Costa Rica receives maximum UN environmental award

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Costa Rica receives maximum UN environmental award
Mon September 23, 2019

The Central American country is named Champion of the Earth in the category of Political Leadership


Costa Rica will receive the 2019 Champions of the Earth award, the highest environmental award of the United Nations, for its role in the protection of nature and its commitment to ambitious policies to combat climate change.

The United Nations Environment Program grants Costa Rica this recognition in the category of Political Leadership.

As a world leader in sustainability, the Central American nation has developed a detailed plan to decarbonize its economy before 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With this initiative, the country hopes to open the way for other nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, causes of climate change and its devastating effects.

Costa Rica's success in placing environmental concerns at the center of its political and economic strategies is evidence that sustainability is attainable and economically viable.

"Costa Rica has been a pioneer in the protection of peace and nature, and is an example for the region and for the world. Climate change demands urgent and transformative action from all of us and, with its ambitious plans to decarbonize the economy, Costa Rica lives up to that challenge, ”said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.

“Global emissions are reaching record levels and we must act now to move towards cleaner and more resilient economies. It is exciting to see Costa Rica take such decisive measures in this direction, ”he added.

The need for strong global action against climate change will be at the center of the Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in New York, today.

The Secretary General has urged world leaders, businesses and civil society to attend the summit with concrete ideas to reduce emissions by 45% over the next decade and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The National Decarbonization Plan of Costa Rica was announced in February of this year and includes medium and long-term objectives to reform transport, energy, waste management and land use. The goal is to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, which means that the country will not produce more emissions than it can compensate, through actions such as maintaining and expanding its forests.

Currently, more than 98% of Costa Rica's energy is produced from renewable sources, and forest cover reaches more than 53% of the territory after hard work to reverse decades of deforestation.

In 2017, the country operated solely with renewable energy for a record of 300 continuous days. The goal is for all electricity to come from renewable sources in 2030. That year, 70% of buses and taxis must be electric, and 100% must meet that requirement in 2050.

The innovative role of Costa Rica in promoting clean technologies and sustainability is even more notable due to the fact that this country, with around 5 million inhabitants, produces only 0.4% of global emissions.

“Receiving the Champions of the Earth award in the name of Costa Rica, of its entire population, of the people who have been before and in the name of the future generation, fills me with pride and emotion, so Costa Rica has achieved and for what you can still do. I feel very proud of being Costa Rican, ”said President Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

“About 50 years ago, the country began to advance in a series of innovative environmental policies, because the paradigm of sustainable development is in the DNA of Costa Ricans. The decarbonization plan is to maintain economic growth in an upward curve and at the same time generate a downward curve in the use of fossil fuels, to stop polluting. How is that generated? Clean public transport, smart and resilient cities, proper solid waste management, sustainable agriculture and better logistics, ”he added.

The Champions of the Earth award recognizes Costa Rica's sustainability record and also highlights the urgent need to find solutions to the climate crisis. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C would require unprecedented changes to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 (from 2010 levels), and achieve neutrality of carbon around 2050.

The Champions of the Earth award is the highest environmental award of the United Nations. It was launched in 2005 by the United Nations Environment Program to recognize prominent figures whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment. The award recognizes the pioneers who are working to protect our planet, from political leaders to environmental defenders or technological innovators.

Costa Rica is among the five Earth Champions this year. The other categories are: Entrepreneurship, Inspiration and Action, and Science and Innovation. The winners will receive their awards at a gala ceremony in New York on September 26, within the framework of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. In the event, seven environmental pioneers between 18 and 30 years of age will also be awarded, who will take home the Young Champions of the Earth prize.

In Latin America, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, has also been distinguished with this award for her outstanding leadership in the creation of marine protected areas and for promoting renewable energies (2017); Mexican environmentalist José Sarukhán Kermez, for a life of leadership and innovation in biodiversity conservation in Mexico and the world (2016); and former Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, for her vision and key role in reversing Amazon deforestation (2013), among others.

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