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Costa Rica: The First Nation to Ban Fossil Fuels

Nick Webb reveals the great news of progression for success in sustainability with Costa Rica leading the way.

Photo by Cosmic Timetraveller

As many countries around the world are attempting to lower their carbon footprint, the first nation has completely banned the combustion of fossil fuels.

While European nations such as Denmark are often known for their attempts at making more use of renewable energy sources, it is the small Central American country of Costa Rica that is the first to completely decarbonise.

Three Years of Green Energy

The announcement comes after Costa Rica has managed to use increasingly large amounts of green energy for the last three years. In 2015, Costa Rica was powered solely by clean energy for 271 days. This was increased to 299 days in 2016. From 2017-2019, this number crossed the 300-day-mark. Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado has set the target for his country to completely decarbonise by 2021, in time for the 200th anniversary of Costa Rican independence.

New Energy

Costa Rica’s green energy comes largely from huge hydroelectric plants, as 78.26% of their energy is generated through water. 10.92% also now comes from wind energy, and 10.23% from geothermal sources. As the way that Costa Ricans get their power changes in the next few years, it is expected that an increase in the amount of geothermal power created will make up the remainder.

Inspiration from a Small Country

While some sceptics may claim that this achievement is lessened by the fact that the total population of Costa Rica is only 4.8 million (around half the population of London), the fact that such a small country can make such significant changes to the way they operate proves that it is possible for more developed nations to follow suit.

Costa Rican economist Monica Araya has said that “getting rid of fossil fuels is a big idea coming from a small country. This is an idea that’s starting to gain international support with the rise of new technologies.”

The largest challenge facing the Costa Rican ideal of becoming completely carbon-neutral in the next year is the transportation industry, as it has undergone little renewable development so far, but there is a high demand for an increasing number of motor vehicles in the country. Proposals being discussed in the Costa Rican Congress include tax exemptions for the importation of electric cars, and creating an extended network of charging stations on streets and in public car parks.

Despite the called-for increase in the electricity infrastructure of Costa Rica, national Utility Company Group ICE has stated that they do not foresee the need to expand their grid, or to undertake any large scale building projects until at least 2027 to keep up with what is predicted to be a surge in demand for the supply of electricity.

While many countries are not as fortunate as Costa Rica to have such rich natural resources for the production of carbon-neutral electricity, combined with a low population, the nation’s leaders are hopeful that their attitudes and commitment to green energy can inspire others to do the same.

Fossil fuel usage is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, and one that all countries must do their best to tackle. As Araya has said,

“tackling resistance to change is one of the most important tasks we have right now.”


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