“Transition to a green urban economy with global environmental benefits” project in Costa Rica

Published on Monday, 29 August 2022

In February 2019, the government of Costa Rica launched its National Decarbonization Plan with the commitment to become a modern, green, and emissions-free economy. Within the framework of this plan and for decarbonization in the Greater Metropolitan Area through sustainable integrated urban planning, the Costa Rican government launched the project entitled "Transition to a Green Urban Economy with Global Environmental Benefits" project in 2022. This project proposes reforms to outdated laws, the construction of bike lanes, and green sidewalks, among other initiatives.


Over the next five years, Costa Rica will invest USD10.3 million from the Global Environment Fund (GEF) in actions aimed at decarbonizing the metropolitan area. This multi-phase plan proposes several initiatives such as planting trees, promoting circular economy businesses, legal and institutional reforms, and new works to improve urban mobility focused on healthy lifestyles and ecosystems.


The CEO of the GEF, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, says: “This project's approach is highly ambitious because it looks to change the economic logic to decarbonize the revenue foundation of the entire country.”


Authorities explain that during the next five years, a total of 2,000 hectares of urban ecosystem will be restored, with the reforestation of 1,000 trees per hectare to allow for the direct capture of 24,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. In terms of circular economy, the plan proposes taking full advantage of all resources in the production chain, promoting the use of biodegradable materials, and reducing the environmental impact.


However, during the initiative's conception phase, it was concluded that some crucial challenges are that Costa Rica is still gaining experience in promoting these production forms, and there are no regulations developed as in other countries. Therefore, the project will begin with mapping existing circular economy initiatives and injecting funds into these types of start-up companies, prioritizing women's employment in areas such as waste management and training in circular business management.


The country's Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE) will be responsible for leading the initiative, which will be implemented by the UN Nations Development Program (UNDP) and executed by Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS).


"Carbon and other fossil fuels are suffocating us and have placed us in a danger zone like we never imagined. If we want to survive on Earth, we must advance towards a future based on renewable energies, universal access, gender equality, and green jobs. This project is an example of that," says resident UNDP representative Jose Vicente Troya.


The transition to a circular economy and circular cities will require additional resources to support specific activities of local government and leverage existing opportunities to assign more resources to sustainable urban solutions.


The president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, says that as part of the country's advancement, it is building the Metropolitan Electric Train as one of the main decarbonization strategies and the transformation of the public transportation system that now faces many challenges to become an efficient method. This project will have a significant impact on the objective of eliminating the use of fossil fuels by 2050, which is one of the top goals of the country's National Decarbonization Plan.