Costa Rica has presented a draft climate plan that commits the country to a target of 1.73 tonnes CO2e per capita in 2030. It will do so unconditionally. It commits to an absolute 25% reduction by 2030 compared to 2012. The plan (known as an intended nationally determined contribution in the UN context) offers the most tangible opportunity to bridge four key gaps underpinning the current approach to climate action: governance, transparency, making adaptation and urban issues.
Getting to 1.73 tonnes of carbon emissions per capita by 2030
Costa Rica’s unconditional target aims to bring carbon emissions to 1.73 tonnes CO2e per capita in 2030, 1.19 tonnes CO2e per capita in 2050 and 0.27 tonnes of CO2e per capita to 2100. This trajectory is consistent with the global trajectory that is consistent with a 20C world.
The sectors considered for the climate plan are transport and agriculture (the main emitters) as well as power generation, waste and forests. The country builds on its voluntary work in the pre-2020 period. The goal is that 2021 emissions will be the same as in 2005 levels as stated in the carbon neutrality program. The total emissions in 2030 will be 25% lower compared to 2012.
The cap on the total emissions is 9,374,000 tonnes of CO2e by 2030 compared to 12,441,260 tonnes in 2012 - which means a 25% reduction.
New attention to adaptation and urban issues
Costa Rica has traditionally framed its climate plans around carbon neutrality. Now it is the time to complement with resilience because we have increased our awareness of how vulnerable we are to climate impacts. The local call for reaching a new balance between mitigation of emissions and adaptation to climate change has therefore increased in the past years. The INDC does not decrease the importance of mitigation (in fact it has a stronger mitigation target than other countries that have higher emissions), instead it stresses the complement the effort to decarbonize with the need to build resilience to climate change.
The adaptation plan for Costa Rica will not start from scratch, it builds on the current infrastructure around ecosystem protection, conservation programs and risk management plans. It will integrate current work around environmental health, planning and descentralization.
For years the country´s climate approach has focused on forest protection and more recently on agriculture. Going forward, and even before 2021, new attention will be paid to urban issues, in particular mobility, from investing in a new train to promoting electrification of the private auto fleet.
Is the plan fair?
Countries tend to define fairness and equity on the basis of what others do. This INDC builds on a different logic. The target was informed by this question: How can the country make its fair share vis a vis the scientific imperative of keeping average temperature increase to 2C by the end of the century? It was not calculated on the basis on what other countries do or what amount of finance the country will receive.
First reaction to the draft
The INDC helps Costa Rica make progress in four areas:
1. Adaptation gap: It balances mitigation and adaptation goals for the first time.
2. Urban gap: It achieves a better balance between forest and agriculture, on the one hand, and the urban agenda, on the other.
3. Execution: It can help accelerate execution (through stronger inter-ministerial work) and implementation.
4. Transparency: It increases transparency through an open-data approach.
Some striking features of the draft are the lack of conditional targets, its own definition of fairness (vis a vis science, not what others do). This is a noteworthy because Costa Rica is low emitting economy and will face disproportional climate impacts (and average increase of 1C has already been recorded) so the easier road would be to engage complain. Instead it focuses on the need to do its fair share and proposed absolute reductions.
The focus on open data on climate issues is very much needed in Costa Rica. One positive element of the INDC draft is the proposal to create a Citizen Council on Climate Change. Participation and engagement will increase local ownership of the INDC.
Costa Rica made also a commitment to having 100% renewable power this decade. For the urban component of the INDC to succeed, we will need to transform our transportation system. This transformation will help a transition to being a 100% renewable country – which cannot be done unless the country decarbonizes the transport section. That is why one big signal that this INDC sends to Costa Rican society, once it is published, is that the time has come to invest in sustainable transportation and to integrate climate change into our urban planning systems. This new urban agenda will be critical for achieving the goal of becoming a country with 1.73 tonnes per CO2e in 2030 and, most importantly, increase our quality of life