May 10, 2018
In his first speech as Costa Rica's new president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada announced this week a plan to make the country the world's first carbon-free society in just a few short years.
Alvarado called the goal "titanic" but expressed confidence that the forward-thinking country could eliminate the use of fossil fuels in its transportation system by 2021.
"Decarbonization 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," Alvarado told a crowd of thousands at his inauguration.
The nation of 4.8 million people already derives 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources including hydropower and wind.
Costa Rica's rapidly-growing automobile market is the next hurdle in ending the country's use of fossil fuels. About two-thirds of the country's energy-related fossil fuel emissions come from transportation.
Alvarado is planning to bring that percentage to zero in time for the country's 200th anniversary of becoming an independent nation.
"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," Alvarado said.
The president's goal fits with many of Costa Rica's other progressive policies. Alvarado won 60 percent of the vote in the presidential election in April, beating out Fabricio Alvarado, who focused largely on rolling back marriage equality.
The country is also part of the Wellbeing Economies Alliance--a coalition that also includes Scotland, New Zealand, and Slovenia--which instead of emphasizing countries' GDP, "seeks to ensure that public policy advances citizens' wellbeing in the broadest sense, by promoting democracy, sustainability, and inclusive growth," according to a recent column by economist 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," wrote Stiglitz.
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