Costa Rica is in the top 5 of countries that are leading the way into renewable resources. It might seem small but it has a really big environmental impact. Since 2014 the country’s energy has been coming from 99% renewable sources, and it has been running on 100% renewable energy for over two months twice in the last two years. Then, since June 2017 they have been set on eradicating single-use plastic by 2021. The first be the first country in the world to do this. And most recently, in the summer of 2018, the country announced its aims to become completely carbon-neutral by the year 2021 – The first completely carbon-free country in the whole world.
“Basing [electricity] generation on renewable resources allows the country to achieve one of the lowest ratios of greenhouse gas emissions to electrical consumption on the planet,” the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) indicated in a statement.
Over the past 4 years, Costa Rica has generated all but 1 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as its rivers, volcanoes, wind and solar power. The hydroelectric plant on the Reventazón River, on the Caribbean slope, began operations in 2016. It’s the largest plant of its kind in Central America. They also have seven wind turbine plants, six hydroelectric plants and a solar plant. A statement from ICE indicated that ¾ of renewable energy came from hydroelectric plants using river water; the rest was geothermal and wind power, with biomass then solar power constituting the smallest percentage.
Since the 1980s, the government recognized that nature is Costa Rica’s strongest asset and has therefore made every effort to protect it: including, among other things, zoo closures, reforestation, and establishing protected areas (25% of the total surface area of the country).
“With its rich biodiversity, Costa Rica has also demonstrated far-sighted environmental leadership by pursuing reforestation, designating a third of the country protected natural reserves, and deriving almost all of its electricity from clean hydro power.” – Joseph Stiglitz
The plastic dilemma came next. So, last year on World Environment Day the country announced its new national plan to eradicate all single-use plastics by 2021. From that day on, plastic has to be replaced by alternatives that are 100% recyclable or biodegradable and not petroleum-based. The country has the technical and financial support of the United Nations Development Program to help them accomplish this.
Economist Mónica Araya, a Costa Rican sustainability expert and director of Costa Rica Limpia, which promotes renewable energy and electric transport, said:
“Getting rid of fossil fuels is a big idea coming from a small country. This is an idea that’s starting to gain international support with the rise of new technologies. In a country already rapidly weaning itself off fossil fuels, focusing on transport – one of the last major challenges – could send a powerful message to the world.”
Earlier this year, Carlos Alvarado Quesada was elected as Costa Rica’s new president. His first act in the office was to take a giant leap forward into reducing carbonization. During his inauguration as a world leader he announced his initiative to ban fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized society. He says to an excited crowd:
“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first.”
And he does admit that to create the first carbon-free society will be an extremely massive task, but an extraordinary one that he is confident they will achieve. He is very hopeful and excited to get rid of the fossil fuels created by their transportation system by 2021 – all just in time to celebrate the nation’s 200th anniversary of achieving its independence.
He said: “When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate… that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation.”
The future-minded small country of Costa Rica has made a giant impact in environmentalism. And it is also conscious of the well-being of its citizens. It is part of the Wellbeing Economies Alliance—a coalition that includes Scotland, New Zealand, and Slovenia—which instead of emphasizing countries’ GDP, “seeks to ensure that public policy advances citizens’ wellbeing in the broadest sense, by promoting democracy, sustainability, and inclusive growth,” according to a recent column by economist Joseph Stiglitz.
In the following video interview Democracy Now! speaks with Mónica Araya. They talk about many things, such as how it will be the first country in the world to decarbonize its economy and how wonderful the country is of course. It is very inspiring and well worth your time to watch it!