Costa Rica’s carbon neutrality plan

Posted on 28 November 2019.

On February 24, 2019, the President of this small Central American state announced the launch of its national decarbonization plan. Its goal is to be among the first to achieve zero net emissions by 2050.

"Decarbonization is the great challenge of our generation and Costa Rica must be among the first countries to achieve it, if not the first."

Carlos Alvarado made the promise when he took up office as President of Costa Rica on May 8, 2018. On February 24, 2019, he went into action with the announcement of the launch of a decarbonization plan to halt the use of fossil fuels and reduce the country's carbon footprint. Its goal is to become one of the first states in the world to achieve zero net emissions by 2050.

How? By minimizing the country's CO2 emissions to the point at which the remaining unavoidable emissions can be absorbed by the forests, soil and oceans. This is called zero net emissions.

Costa Rica is not the only country to have set this target within the same deadline. In 2017, during the presentation of its Climate Plan, France also set its sights on carbon neutrality by 2050.

But Costa Rica’s national plan goes further. It is the first to detail the three stages of its transition to decarbonization in the short, medium and long terms: "the beginning" for the period 2018-2022, "the turning point" for 2023-2030, and finally "massive deployment" from 2031 to 2050. We take a look at its ambitious roadmap based on 10 key objectives. Among the priority sectors are public and private transport, energy, buildings and waste management. Here are the 10 key objectives in the national plan:

1) Develop a secure public transport and shared mobility system powered by clean energy. Both more expensive and polluting, the use of private cars would be less attractive. More specifically, by 2035, 70% of buses and taxis will be electric, rising to 100% by 2050.

2) Gradually transform the national fossil fuel vehicle (petroleum) fleet into a zero-emission fleet and promote the economic model of autonomous shared cars. By 2035, 25% of the car fleet will be electric and an extensive electric charging network will be set up throughout the country.

3) Reduce the environmental impact of freight transport in the country, through advanced energy efficiency technologies and low-carbon vehicles.

4) Consolidate a national electricity system that provides users with renewable energy at a more attractive cost. By 2050, electricity will be the main source of energy in the transport, housing, trade and industry sectors.

5) Develop the construction of low-carbon buildings, integrating the use of renewable energy for heating and hot water.  

6) Modernize the industrial sector by applying electric, sustainable and more efficient processes. Specifically, by 2030, Costa Rica plans to develop a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the environmental impact of finished products from the point of design, through distribution to end of life.

7) Develop an integrated waste management system based on sorting, reusing and disposing of low emission carbon waste. For example, by 2022, the South American country aims to develop new technological solutions that will reduce the methane emissions produced by organic waste disposal.

8) Support the adoption of efficient and low-carbon technologies in the agri-food sector. For example, the emissions caused by transporting food will fall by 20% between 2018 and 2050.

9) Consolidate agriculture and livestock farming models based on production efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases. By 2050, domestic producers will have adopted the most advanced technologies in accordance with the standards relating to sustainability, competitiveness and reducing emissions.

10) Consolidate a management model in rural, urban and coastal territories focusing on protecting biodiversity and increasing and maintaining forest cover

Global Decarbonization Laboratory

By the time of the next world climate change conference in 2020, Costa Rica hopes to have become a true "global decarbonization laboratory". President Carlos Alvarado wants to set an example. He said, "Decarbonization is the great challenge of our generation and Costa Rica must be among the first countries to achieve it, if not the first,” adding, "it's not a fad, it's a necessity."
In a country known for its ecotourism and remarkable biodiversity, it is a matter of acting quickly to limit the effects of global warming. Among the projects the country has in the pipeline are concrete measures for sustainable agriculture, as currently it is one of the highest pesticide users in the world.