Jul 08, 2011
Lessons from Costa Rica in environmental sustainabilityBack
Cape Town|Africa|Conservation International|Environment|Resources|Road|System|Water|Africa|Costa Rica|South Africa|Ecosystem Services|Energy|Environmental Services|Services|Environmental|Carlos Manuel Rodriguez|Water
© Reuse this
Rodriguez, also formerly Costa Rica’s Minster of Environment and Energy, was speaking in Cape Town last week at the Cambridge Resilience Forum about how Costa Rica has been one of the most successful countries in the world in working towards a low-carbon economy using a system known as payment for ecosystem services (PES).
Rodriguez was a pioneer in Costa Rica in the development and implementation of this system, where Costa Ricans are paid for any carbon sequestration, water and biodiversity ‘services’ they provide.
“[Costa Ricans] have learned that we are unable to succeed in achieving our standards, targets and goals of social development and economic development without investing heavily in wisely using our natural resources and ecosystem,” he said.
Costa Rica is a biodiversity ‘hot spot’ where, in 1940, 75% of the country was covered in forests. This dropped to only 21% in 1987 as the financial incentives of the time were geared to changing unproductive landscapes into productive landscapes. Forests were mostly considered unproductive, resulting in deforestation. In 1991, the Costa Rican government realised that the incentives being paid were essentially bad investments and needed to be reconsidered.
In the early 1990s, Costa Rica subsequently analysed the benefits from healthy ecosystems. The analysis resulted in a policy which identified that owners of forests were supplying environmental services to the country in the form of carbon sequestration and so could be paid for those services. The intention was that this would encourage further reforestation by other landowners.Environmental Services
Vehicles such as carbon taxes were implemented, which then created the income that could be paid to the providers of the environmental services.
The PES system was dramatically successful and payment for carbon sequestration services resulted in the restoration of a significant number of forests and, by 2005, the forest-covered area of the country increased to 52%. PES meant it had become profitable for landowners to reforest.
The system had other benefits which were not initially anticipated. Of the people that received payment for environmental services, 30% were considered extremely poor, said Rodriguez. Unwittingly, the Costa Rican government had designed a market instrument for forest conservation that also had a significant human benefit as a by-product. Rodriguez was able to show examples where communities had used PES funds to build homes and schools and, in doing so, uplifted themselves.
In addition to payment for carbon sequestration, the PES system now also pays for water and biodiversity services. He said that payment for water services “is an area where I see a great opportunity for South Africa”.
Commenting on South Africa’s road towards environmental sustainability, he noted other parallels with Costa Rica. “When I travel around rural South Africa, I see you have a major challenge in restoration, not just in conservation. I believe that the dimension and scale of the restoration are even bigger and more complex.”
Costa Rica should be an example for South Africa as it has shown that environmental sustainability and social development can go hand in hand. Where it was once the poorest country in the western hemisphere, it now ranks top of the ‘Happy Planet Index’, which measures the wellbeing of people in the nations of the world while taking into account their environmental impact. Costa Rica aims to be fully carbon neutral by 2021.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other News This Week News
Updated 6 hours ago Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has assured that loss-making national carrier South African Airlines (SAA) will not receive another bailout from government, noting that the most recent R6.4-billion government guarantee had only been provided in support of an intensive...
Updated 7 hours ago South Africa's cumulative trade deficit was R95.3-billion in 2014, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said on Friday. In 2013, it was R71.4-billion, Sars said in a statement.
Updated 7 hours ago Certain regulatory approvals remain outstanding in Telkom’s proposed R2.67-billion takeover of JSE-listed Business Connexion (BCX), the parties said in an update to shareholders on Friday. BCX noted in the statement that the Competition Authority of Botswana had...
Recent Research Reports
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
This Week's Magazine
The international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope – which is to be jointly hosted by South Africa and Australia with, later, outstations in other countries – may not yet exist, but international scientific working groups are already deciding what...
A free Web-based solar power plant capacity-planning tool offers project planners and developers, as well as governments, a means to assess the solar energy potential of thin-film solar PV power over an area of land. The tool was developed by thin-film solar...
As yet, no specific methodology, timeline or costs have been finalised to remedy the water ingress, excessive to contractual specifications, into the Gautrain tunnel between emergency shaft two (E2) and Park Station, says Bombela Concession Company technical and...
The “seriously disruptive” electricity outages in South Africa have cost packaging group Astrapak more than R2-million in “irrecoverable downtime costs”, the company said on Monday, adding that the power cuts were negating some of the benefit of energy saving...
Bakkies and more affordable cars dominated South Africa’s new vehicle market in 2014. Unaudited data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shows that South Africa’s most popular vehicle in 2014 was the Toyota Hilux, selling 37 562 units.