Thursday, April 23, 2009

What sets Costa Rica Apart?

Costa Rica has created a unique and holistic approach to its economic development and the environment, based around a system which pays for use of the environment.
More than 5% of the world’s biodiversity (an incredible one in twenty of every living thing on the planet) lives in Costa Rica and Costa Rica first recognized the value of this natural asset in the 1990’s when it set about forming a plan to protect it.

In most countries the environment ministry is effectively the “poor relation” – sidelined and hidden away. But Costa Rica did what no country had done before - it integrated the environment ministry with the ministry of energy, creating a department which looks after the environment, mining, energy and water.

As a result the ministry took a long term view on the country’s energy strategy. The result was that Costa Rica chose to invest in renewable energy sources. These were not the cheapest option at that time; however the ministry determined that over a longer term 25-50 years they would provide the best value. As a direct result more than 95% of Costa Rica’s energy now comes from renewable sources – hydroelectric, wind and geo-thermal.

Further recognising the true value of its environment Costa Rica was one of the first countries worldwide to impose a tax on fossil fuels. First introduced in 1997, the revenue generated by this 3.5% tax funds the National Forest Fund to pay indigenous communities for protection of the surrounding forests. As a direct result of this fund, deforestation in Costa Rica has been reversed with the land area under forest now more than double that of twenty years ago.

So what sets Costa Rica Apart? – it truly recognizes the value of its environment!

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