CRC Daily: What's the value of environmental action?

Costa Rica's bold environmental plans could be worth billions.

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Costa Rica’s ambitious environmental plan

Since Costa Rica began taking conservation seriously in the 1980s, the country’s green reputation has paid dividends as the backbone of the ecotourism industry. Costa Rica’s next step is an aggressive one: It wants to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

A quick note: Like most things in Costa Rica, this is already behind schedule. The country originally hoped to decarbonize by 2021. With only one month left in 2020, we don’t think they’ll meet that deadline.

The current plan focuses heavily on modernizing Costa Rica’s transportation sector, which generates much of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions. The cornerstone is an electric passenger train that would benefit hundreds of thousands of people in and around the capital. (Costa Rica’s power grid has run on at least 98% renewable energy for five straight years.)

Implementing the decarbonization plan would cost $37 billion over the next 30 years, according to a study published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Rand Corporation and the University of Costa Rica (UCR).

But the reward? The study says Costa Rica would reap $78 billion worth of benefits — a net economic gain of $41 billion. This would arise through avenues including better population health, overall efficiency gains and more tourism dollars.

“Under all but 22 of the more than 3,000 plausible futures considered, implementation of the decarbonization plan would lead to economic benefits that exceed the costs,” the study concluded.

A quick caveat: This study was founded by the IDB, which has financed hundreds of projects in Costa Rica and would reasonably stand to benefit by a $37 billion decarbonization project.

President Carlos Alvarado says “Costa Rica’s history shows that green growth is possible.” Over the last 40 years, Costa Rica has reversed deforestation and protected about a quarter of its land; it has been rewarded with an ecotourism industry that showed consistent growth until, well, March.

Pursuing carbon neutrality is a $37 billion financial risk — but it could be a good bet.

Other news you should know today

  • Dengue cases are on the rise across Costa Rica, particularly in the Caribbean and South Pacific regions. The Health Ministry has already registered more cases of the mosquito-borne disease in 2020 than it did in all of 2019.

  • The Legislative Assembly approved cuts of more than $250 million from next year’s national budget. The news comes as Costa Rica faces a significant financial crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.

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