People often ask me, why do Canadians and Costa Ricans get along so well? Answering this question could be an essay in itself. However, it is clear that our nations share many of the same values and aspirations, including democracy, rule of law, diverse and open societies, protection and advancement of human rights, constant investment and improvement of education, peace promotion and the pursuit of happiness for our people. And we mustn’t forget our mutual love of enjoying nature responsibly.
Canadians and Costa Ricans love and treasure their natural surroundings. That is why we salute the Canadian authorities’ position with respect to protecting the environment and taking action against climate change. We know that together Canada and Costa Rica will work closely towards common environmental goals and aspirations. We both strongly believe that urgent action on climate change is required.
Canada and Costa Rica have shown global leadership and determination in challenging and urgent topics such as climate change. As parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), both countries are working towards the most effective and inclusive manner to achieve measurable and verifiable progress.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that so far this year, during the three high-level meetings between our ministers and vice-ministers of foreign affairs, Costa Rica and Canada have been working towards the foundations for an ambitious bilateral collaboration agenda.
Costa Rica is committed to promoting and respecting a healthy and balanced environment as a basic human right. In fact, these goals are cornerstones in our foreign policy and they are a constitutional mandate. Our country promotes a safe environment for all humanity, where the benefits of development can be shared equally by all.
This principle has been evident for decades in the way our country has protected our natural resources and developed our energy sources towards a sustainable model. For example, since the mid-20th Century, our nation has followed a strategy to produce electricity generated by renewable sources of energy. Looking back, this extraordinarily intelligent decision was creative, courageous and visionary, since, at that time, climate change was not considered an issue.
In the 1970s, the government established a national parks system, which was designed to conserve the extraordinary biodiversity of the country’s key ecosystems. Our ancestors were progressive enough to generate fiscal resources that would help maintain and expand our forests. This decision was taken in a time when there was immense pressure from the international market to concentrate instead on raw materials and commodities.
During the 1990s, Costa Rica decided to strengthen the protected areas by developing an innovative financial mechanism to promote forest conservation and recovery. For the first time, a developing country created a tax on fossil fuels to maintain and enhance its forests and related ecosystem services. The program of payment for environmental services (PES) has operated for 20 years and has allowed the country to invest millions of U.S. dollars from the public budget, along with international loans and sources of international co-operation. In 2015, this tax generated $27 million that was turned over to the national forest-financing fund. That total was more than 50 per cent of the total revenue received by the fund that year.
As a result of these policies and initiatives, we are the only tropical country in the world that has reversed deforestation. For example, the country’s forest coverage has increased from less than 30 per cent in the 1980s to 54 per cent today. And, in doing so, we have protected 6 per cent of the globe’s biodiversity that inhabits Costa Rica, including such animals as jaguars, sloths, ocelots, pumas, toucans, the tiny blue jeans poison dart frog, the white-headed capuchin monkey and hundreds of birds.
This intelligent and progressive approach towards natural conservation has also paid off by influencing sustainable business practices. Today, Costa Rica is a world leader as an ecotourism destination, an industry that generates more than five per cent of our GDP, surpassing $2.7 billion US.
Last year, 99 per cent of our electricity was generated by renewable sources, which include hydro, solar, geothermal and wind power. This year, we launched the Reventazón Hydro Project with an installed capacity of more than 300 MW (the country’s largest infrastructure project and the region’s second largest after the Panama Canal). This shows Costa Rica’s clear and continuous commitment to renewable energies and this shall lead us on a path to 100 per cent renewable electricity.
Costa Rica wants to lead by example, and maintains its political commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2021, as a legacy to the world and the generations to come. However, the scale and global nature of this challenge require efforts and collaboration from the international community.
Canada and Costa Rica both strongly believe that solidarity can change the world for the better and leaders in both countries know that climate change action is a complex feat that requires joint efforts.
Historically, Canada and Costa Rica have worked in many areas, including peace, disarmament, trade and investment. We have supported each other in strategic decisions and processes.
Friends and partners should talk more often and continue supporting each other in those areas of common interests and values. In working towards our common goal of protecting our world from climate change, both countries have valuable experiences to share.
So let’s continue our dialogue at the highest level, let’s continue leading by example for the good of our countries and for the good of humanity.