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Central America hopes to resume climate agenda with Biden, Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister says

Central American countries hope to resume environmental talks in their relations with the United States when Joe Biden takes office, says Costa Rican Foreign Minister Rodolfo Solano.

“We are very confident that issues that had been left aside, such as the strengthening of the multilateral system and climate change, will return to the forefront” in Central America’s relations with the United States, Solano said in an interview with AFP.

“The Central American region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change, and (it is important) to have an ally like the United States to understand that, with climate change, concrete actions must be taken to mitigate it and generate the conditions for adaptation,” the chancellor added.

In November, the Central American region suffered the double scourge of major hurricanes Eta and Iota, which left hundreds of deaths and millions in damages to infrastructure, aggravating an already precarious economic situation provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Outgoing President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which the world community outlined a path to combat climate change and accelerate actions necessary for a sustainable future.

However, President-elect Biden announced that on the first day of his term, January 20, he will bring the North American country back into the deal.

Costa Rica & US as allies

Solano highlighted that Costa Rica has been a leader in the agenda for reducing emissions that cause global warming. At least 98% of its electric grid is powered by renewable electricity, and the country’s decarbonization plan seeks to eliminate fossil fuels by 2050.

The foreign minister is confident that this plan will serve as the basis for identifying cooperation agreements with Washington and the European Union.

The United States is a historical ally with enormous political and economic influence in Central America.

Given this, Trump’s refusal to accept the electoral result of November’s election raised concern about the United States’s position as a promoter of democracy in regions such as Central America.

But the Costa Rican minister expressed his confidence “in the solid, historic democratic institutions of the United States.”

Regional relationships

For Solano, who became foreign minister in February, a solid relationship with Central America is essential to Costa Rican diplomacy. The minister has even tried to improve relations with Nicaragua — still tense after a 2010 border dispute, when Nicaraguan troops occupied a small Costa Rican territory that they claimed as their own.

The case was resolved in 2015 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which recognized the sovereignty of Costa Rica in the disputed territory.

“The Central American region and the Caribbean is a priority for our administration since I took office,” says Solano, noting that he has already met twice with his Nicaraguan counterpart, Denis Moncada. The foreign ministers of the neighboring countries had not met since 2010.

Solano considers it important that the region strengthen its integration ahead of the bicentennial of its independence, in 2022.

“Countries like Costa Rica, with 5 million inhabitants, and Panama (…) are very small economies. But the region as a whole has 50 million inhabitants and is a market that draws attention from the European Union and Asian markets,” he said.

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