Costa Rica wins United Nations’ flagship environmental award in the policy leadership category.
Central American country recognized for leading the way to a zero-carbon future.
20 September 2019 — Costa Rica has received a 2019
Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honour, for its
role in the protection of nature and its commitment to ambitious policies to
combat climate change.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
recognized Costa Rica in the policy leadership category.
A world leader in sustainability, the Central American
nation has drafted a detailed plan to decarbonize its economy by 2050, in line
with the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN’s’ Sustainable Development Goals.
It hopes to provide a template for other nations to curb the deadly emissions
causing rapid, disastrous climate change.
Costa Rica’s success in placing environmental concerns
at the heart of its political and economic policies is evidence that sustainability is both
achievable and economically viable.
“Costa Rica has been a pioneer in
the protection of peace and nature and sets an example for the region and for
the world,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations
“Climate change demands urgent
and transformative action from all of us. With its ambitious plans to
decarbonize the economy, Costa Rica is rising to that challenge,” she added.
“Global emissions are reaching record levels and we must act now to move to
cleaner, more resilient economies. Cutting emissions is key and it is thrilling
to see Costa Rica take such decisive steps in this direction.”
The need for radical global
action on climate change will be highlighted at UN Secretary-General António
Guterres’ Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September. The
Secretary-General has urged world leaders, businesses and civil society to come
to the summit with concrete ideas of how they intend to cut emissions by 45 per
cent in the next decade and achieve net zero emissions by 2050, in line with
the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Costa Rica’s National
Decarbonization Plan was unveiled in February and includes bold mid- and
long-term targets to reform transport,
energy, waste and land use. The aim is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,
meaning the country will produce no more emissions than it can offset through
actions such as maintaining and expanding its forests.
Already, more than 95 per cent of Costa Rica’s energy
is renewable and forest cover stands at more than 50 per cent after painstaking
work to reverse decades of deforestation. In 2017, the country ran for a record
300 days solely on renewable power. The aim is to achieve 100 per cent
renewable electricity by 2030. Seventy per cent of all buses and taxis are
expected to be electric by 2030, with full electrification projected for 2050.
Costa Rica’s groundbreaking role in promoting clean
technologies and sustainability is all the more remarkable for the fact that
the country of around 5 million people produces only 0.4 per cent of global
“Receiving the Champions of the
Earth award on behalf of Costa Rica, its entire population, the past generations
who protected the environment, and future generations fills me with pride and
emotion for what Costa Rica has achieved and for what we can continue to do
because we can achieve even more. I feel very proud to be Costa Rican,” said
President Carlos Alvarado Quesada.
“About 50 years ago, the country began to advance a series of innovative environmental policies because the paradigm of sustainable development is very much in Costa Ricans’ DNA. The decarbonization plan consists of maintaining an upward curve in terms of economic employment growth, and at the same time generating a downward curve in the use of fossil fuels in order to stop polluting. How are we going to achieve that? Through clean public transport; smart and resilient cities; sound waste management; sustainable agriculture and improved logistics,” he said.
The Champion of the Earth award
recognizes Costa Rica’s sustainability credentials and also spotlights the
urgent need to find solutions to climate change. Last year, the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would
require unprecedented changes to reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent from
2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero
Champions of the Earth is the UN’s flagship global
environmental award. It was established by UNEP in 2005 to celebrate
outstanding figures whose actions have had a transformative positive impact on
the environment. From world leaders to environmental defenders and technology
inventors, the awards recognise trailblazers who are working to protect our
planet for the next generation.
Costa Rica is among five Champions of the Earth this
year. The other categories are entrepreneurial vision; inspiration and action;
and science and innovation. The 2019 laureates will be honoured at a gala
ceremony in New York on 26 September during the 74th UN General Assembly. Also
honoured at the event will be seven environmental trailblazers between the ages
of 18 and 30, who will take home the coveted Young Champions of the Earth
Previous laureates from the region include Michelle
Bachelet, former president of Chile, for her outstanding leadership in creating
marine protected areas and for boosting renewable energy (2017); former
Brazilian environment minister Izabella Teixeira for her visionary leadership
and key role in reversing deforestation of the Amazon (2013); and Mexican
ecologist José Sarukhán Kermez for a lifetime of leadership and innovation in
the conservation of biodiversity in Mexico and around the world (2016).
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.
About Champions of the Earth
annual Champions of the Earth prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from
government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a
positive impact on the environment. Since 2005, Champions of the Earth has recognized
88 laureates, ranging from world leaders to technology inventors. Visit the website.
Champions of the Earth are organised in partnership with Weibo – China’s
leading social media outlet for people to create, share and discover content
online. Weibo combines the means of public self-expression in real time with a
powerful platform for social interaction, content aggregation and content
distribution.Sina Weibo has over 431 million monthly active users. www.weibo.com