As Costa Rica’s Congress ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Minister of the Environment Edgar Gutierrez said that, despite being a small country, “Costa Rica showed the world that it has the courage to take bold and timely decisions to work for a sustainable development,” as reported in the World Politics Review.
In the article, Mariel Yglesias, an environmental consultant, deliberates Costa Rica’s climate change policy with the journal. Following is an extract of that interview:
WPR: What is Costa Rica’s risk exposure to climate change, what effects of climate change are already apparent, and what sorts of adaptation approaches will it have to adopt or develop?
Mariel Yglesias: Scientists agree that Costa Rica is a hot spot for climate change, as it houses a unique array of ecosystems and biodiversity that will be seriously impacted by changes in temperature, rainfall variance and more frequent natural disasters.
Some impacts are already apparent: Costa Rica now experiences a longer and hotter dry season; precipitation is more intense, and temperature extremes have increased.
Such changes pose a threat, and Costa Ricans have already experienced more floods, landslides, heavy rains, and also sea-level rise.
Climate change is expected to affect highland forests as well, which are essential in maintaining Costa Rica’s water sources, and the biodiversity that they house is likely to be disturbed. The extinction of the golden toad in the highlands of Monteverde in the 1980s, in northwestern Costa Rica, has been linked to climate change.
To face the challenges of climate change, farmers will have to adapt to ensure food security. Crops and sowing dates will have to be adjusted, and agroforestry systems must contribute to mitigation efforts, including the protection of soil and water systems.
Coastal regions will need to secure financial resources to adapt to natural disasters and rising sea levels. Local communities need to become better informed so that they can protect their potable water sources.
WPR: How big of an issue is climate change domestically in Costa Rica, and how big a voice does the country have in global efforts to tackle climate change?
Yglesias: Domestically, climate change is a top political priority. Costa Rica has worked to build an institutional and political platform that allows national leaders to coordinate, plan and strategize responses to climate change. A number of adaptation strategies have been developed.
Internationally, Costa Rica has worked to align its policies with global climate change priorities. The country is a member of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, an international partnership of countries highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and has committed to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.
Costa Rica has also reaffirmed its aspiration of becoming a carbon-free economy. Being an international leader in environmental policies, Costa Rica aims to become a laboratory of innovation for green economies.
WPR: What steps has Costa Rica already taken to reduce its carbon footprint, and what further commitments has it made in the context of the Paris Agreement?
Yglesias: More than 25 percent of Costa Rica’s territory is protected as a national park or reserve. This conservation strategy started several decades ago in order to protect the country’s forests.
To protect forests outside of national parks and reserves areas, the government developed the “payment for environmental services” program. This program aims to foster carbon dioxide sequestration by using fuel tax revenues to fund a system that offers payments to landowners in exchange for their conservation of natural resources. These programs are a key part of Costa Rica’s efforts to become a green economy.
Costa Rica has committed to act as a laboratory for “decarbonizing the economy.” REDD+, the U.N. program to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, is one mechanism that Costa Rica has been using to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. The program engages with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, indigenous populations and small- and medium-sized forest producers in order to strengthen protected areas and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities.
Source: World Politics Review