Costa Rica is striving to become the first carbon-neutral nation under a new president, but the path to the goal is complicated, with concerns about timing and economic feasibility.
On May 8, new Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado announced his plan to end all fossil fuels in transportation by 2021, but concerns over the possibility of this plan have grown over his first two months in office.
“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,” Alvarado said. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”
The new plan would create a carbon-neutral economy, or one that does not release more carbon into the atmosphere than it absorbs, by the 200th year of Costa Rican independence. The plan focuses on fossil fuels in transportation. With fewer than four years to complete the task, questions of the implementation and effects of the policy are growing.
“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,” Alvarado boasted during a victory speech.
The Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, explained, however, that the goals and their deadlines may vary.
“Allow me to clarify that Costa Rica is not putting a ban to fossil fuels,” Rodríguez told The Globe Post. “What we have is an aggressive plan to decarbonize our economy by shifting our transportation sector from fossil fuel to removable energy sources.”
“A ban on fossil fuels is unreal but by 2030 we may have decrease 50 percent of carbon emissions,” he added.
In 2015, Costa Rican leaders backed away from a proposal to be carbon-neutral by 2021. The updated goal was 2085. Alvarado offers a more ambitious outlook.
Costa Rica is a leader in the international community in reducing carbon emissions, with 99 percent of its electricity produced by renewable energy sources. In 1994, its Constitution was amended to afford every person “the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.”
“The rest of the global community, and particularly the rich and developed world, would do well to follow Costa Rica’s leadership, especially when it comes to inefficient fossil fuel reserves,” George Alexandre Lenferna wrote in Energy Research & Social Science.
Costa Rican leaders plan to continue their vision even as their country leads other nations.
“We have no emissions on the land use and electric sector now it is time to work on the transportation sector,” Rodríguez said. “We want to do the transition to a reusable source, electric, hydrogen and other possible energy options.”