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Oct 5, 2018

Costa Rica Minister Says the Region Must Preserve its Forests to Tackle Climate Change

This week, we bring you another story about the Global Climate Action Summit held two weeks ago. At that summit, a number of cities, businesses and organizations made commitments in an aim to reach their climate change targets. One of the attendees at the event was the Costa Rican Minister of Environment and Energy, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez. The minister says that Central American countries can find the balance between tackling climate change and generate economic growth. Andrea Polanco shares more in the following story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Commercial and industrial vehicle fleets burn large volumes of fuels. They are responsible for a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions.  And that is why several cities, organizations, retailers and different partners at the Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco in September committed to buy or support the buying of electric vehicles. And while many countries have pledged to replace diesel engines with battery powered and zero emission transportations, Central America may be behind on that transition. The use of renewable energy for electricity generation is a big step that regional experts say should be prioritized, perhaps even before getting on the clean transportation wagon. Costa Rica is the only country in the region that is using renewable sources to generate almost all of its electricity – the rest of the region is yet to catch up.


Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica

“For Central America there are more important issues. One is why are we promoting electric transportation when the electricity is mainly generated with fossil fuels. It doesn’t make much sense. In most of the Central American countries, we still have a big unfinished homework to move towards one hundred percent renewable agenda on the electric circuit. That is the first and number one priority. Again, it doesn’t make much sense to go from fossil fuel cars to electric cars if the electricity is being generated mainly with fossil fuels. So, that is an issue that Central America needs to address.”


Minister Carlos Rodriguez says that Central America must also address the big issue of deforestation and forest degradation if the region wants to slash its emissions and meet its targets.


Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

“The most important element in terms of CO2 emissions in Central America comes from deforestation, not from cars or electricity. It comes from deforestation. Deforestation is still very high. In the last twenty years, Central America has lost probably twenty-five percent of the forests. This is very bad news. It is not just bad for nature, but it is bad for climate change, it is bad for people who live or farmers in the communities. Losing the forest for Central America is like losing the money we have in the bank.We are losing forests even in protected areas. And now in Central America we have just five big forested areas left; in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. These are just the last patches of forest we have in Central America. We need to work on that. We need to stop deforestation. The Central American countries will never ever achieve their climate targets if we still have the same level of deforestation. In the northern part of Central America most of the deforestation is related to cattle ranching; cattle ranching is related to drug trafficking and violence and security. It is a very complex issue. But if we want to be serious in terms of climate mitigation and as well for adaptation. We won’t be able to adapt our economies and our people if we lose the money in the bank.”


Costa Rica has managed to balance economic growth and tackle climate change. Minister Rodriguez says sustainable tourism development is already helping Costa Rica and Belize to grow their economies and protect the environment.


Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

“Costa Rica stopped deforestation; doubled the size of the forest while our economy tripled in size. So, there’s growth. Protecting nature is not a barrier for growth, it is not a burden for the economy and as a matter of fact, protecting nature can be a way to generate economic growth. And this is like Costa Rica and this is something that Belize is already working. Tourism is a major industry in our countries and it can be the main driver of economic growth. And what do they want to do in Belize? They want to see the beautiful coral reef, they want to go to Blue Hole in San Pedro and then they want to go the forest and they want to see the Mayan ruins and ancient cities. The whole package is a green package; a nature based package.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’  Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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