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Costa Rica and carbon neutrality

The year 2021 has seen climate change and carbon neutrality issues rise to the forefront of global consciousness.

From the wildfires of the western United States that caused visible change in the skies of New York City, to the enormous levels of precipitation that were the cause of more than 200 deaths due to flooding in Europe, the Earth’s climate has certainly made its presence felt this year.

With many countries now beginning to confront their climate issues through policy and action, they may want to take a page out of Costa Rica’s playbook.

Costa Rica has been one of the world leaders in “going green” for the past decade, with no sign of stopping anytime in the near or distant future.

Policies to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, efforts to make its electricity run entirely off of renewable energy, and financial incentives for Costa Rica’s constituents are but a few of the environmentally friendly changes Costa Rica has made to help offset the climate crisis.

Let’s take a look at some of the past and present eco-friendly changes that make Costa Rica a world leader when it comes to the race for carbon neutrality.

How environmentally friendly is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is much more than just a postcard for eco-friendly images; they have put their money where their mouth is.

As previously stated, Costa Rica is a frontrunner in many categories when it comes to the “going green” initiative.

One interesting fact about Costa Rica and its environmentally friendly nature is that despite its relative small size (roughly the size of US state of West Virginia), the country contains a whopping 6% of the world’s total biodiversity. This is notable because biodiversity creates a vast network of functioning ecosystems that serve to produce oxygen, improve air and water quality, as well as control troublesome pests.

In part due to the vested interests in the ecotourism industry, Costa Rica has numerous national parks and wildlife areas that are protected by law against destructive practices. Some of these practices include banning single-use plastics, the designation of new protected areas, and heftier fines for those who attempt to break these laws.

The country’s dedication to its environmental friendliness runs deeper than beautiful beaches and lush rainforests as well.

Since 2014, Costa Rica’s electric grid has been running on more than 98% renewable electricity sources, and that number has since been updated.

As reported in a 2020 article by The Tico Times, the President Alvarez noted that the Costa Rican Electricity Institute and the National Power and Light Company had reached their goal of a 100% renewable electricity matrix last year.

The country even introduced an online coin-based system to help combat the plastic waste problem and promote recycling as well. If that isn’t dedication to their environment, I don’t know what is!

Is Costa Rica carbon negative?

In his inauguration speech, President Carlos Alvarado vowed to ban all fossil fuels, with aims of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country by the year 2021.

To answer the proposed question at hand, no, Costa Rica is not yet carbon negative. Though their efforts have been astounding, the goal of net-zero emissions may have been a bit ambitious.

It has been estimated that if Costa Rica were to successfully implement all of the changes in their new Decarbonisation Plan, they would be able to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050. This goal would still be an incredible feat, once again pitting Costa Rica as one of the frontrunners in the quest for carbon neutrality.

Obstacles to carbon neutrality

One challenge that Costa Rica faces in their quest to carbon neutrality is a familiar one for many countries, finance. The main source of finance for low-carbon efforts in low-carbon countries is often high-income countries in high-carbon producing countries as compensation for their efforts to offset the total global impact.

Due to complications and pull-outs of many countries involved in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, financial support for such goals were not so readily available, though that is beginning to change as the world wakes up to the pressing problem that climate change has presented.

Another troublesome obstacle to Costa Rica’s goal of carbon neutrality has been the transportation sector, which comprises more than 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions produced by the country.

Costa Rica also has the third highest car-rate ownership in Latin America, making the need for a switch to more eco-friendly forms of transportation a top priority for Costa Rican officials and institutions going forward.

What has Costa Rica done to reduce its carbon footprint?

Costa Rica has been resolute in their tough stance when it comes to offsetting the effects of climate change.

In February 2021, the Government of Costa Rica gave an update on their progress on their aims for carbon neutrality.

The Presidency reported that 90.7% of their 2022 climate related projects were already underway, with 25% of the initial objectives set to be completed from 2018 to 2022 having already been executed.

In an effort to combat one of Costa Rica’s more troublesome carbon-producing sectors, the transportation sector, the Costa Rican Government reported that 25 different government institutions had acquired 322 electric vehicles. Costa Rica also implemented 43 of the target 69 fast-power centers needed to charge these vehicles, reaching a 62.3% success rate on this goal to be completed by 2022.

In addition to the transportation sector, Costa Rica has made strides in the sustainable construction field as well. As of February 2021, 736 buildings and 29 municipalities had been awarded in the climate change category of the Ecological Blue Flag Program.

Final word: Costa Rica and climate change

While Costa Rica may have fallen short of their ambitious goal to be carbon neutral by 2021, their efforts have certainly not been for naught.

They have made monumental strides in the renewable energy industry, and have already begun to address some of the obstacles holding them back from their goal. If their recent progress is any indication, the problems will be addressed.

Look for many more updates to come as Costa Rica chases their goal of becoming the first carbon neutral country in the world.

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