Costa Rica news is on track to be carbon neutral. What does this mean, and what can you do in a country that banned single-use plastics?
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In 2015 Costa Rica pledged that it would be carbon-neutral. Even with a plan in place, to say that a nation can completely change its carbon-producing ways is an ambitious goal. Yet, the country has made substantial progress. The United Nations recently released statements that most countries are behind in reducing their carbon emissions and that Costa Rica could be an example of how we can better reach climate goals.
There are several initiatives the country has taken to reduce its carbon emissions. Some of these- like protecting its rainforests- have made it a great tourist destination. If you’re planning your next dream vacation, here are a few things you can do in the country recently named one of the greenest in the world.
Enjoy Green Transportation
“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,” Carlos Andrés Alvarado Quesada, former President of Costa Rica.
One of the first industries that Costa Rica reexamined to reach their carbon-neutral goal was transportation. In 2018, former President Carlos Alvarado announced his plans to ban fossil fuels in the fight against climate change. Even at the time, he didn’t just make grand pledges. The President arrived at the plaza where he made his speech in a hydrogen-powered bus. His mode of transport was in line with his plan to have 70% of their public transport- buses and trains- powered by renewable energy sources by 2035.
Elsewhere, bike routes are becoming increasingly popular throughout cities like San Jose. Much like what is happening in other cities around the world, activists have pushed for better infrastructure for bikers and Omnibikes, a dockless e-bike has popped up to offer city residents and commuters better access to bikes.
Protect & Learn About Rain Forests
Costa Rica takes protecting and preserving its forests seriously. Today, the National System of Conservation Areas preserves approximately 25% of the country. This is one of the steps taken to reverse the damage from deforestation by loggers in the latter part of the 20th century. In 1996, logging without government permission became outlawed. By 2010, the total forest area increased by 51% within 5 years.
These efforts to preserve the forest have also increased biodiversity. Costa Rica is home to approximately 6,700 marine species, 933 registered bird species, and thousands of amphibians and other animal species.
Embrace Green Energy
“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,” Carlos Alvarado, former President of Costa Rica
In 2018 Costa Rica was one of the few countries boasting that 99% of their electricity came from renewable energy resources. In 2017, the country went 300 days without using fossil fuels for electricity. It was already an improvement from their 271 days streak in 2016 and 299 days in 2015. Instead of relying on fossil fuels, hydropower, geothermal energy, and wind farms provided the bulk of the country’s energy needed for electricity.
To break it down, 67.5% of the countries’ energy comes from hydropower, 17% from wind farms, and 13.5% from geothermal sources. The reminder comes from solar panels. Even homes in rural areas rely on renewable energy sources.
Go Single-Use Plastic-Free
“Single-use plastics are a problem not only for Costa Rica but also for the whole world. It is estimated that if the current consumption pattern continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish—measured by weight,” Environment and Energy Minister & Representative for UNDP Costa Rica.
In 2020 Costa Rica became the first country to ban single-use plastic. Items like straws, single-use plastic bags, water bottles, packaging and containers would no longer be used and instead replaced with bioplastics made from plant and other renewable materials. The plan began on June 5th, World Environment Day, as a way to help the country reduce waste and their reliance on fossil fuels.