Reducing the Co2 emissions from Fossil fuels is the biggest challenge our world faces. And developing countries can take the lead in reducing and eliminating the use of fossil fuels. The environment has been so badly affected that we shall soon cross the “no return” threshold, if we do not take strong steps. Each time the developing nations seem to have to choose between development and environmental protection. This choice has to be made redundant.
This is where Costa Rica can offer the world an outstanding example. It is a developing country and has a population of over 5 million. Most importantly, all of its electricity is generated from renewable sources viz.; Hydropower, Geothermal, Wind, Solar and Biomass. In the past few years, Costa Rica has used very negligible amounts of fossil fuel to generate electricity. However, over 70% of their energy consumption is oil.
This is because the transportation system in Costa Rica is dependent on fossil fuels. Most Costa Ricans believe that if they don’t succeed on decarbonizing the rest of the economy, then no one will. And they have a fair reason for their belief.
Most will not be aware that Costa Rica does not have an Army. In the year 1948, when Costa Rica was recovering from a Civil War which had torn apart the fabric of the country, the Costa Ricans made a very brave decision. They abolished the Army and this decision was made permanent in the new constitution formed in the year 1949. The result was that the Costa Ricans were provided with free education and free health care. The money which was earlier spent on the Army was now turned into social spending and this was what got stability to Costa Rica.
In the ’50s, Costa Rica started investing in hydropower, and ensured that they didn’t have to depend on fossil fuels for electricity generation, while the rest of the world is struggling with this problem. In the ’70s we invested in national parks and preservation of their forests. In the ’90s, they pioneered payments for ecosystem services, and that helped reverse deforestation and boosted ecotourism, which today is one of the key engines of growth in Costa Rica.
Abolishing the army, investing in nature and people, did something very powerful, too. It shaped the narrative, the narrative of a small country with big ideas, and it was very empowering for the Costa Ricans to grow up with that narrative. So the current generation of Costa Ricans believe that it is now their time to take another brave decision. The decision of banning the use of fossil fuel for transportation. It will be a very tough call. As tough as their Fathers took when they abolished the Army.
Fossil fuels create climate change. So why continue importing oil for transportation if electricity can be used instead? All electricity comes from clean sources so they can power their cars, buses and trains with electricity instead of dirty energy.
In 2014, Costa Ricans created Costa Rica Limpia. “Limpia” means “clean,” because they want to empower and inspire citizens. If citizens don’t get engaged, clean transportation decisions will be bogged down by endless technical discussions, and by avalanches of lobbying by various established interests.
The world should applaud Costa Rica for taking this initiative.