In 2007, former president Oscar Arias announced Costa Rica’s goal to become the first developing country to go carbon-neutral in 14 years. At the time, that goal seemed to be very unlikely for such a small country with financial difficulties. However, over the past years Costa Rica has made significant strides in accomplishing their energy goal and has become one of the leading countries in environmental sustainability.

Costa Rica has already established a thriving market for ecotourism with its 3.2 million acres of protected park space and national reserves. Tourism is a major component in Costa Rica’s economy, and promoting this industry while keeping the environment in mind has allowed Costa Rica to make significant gains in becoming carbon-neutral. Costa Rica has also made long-term progress in the use of environmentally friendly energy sources. More than 90 percent of Costa Rica’s electricity is derived from renewable sources. Despite this progress, Costa Rica faces many challenges ahead in becoming a carbon-neutral nation.

Currently, Costa Rica is adding an estimated 200 cars to its roads every day which contributes heavily to increased carbon emissions. It also lacks the infrastructure to keep trash and wastewater out of its streets and streams. These issues will definitely cause problems for Costa Rica and its efforts to become completely carbon-neutral. From a financial standpoint, Costa Rica faces another large challenge. A study by the INCAE business school estimated the cost of going carbon neutral at $7.8 billion. Already facing a $1.2 billion deficit, this is a cost Costa Rica may not be able to afford any time soon. However, these problems have not caused businesses in Costa Rica to give up on the carbon-neutral goal.

Over the past three years, many private companies have signed on to the carbon-neutral pledge. Local airline, Nature Air, has announced that it’s the first carrier to fully offset its carbon emissions by conserving 500 acres of land and increasing fuel efficiency. CoopeDota R.L., a coffee cooperative, is aiming to become the first carbon-neutral producer by converting waste products to energy and designing more effective wastewater treatment methods. Other local businesses have contributed to reforestation efforts absorbing up to 6,324 tons of carbon emissions.

Businesses in Costa Rica play a crucial role in creating a sustainable environment. By doing so, they show other companies around the world the huge impacts that businesses can have on the environment. If these businesses continue their environmentally friendly practices, Costa Rica will be yet another step closer to reaching its long term energy goal.

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