The Central American nation Costa Rica in its effort to find the possible ways to address climate change has launched an economy-wide plan aiming to “decarbonize” the country by 2050. It will thus set an example for others as well.
According to Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, the Environment Minister, on the achievement of the plan, his grandchildren will witness the same carbon footprint in 2035 as in the 1940s his grandparents did and they will find absolutely no carbon footprint by 2050.
“Not only are we going to reduce that footprint but we are going to bring many benefits with it,” Rodríguez said.
An electrical energy researcher Jairo Quirós, at the University of Costa Rica warned about the challenging role of the plan, and said it “should be viewed with some caution.”
The roadmap launched on Sunday claims that Costa Rica would achieve “zero net emissions” by 2050. That means in future there would be no more emissions than it can offset through planning such as expanding and maintaining its extensive forests.
As per the goal of the Paris Agreement 2015 on climate change, emission cuts are the main components to hold the rise in global temperatures under 2C (3.6F).
The economy of Costa Rica last year grew at 3% as stated in World Bank data. Costa Rica plans to continue to grow economically along with cutting greenhouse gases.
Costa Rican former UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, mentioned the goal as “unprecedented” in international politics.
Figueres told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that there is a detailed plan with the government of the tiny Marshall Islands to achieve that goal, however, “they still do not have the whole plan articulated sector by sector.”
Although Costa Rica represents only a tiny share of the world’s climate, President Carlos Alvarado noted that the plan for changing emissions could be a model for other nations.
At the plan’s launch, he said: “We can be that example – we have to inspire people.” However, the plan will take hard work to achieve, warned Quirós.
For him, some goals like running all buses and taxis on electricity by 2050, may be challenging as the changes are expensive.
At the current scenario, transport forms about 40% of Costa Rica’s climate-changing emissions, making it their largest single source, as per the National Meteorological Institute.
According to the new plan, the modernization of public transport includes the building of an electric train line connecting 15 out of the 31 neighborhoods in the San José metropolitan area as told by the Costa Rican Institute of Railways.
The Construction of the lines will probably start in 2022.
The Environment Minister said that the number of cars circulating in urban areas would be reduced to half by 2040 under Costa Rica’s decarbonization plan.
Rodríguez added that 70% of the country’s buses and 25% of its cars would be electric by 2035.
There is no fossil fuel extraction industry in Costa Rica. However, it is dependent on oil revenue that could create problems. Fuel taxes, vehicle import taxes, and driving taxes generate about 12% of government revenue, the minister said.
Phasing out fossil fuels without disturbing government income requires new revenue sources, and for that government will need to push for “green tax reform” which would need legislative approval, he said.
The country’s state-owned petroleum distributor would change course and research on alternative fuels like hydrogen and biofuels under the plan. It will also take an initiative to help fossil fuel workers change to clean energy jobs.
The plan requires further expansion of forests and Rodríguez admitted that money needed for the development of forests comes from taxes on fossil fuels.
“In the 1960s and 70s, Costa Rica had the highest per capita deforestation rate in the world. We have managed not only to stop deforestation but to double forest coverage” as the economy grew, Rodríguez said.
The Costa Rican Electricity Institute, the state-owned company in charge of electricity generation and distribution, stated that 98% of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources last year.
Quirós, the University of Costa Rica researcher, said the county’s plan, while “a little utopian” was clearly “a step in the right direction.”
“It’s good to be ambitious,” he added.