Costa Rica Set to Become the World’s First Plastic-Free and Carbon-Free Country by 2021

Our planet is drowning itself with plastic and with carbon, and every country should do something and reduce all the plastic and carbon use.

The government of Costa Rica has become aware of the importance of nature and since 1980 they are doing everything that is in their power to protect it. They have established protected areas that cover 25% of the total surface area of the country, reforestation, zoo closures, and many other things.

According to Joseph Stiglitz: “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.”

Electricity from Renewable Resources

Costa Rica is among the top 5 countries that have become eco-friendly and uses renewable resources. Although it may be considered a small step, it is still very valuable one. This country has been using renewable resources since 2014 and its running on 99% renewable sources. In the last two years for more than 2 months it has been running on 100% renewable energy.

The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) stated the following: “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.”

This has been happening in the last 4 years, producing electricity 99% from renewable sources, including volcanoes, rivers, wind and solar power. Costa Rica has built the largest hydroelectric plant in Central America, on the Reventazón River, on the Caribbean slope, that began operating in 2016. For the generation of electricity they are also using seven wind turbine plants, six hydroelectric plants and a solar plant. According to an official statement from ICE ¾ of renewable energy is from the hydroelectric plants that are using river water; and the remaining is coming from geothermal and wind power, and with biomass. The use of solar power is at the lowest percentage.

Plastic and Carbon Use

In regards to plastic since June 2017 Costa Rica has initiated the removal of plastic, and up to 2021 is determined to completely eliminate single-use plastic. This country will be the first one that will proceed with this regulation. However, they did not stop here, in the summer of 2018, they have decided to become a carbon-free country by 2021, and it will be the first completely carbon-free country in the whole world.

Last year on World Environment Day, Costa Rica announced its new national plan to remove all single-use plastics by 2021. The United Nations Development Program has supported this initiative technically and financially. The aim is to replace the plastic with save alternatives that are 100% recyclable or biodegradable and not petroleum-based.

The Costa Rican sustainability expert and director of Costa Rica Limpia, the economist Mónica Araya supports the idea of renewable energy and electric transport, and declared the following:

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.”

The struggle for carbon-free society continues with the new president Carlos Alvarado Quesada who was elected earlier this year. In fact, the first thing that he did was focusing on significantly lowering the carbonization. While his inauguration he announced his plan to ban fossil fuels and make Costa Rica the first de-carbonized country in the world.

He stated the following to the cheering crowd: “De-carbonization 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 is aware of the fact that this will be a hard process, but the goal is by 2021 Costa Rica to eradicate the use of fossil fuels created by their transportation system. The idea to become the first carbon-free society is really extraordinary and overwhelming, but he believes that they will achieve that. The year 2021 will be crucial for their country in terms of ecology and that would be crowned with 200th anniversary of their celebration of achieved national independence.

The president stated: “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.”

This small country makes a giant step and greatly influencing the well-being of the environment and its citizens. Costa Rica belongs to the coalition Wellbeing Economies Alliance, including New Zealand, Scotland, and Slovenia. The economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote in a column that these countries instead of emphasizing GDP “seek to ensure that public policy advances citizens’ wellbeing in the broadest sense, by promoting democracy, sustainability, and inclusive growth.”

In the below video is an interview with Mónica Araya on Democracy Now. It is an inspiring interview of how a small country like Costa Rica sees itself in the future as a carbon-free and plastic-free country.