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Costa Rica Aims To Become The World’s First Plastic-Free And Carbon-Free Country By 2021

Costa Rica is one of the top 5 countries that lead the way into renewable resources. Although small this nation has a really big environmental impact. Since 2014, 99% of the country’s energy has been coming from renewable sources, and it has been operating on 100% renewable energy for over two months twice in the last two years. Since June 2017, they have been intent on eradicating single-use plastic by 2021. The first country in the world to do this. Additionally, in the summer of 2018, the country announced the aim to become completely carbon-neutral by the year 2021. This will make it the first completely carbon-free country in the whole world.

The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) specified in a statement, “Basing [electricity] generation on renewable resources allows the country to achieve one of the lowest ratios of greenhouse gas emissions to electrical consumption on the planet”.

In the last 4 years, Costa Rica has generated 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like its rivers, volcanoes, wind and solar power. The hydroelectric plant on the Reventazón River, on the Caribbean slope, which began operations in 2016 is the largest plant of its kind in Central America. The country also has seven wind turbine plants, six hydroelectric plants, and a solar plant. A statement from ICE described that three-quarters of its renewable energy came from hydroelectric plants using river water, the rest was sourced from geothermal and wind power, with biomass with solar power constituting the smallest percentage.

Since the 1980s, the government ingeniously recognized that Costa Rica’s strongest asset is nature and has therefore made every effort to protect it. Initiatives like zoo closures, reforestation, and establishing protected areas (25% of the total surface area of the country) were undertaken among other things.

Joseph Stiglitz exclaims, “With its rich biodiversity, Costa Rica has also demonstrated far-sighted environmental leadership by pursuing reforestation, designating a third of the country protected natural reserves, and deriving almost all of its electricity from clean hydro power.”

The next dilemma concerned plastic. So, on World Environment Day last year, the country announced its new national plan to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2021. From that day onwards, plastic has to be replaced by alternatives that are 100% recyclable or biodegradable and not petroleum-based. The country has the technical and financial backing of the United Nations Development Program to help them accomplish this.

Economist Mónica Araya, a Costa Rican sustainability expert and director of Costa Rica Limpia,  which promotes renewable energy and electric transport, said, “Getting rid of fossil fuels is a big idea coming from a small country. This is an idea that’s starting to gain international support with the rise of new technologies. In a country already rapidly weaning itself off fossil fuels, focusing on transport – one of the last major challenges – could send a powerful message to the world.”

Earlier this year, Carlos Alvarado Quesada took office as Costa Rica’s new president and his first act was to take a giant leap forward in reducing carbonization. During his inauguration speech as a world leader, he announced his initiative to ban fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized society.

He said to an enthusiastic crowd, “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.”

He admits that creating the first carbon-free society will be an extremely massive task, but an extraordinary one that he is confident they will achieve. He is also very hopeful and excited to get rid of the fossil fuels used by their transportation system by 2021.  Just in time to celebrate the nation’s 200th anniversary of achieving its independence.

He said: “When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate… that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation.”

The future-minded small nation of Costa Rica has made a giant impact on environmentalism as well as being conscious of the well-being of its citizens. According to a recent column by economist Joseph Stiglitz, Costa Rica is part of the Wellbeing Economies Alliance—a coalition that includes Scotland, New Zealand, and Slovenia—which instead of emphasizing countries’ GDP, “seeks to ensure that public policy advances citizens’ wellbeing in the broadest sense, by promoting democracy, sustainability, and inclusive growth”.

In the following video interview on Democracy Now! , Mónica Araya talks about many things like how it will be the first country in the world to decarbonize its economy.

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