Costa Rica managed to reverse deforestation and has emerged as one of the world's biggest eco-tourism hubs, but its president cautioned that what worked for Costa Rica may not work for every other country.
Costa Rica may be a small Central American nation, but it was in the spotlight at the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow for all the right reasons. The nation is at the forefront of the fight against climate change, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeff Bezos, Boris Johnson and Prince William, among others, seeking out Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada to understand how other nations could emulate what the small country has achieved.
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Costa Rica is one of the few countries, whose actions and planned policies are considered “almost sufficient” by the organisation Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis produced by two research organisations tracking climate action.
What has Costa Rica achieved?
Costa Rica was not always the beacon of environmentalism. In the 1980s and 1990s, the country had one of the worst deforestation rates in Central America and had lost over half of its tree cover. Seventy five percent of the country was covered in rainforests in the 1940s, and seeing the immense loss of tree cover the government decided to step in.
The Costa Rican government rolled out a brand new initiative that paid individuals for protecting their local environment. On the back of the success of this initiative and other schemes brought out by the government, Costa Rica over the next few decades managed to stop and reverse deforestation, the only nation in Central America to do so.
The country even won one of the five inaugural Earthshot Awards. The awards were established by UK’s Prince William and famed natural historian David Attenborough in 2020, and hopes to encourage and support the development of solutions for Earth’s environmental problems.
Apart from reversing its deforestation problem, the country has slowly emerged as one of the biggest eco-tourism hubs in the world. Costa Rican leaders like Christiana Figueres, who was the presiding leader at COP21 which saw the Paris Agreement being signed, and Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Chief Executive of the Global Environment Facility, have also been leading the fight against climate change.
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What's next for Costa Rica?
The country now aims to fully decarbonise, not just achieve net-zero emissions, by the year 2050. The country is also part of the international agreement which is trying to preserve eco-diversity on land and water over the next few turbulent decades. The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People is spearheaded by Costa Rica, alongside co-chairs France and the UK, to commit to preserving 30 percent of Earth’s lands and oceans.
The country aims to use the political and moral leverage it gains from achieving these goals to encourage other countries to follow in its footsteps. But Alvarado cautions that what worked for Costa Rica may not work for every other country.
“The Costa Rican example ought not to be taken literally. Take whatever is good that we have, but also adapt it locally. The thing about our example is the possibility of change and not the particular change itself. We have seen the world make global decisions in Glasgow but we cannot be tempted by the idea that there can be a one size fits all solution,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
“What we have learned from the Costa Rican case is that you need to put nature in as part of your development model. It’s not about development and protecting nature. It’s understanding that nature needs to be part of the kind of development that you want. We understood that,” Andrea Meza, Costa Rica’s Environment Minister, told The Guardian. She had recently announced the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) to speed up the end of fossil fuel use.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)