Jul 08, 2011
Lessons from Costa Rica in environmental sustainabilityBack
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
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
To subscribe email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here
To advertise email email@example.com or click here
Other News This Week News
Updated 2 hours 45 minutes ago A new World Bank report warns that some regions of the world, including parts of Africa, could see their growth rates decline by as much as 6% by 2050 as a result of water-related losses, with water scarcity also exacerbated by climate change. Titled ‘High and Dry:...
Updated 7 hours ago The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) has approved 101 “catalytic” public–private partnership (PPP) projects, valued at around R340-billion – more than half of which would be sourced from the private sector – that would mobilise and coordinate private-sector...
Updated 7 hours ago By 2050, agricultural productivity in Africa has the potential to increase by 70%, through technological innovation leveraged by the Internet of Things (IoT). This would meet the continent’s growing food demand which, based on population growth, is set to grow by...
Recent Research Reports
Automotive 2016: A review of South Africa's automotive sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Automotive 2016 Report provides an overview of South Africa’s automotive industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into local demand and production, vehicle imports and exports, investment and competitiveness in the sector, as well...
Energy Roundup – April 2016 (PDF Report)
The April 2016 roundup covers activities across South Africa for March 2016 and includes details of a North Gauteng High Court Judge’s dismissal of a court application to postpone the 9.4% electricity tariff increase, which the National Energy Regulator of South...
Electricity 2016: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2016 report provides an overview of South Africa’s electricity sector, focusing on State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Energy Roundup – March 2016 (PDF Report)
The March 2016 roundup covers activities across South Africa for February 2016 and includes details of the Department of Energy’s plans to announce the preferred bidders for the first tranche of the coal independent power producer procurement programme; the Council...
Steel 2016: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2016 Report examines South Africa’s steel industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the global steel market and and particularly into South South Africa’s steel sector, including production and consumption, main...
Construction 2016: A review of South Africa's construction industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2016 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; key participants; local demand; geographic diversification; corporate activity; black economic...
This Week's Magazine
The two spent-fuel pools at Eskom’s 1 800 MW Koeberg nuclear power station, in the Western Cape, will be full by 2018, increasing the urgency on the State-owned utility to begin pursuing alternative storage options. Koeberg has, over the past 32 years, accumulated a...
South Africa lacks the skills necessary to implement the government’s plan to build 9.6 GWe of new nuclear energy capacity, warns nuclear-qualified Quality Strategies International CEO David Crawford. “Apart from the concern about the affordability of the programme,...
Cybersecurity multinational Check Point has released its latest 700-series cybersecurity systems for small businesses, which draw on its international threat intelligence to provide up-to-date cybersecurity, says Check Point South Africa country manager Doros...
Daimler Trucks and Buses Southern Africa (DTBSA) saw a marked slip in new-vehicle sales in 2015 compared with 2014, with sales dropping from 5 897 units to 5 300 units. The decline came as the South African new truck and bus market declined from 31 558 units in 2014...
Group of 20 (G-20) economies threatened to penalise havens that don’t share information on their banking clients after the leak of the Panama Papers provoked a global uproar over tax evasion. The G-20 will consider “defensive measures” against financial centers and...