You guys, my brain is fried – I’ve spent all day reading, reading, reading (actually, the best kind of work, but still…) On world coffee production projections, on financing schemes, on low-emission development strategies, and a ton of policy and action plans… I’m starting to figure it out, I think! But let’s start small, shall we? Today, I discovered an awesome tool that gives a quick and easy overview of different countries’ climate change policies and pledges, and ranks their progress in real time.
As you can see, Costa Rica is pretty high up in the ranking, as one of only a handful countries that have pledged to go carbon-neutral (incl. Bhutan, Maldives, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Tuvalu and Vatican City). Bhutan, to its everlasting credit, has only had to pledge to remain carbon-neutral, as it has already achieved that status according to some estimates. Funnily, it seems to have been widely overlooked by the media, which still speak of the “race” to become the first carbon-neutral country, which is to be decided between Costa Rica, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand, apparently.
But what exactly are we talking about? The idea of carbon-neutrality is that a country’s net emissions, and so the value of CO2-equivalent emissions incurred minus greenhouse gases sequestered or offset, is equal to zero. This of course leaves a lot of wiggle room depending on a country’s budget for offsetting emissions in other nations, but still – arriving at that goal necessitates mitigation action in all sectors.
In Costa Rica, this is in particular the transport sector, agriculture – methane emissions from livestock and nitrous oxide from fertilization – and the energy sector, as a small percentage of its energy still comes from fossil fuel plants that have a very high CO2 footprint. Transport is a whole ‘nother issue, as I am experiencing daily – the streets especially in San Jose are chock-full of cars, especially during rush hour, and getting anywhere within the city parameters is a huge hassle. Furthermore, Costa Rica’s main industry nowadays is tourism, and one wonders whether visitors’ flights also enter the mix… For the record, one idea is also to offer “carbon-neutral” trips, where tourists offset their flight emissions and are otherwise privy to a low-carbon holiday.
And as for agriculture – well, that is what I will be working on! There are grand plans in the coffee and livestock industry to introduce “NAMAs”, or “Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions”, that have as aim to propel mitigation projects forward. The NAMA Cafe is almost ready for implementation and should get started within the next month or two, and I will hopefully witness all the excitement of the establishment of a new – as in, globally unprecedented – type of project that combines agricultural and processing method changes with an innovative public-private funding mechanism. So many elements to discover!
As the website points out, the country will have to act decidedly to turn the tide and fulfill their goal – right now, their carbon balance is going up rather than down, what with population growth and consumption habits intact. But Costa Rica is starting small – already, you can see certified ‘carbon-neutral’ businesses and products around town – I hear that there is one cooperative that produced the first carbon-neutral coffee, but what I have already purchased and consumed are… tellingly….
While there are also issues with this metric, as with everything environmental economic-y, I am excited to be in a country that takes these strides forward seriously! Just wait until I tell you about their Payment for Ecosystem Services program and the amounts of forest they have recovered… But that will be a different day!