Friday, December 05, 2008

Costa Rican sustainable development

On July, 2007, the Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace laureate Oscar Arias launched the program “Peace with Nature”, intended to help Costa Rica become the first neutral country in carbon emissions by the year 2021. This ambitious and visionary proposal has become part of Costa Rica’s foreign policy, and several environmentally aware nations around the world have praised and vowed to follow Costa Rica’s leadership in this field.

Thanks to many key decisions taken during the last 35 years towards conservation awareness and education on the importance of protecting its biodiversity and natural resources, Costa Rica now ranks fifth on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Costa Rica’s position is only behind Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, outranking major environmental powers such as Germany, New Zealand, Japan and Canada.

The EPI is a well-deserved recognition for a country that has doubled its forest coverage in the last 20 years and has more than 25% of its territory protected by conservation laws. Moreover, it is a country home to the National Biodiversity Institute, a worldwide leading institution dedicated to the protection of wildlife biodiversity as a sustainable way to develop rural and urban societies in harmony with the surrounding natural environment.

In times when Climate Change becomes a serious global challenge, leadership in the field of environmental conservation, sustainability and the preservation of biodiversity is welcome worldwide. Precisely, Costa Rica wants to prove to the world that there is a way to develop and to reach high levels of human development whilst protecting and making a sustainable use of natural resources.

Costa Rica, a country roughly fifty thousand square kilometers in land surface, hosts nearly 4.5% of all biodiversity found on the planet. Additionally, its territorial waters occupy a surface area of nearly half a million square kilometers where a wide array of plants, animals and microorganisms conform richly diverse ecosystems.

The state has also implemented an important measure providing a Certification for Sustainable Tourism. This certificate rewards socially and environmentally responsible companies that also maintain high levels of consumer satisfaction, carefully distinguishing companies and agents that are genuinely sustainable.

Regarding energy development, Costa Rica produces nearly 90% of all its electricity from renewable sources, namely hydroelectric, wind and geothermal. In times in which oil dependency is very costly for the planet’s environment and increases the pressure of Climate Change, our country is positioned as an example in its sources of alternative, clean and renewable energies.

Costa Rica’s geographic location, only nine degrees latitude North of the Equator line, makes it a very suitable country for solar energy harvesting. Also, 1500 kilometers of coastal line represent very rich potential for tidal energy generation. Additionally, there are nine active volcanoes in our small territory, which represent endless resources for geothermal energy generation.

Today, the new frontier for Costa Rican development has to do with leadership towards environmental awareness, conservation and sustainable development of its people and resources. Neutrality in carbon emissions, organic agricultural production, biodiversity research, promotion of alternative, clean and renewable sources of energy, reforestation and conservation of ecosystems are among the components that form Peace with Nature, the Costa Rican campaign for global leadership.

What Costa Rica needs for its further sustainable development is more sources of investment and technology transfer. These are times when creativity and innovation are necessary to find answers to the global problems we have created. It is in the pursuit of synergies and international cooperation that we will manage to shift environmental and energy paradigms into a more prosperous future for all humankind.

As Van Jones, author of The Green-Collar Economy suggests in his book, "If we are going to beat global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of buildings, install millions of solar panels, manufacture millions of wind-turbine parts, plant and care for millions of trees, build millions of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and construct thousands of solar farms, wind farms, and wave farms. That will require thousands of contracts and millions of jobs-producing billions of dollars of economic stimulus."

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