Costa Rica’s Last Green Mile (Video)

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Originally published on The Climate Reality Project.

Imagine an entire country powered by 100-percent renewable energy. For Costa Rica, that’s nearly a reality.

Costa Rica’s environmental minister, Edgar Gutiérrez, recently explained to us that “Costa Rica is on a path that seeks development, but only development in a healthy environment.” As part of this effort, the country has plans to go carbon neutral by 2021, and officials have stated that it has already reached 81 percent of this goal. If Costa Rica succeeds, it will be one of the few carbon-neutral countries in the world.

You don’t have to look far to see how Costa Rica is breaking all kinds of renewable energy records. In 2015, the nation achieved 99 percent renewable energy generation, with its grid powered by only renewable sources for a remarkable 285 days. And it’s on a similar track in 2016, powering its grid on 100 percent renewable energy for 150 days and counting.

But Costa Rica wasn’t always as focused on protecting its environment and the climate. In the mid-twentieth century, Costa Rica was losing its native woodlands – mostly tropical rainforests – to logging at an alarming rate, with the country’s  forest cover dropping from 75 percent in 1940 to 21 percent in 1987. In the 1980s and 1990s, Costa Rica’s leaders realized the nation needed to do something to reverse this process. So they developed a program that gave incentives to landowners to protect their environments. The result? By 2010, Costa Rica’s forest cover was back up to 52 percent.

The impulse to protect the country’s extraordinary natural environment has been complimented by a focus on clean energy. So what does Costa Rica use to power its grid? The answer is not as obvious as many people might think. Thanks to its river systems and generally plentiful rainfall, between 70–75 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from hydropower, with the rest of its renewables coming from geothermal, biomass, wind, and solar.

Costa Rica is also focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through major changes with its transportation sector, which makes up 32 percent of the country’s emissions and 67 percent of its fuel consumption. In 2015, Costa Rica established a buy-back program for older cars and trucks in exchange for new, fuel-efficient vehicles. According to Gutiérrez, reducing emissions from the transportation sector is necessary to meet the country’s carbon neutrality goals by 2021.

Help Share Costa Rica’s Clean Energy Story

Costa Rica is a leader in clean energy. Not only has the country reached 81 percent of its carbon-neutrality goal, but it’s done so while reducing overall power costs, which fell 12 percent in 2015 thanks to an abundance of renewables.

Costa Rica’s energy leaders don’t expect the country to slow down anytime soon when it comes to renewables – and we don’t either. And best of all, Costa Rica’s renewable energy progress shows the rest of the world that transitioning from fossil fuel-based electricity to renewables is possible – and that’s a reason a celebrate.

Help tell Costa Rica’s clean energy success story by sharing the graphic below with your friends and networks. Then, be sure to sign up for our email activist list to stay updated with the latest on renewable energy and climate solutions.


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