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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Is Costa Rica becoming a Green City? The new Environment and Energy Program

This Monday, June 6, in the context of World Environment Day, the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and the German Development Cooperation GIZ, launched “Ciudad Verde” (Green City) with the objective of transforming the urban planning of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM).

This way, cities can develop in harmony with nature and favor biological connectivity benefiting animal and plant species.

Green City is the result of the joint work led by the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) with public institutions, municipalities, the academic community, the private sector and civil society. It has the technical assistance of the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) through the Interurban Biological Corridors project – Biodiver City.

Between 2018 and 2022, workshops, roundtables, validation meetings and a pilot plan were held to consolidate the initiative. Green City is intended to be an instrument to achieve sustainable development in the urban context.

“This effort allows us to proactively unite the knowledge and experience of the private and public sectors to promote more harmonious, safe, efficient, responsible and ecological cities that develop the right balance between the use of technology, modernity and natural and green environments,” said Vice President Stephan Brunner.

Green cities ultimately aim to maximize human well-being, resulting in low levels of pollution, improved appropriation of urban space, positive interactions for recreation, physical and mental health, and an ecological approach.

He also added: “creating spaces wisely designed to harmonize the coexistence of species in green areas and provide places for healthy recreation, with access and facilities for all, thus promoting the welfare of citizens and the promotion of health.”

Likewise, these cities are accessible and inclusive cities managed with the participation of their residents, where natural spaces and biodiversity abound and have a direct impact on their resilience.

“Costa Rica has many things to be proud of and has many challenges ahead. We are exposed to climate change, but we are a less vulnerable country, thanks to the measures and decisions that have been taken. I am pleased to see the projects that are moving forward such as EbA LAC and Green Cities, which gives us a concrete design for its implementation thanks to the great diagnosis,” assured Franz Tattenbach, Minister of Environment and Energy.

During the event, the details of the initiative were presented, including a series of indicators that were evaluated in a pilot plan with the municipalities of Mora, Curridabat and Tibás. With this, local governments have a monitoring tool that allows them to identify needs and strategies to turn their cantons into green cities.

“As part of the celebration of World Environment Day, efforts should be focused on motivating people and communities to become active agents of sustainable development and environmental protection,” noted Rafael Gutiérrez Rojas, Executive Director of SINAC.

Finally, a training program is planned for decision-makers and support organizations, so that they can learn about what Green City is and what tools are available to strengthen the way in which urban planning has been developed.

The answer on how to build green cities lies within nature itself: the initiative proposes that by identifying vulnerable areas within cities, such as heat islands or flood-prone locations, we can analyze which ecosystem services are being affected and what nature-based solutions can help improve their condition.

The goal of Ciudad Verde goes beyond raising awareness about sustainable development. It seeks to be an initiative that is linked to the daily actions of urban development in cities, improving ecosystem services, enabling biological connectivity, giving nature back the space, it needs to thrive, creating the conditions for greater resilience to climate change, which will lead to a better quality of life for people.

“The concept on which the Green City initiative is built upon the premise that the urban and the rural can – and must – coexist in a more harmonious way to ensure greater sustainability of the natural environment and our own habitat as human beings. The instruments presented today facilitate the channeling of the decisions we make about the territory towards that friendlier and more sustainable city we want: a green city,” said Claus Kruse, Director of the BiodiverCity project.

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