (New York-San José produces roughly three tons) costs $5 to offset, at current market value.
So the tourist multiplies $5 by three tons, and donates $15 to the FONAFIFO Payment for Environmental Services Program. By Oct. 1, thanks to an agreement with Costa Rica’s Banco Nacional, visitors can donate using their credit cards.
That money, García explained, will go directly to the program budget used to pay private citizens and businesses to protect forests they own, or to plant new ones.
The Payment for Environmental Services Program is currently funded by a 3.5% tax on the sale of gas and diesel in the country, and pays private landowners roughly $320 per hectare over five years for protecting preexisting forest, or $816 per hectare over 10 years for reforestation projects (TT, July 27).
García explained that the program has already protected 530,000 hectares, but because of budget limitations is currently running a waiting list of people looking to protect their land, or reforest it.
“This announcement comes at a most opportune moment,” he said.
The program, according to the recently signed agreement, will become an important feature of national and regional tourism campaigns, including information booths in the country’s airports and tourism centers.
“For years, Costa Rica has committed to protecting its forests. We believe the tourism sector can help in the fight against global warming,” said Tourism Minister Carlos Benavides.
Jorge Mario Rodríguez, executive director of FONAFIFO, said he believes tourists could become a critical “next step” in encouraging the protection of Costa Rica’s forests and the reduction of global emissions.
“This is an opportunity for individuals to reduce their impact on the environment through a voluntary economic contribution, and to promote the shared responsibility to reduce emissions through the financing of forest projects,” Rodríguez said.
The agreement is just one in a long line of growing funding opportunities for FONAFIFO, including the announcement last week that the U.S. based Peace with Nature Foundation will donate $1 million to the agency.
A statement from Casa Presidencial revealed this latest donation is the first installment in a series promised over the next 10 years that officials expect will ensure protection of 12,000 hectares of forest and wetlands in the country’s central volcanic range.
Sansa Airlines Goes Green
Sansa Regional airlines joins Nature Air, its chief competitor and the country’s other national airline, in the commitment to reducing global emissions.
The company’s declaration came during a ceremony last week attended by the company’s general manager, César Solís, the Osa Tourism Chamber, National Forest Financing Fund (FONAFIFO) board member Héctor Arce, representatives from the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) and the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR).
Sansa has also committed to protecting 48 hectares of primary forest in the southern Pacific canton of Osa, in an effort to offset its greenhouse gas emissions.
The airline, according to a statement, agreed to a five-year contract with FONAFIFO worth almost $200,000.
According to Solís, the airline felt obligated to head down this path, as “its passengers, in their great majority, visit the country with the objective of admiring its natural beauty, where environmental quality is of the utmost importance. For this reason, Sansa has chosen, in an official and continuing manner, to declare its commitment to the protection of the environment.”
Earlier this year, Nature Air committed to a similar agreement with FONAFIFO, whereby the company offsets 4,650 tons of carbon through the preservation of forest each year (TT, Feb 12).