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Costa Rica Launches Its First Climate Change Adaptation Plan

"Climate change represents one of the greatest threats we have not only as a country but as a society," said the government

Costa Rica Launches Its First Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Costa Rica, along with the rest of Central America, is one of the most vulnerable places to climate change, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientists expect an increase in extreme weather events, following decades of already above average disruptions.

On top of that, problems in Central America related to food security, human health and social vulnerability are likely to increase as a direct consequence of climate change-related events during the next decades. The IPCC recommends countries in the region to plan for climate change and to tackle it with “science-based decision making.”

Costa Rica, which in 2019 was named ‘United Nations Champion of the Earth’ for being “a pioneer in the protection of peace and nature,” has long been preparing for climate change events. The country launched its first National Policy for Adaptation to Climate Change in 2018 and during that past four years has been working to implement it.

This past April, the government finally launched Costa Rica’s first Climate Change Adaptation Plan, which consists of 232 specific actions to be implemented by 49 different institutions between 2022 and 2026. This will allow the country to move forward with one of its commitments derived from the Paris Agreement, the government stated.

According to the Climate Change Directorate of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Communications (Minae, in Spanish), this Plan was urgent “due to the country’s high exposure to increasingly extreme hydro-meteorological events.” Minae cited meteorological data showing that intense rains and hurricanes are likely to increase.

“Climate change represents one of the greatest threats we have not only as a country but as a society,” former Minister of Environment, Rolando Castro, said. “The best available national and international science warns us that events related to climate change will become more serious. That is why we must act quickly.”

Costa Rica has "high exposure to increasingly extreme hydro-meteorological events"

Costa Rica has “high exposure to increasingly extreme hydro-meteorological events”

Expected outcomes of the Plan

Costa Rica’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2022-2026 was designed between 2020 and 2022. It is the result of dozens of bilateral meetings throughout the country with public and private sectors and civil society. More than 150 institutions provided feedback, said the executive branch of power.

The Plan includes six axes and the specific actions to achieve these commitments by 2026, when a new Plan must be put in place to carry out the work against climate change. All these actions are to be taken by public institutions of the country, but some have not yet been assigned a budget, and it’s not clear they will.

These are the six axis and the expected outcomes:

  • Axis 1 — Knowledge management: By 2026, institutions and other key actors should have “robust and accurate information to make decisions” about climate change adaptation.

  • Axis 2 — Resilience of human and natural systems: By 2026, all institutional, regional, cantonal, sectorial, territorial and marine planning instruments have to “incorporate criteria for adaptation to climate change.”

  • Axis 3 — Biodiversity management: By 2026, Costa Rica’s ecosystems have to be “used sustainably by local communities and indigenous peoples,” and the goods and services they offer have to be done taking into account “natural infrastructure and resilient ecosystem services to generate co-benefits between mitigation and adaptation.”

  • Axis 4 — Resilient public services infrastructure: By 2026, “the continuity of public services and adequate protection of assets [will be] ensured, improving the adaptive capacity of public investment in the face of climate change,” says the Plan.

  • Axis 5 — Adapted productive sectors: By 2026, the social and economic sectors of the country will be “eco-competitive and resilient to climate risks, thanks to the consolidation of best practices and the sustainable management of resources in the different ecosystems and the promotion of preventive actions and commitments to raise awareness in terms of adaptation.”

  • Axis 6 — Investment: By 2026, public and private investment and financing of institutional management will be “strengthened” and aimed at “reducing loss and damage through adaptation.”

What about the tourism industry?

Costa Rica’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan explains that the tourism industry, one of the most important of the country’s economy, doesn’t have a proper axis of action because the needs it has to adapt to climate change are interconnected with the ones the country has a whole. The same thing can be said for every economic sector.

Among the hundreds of proposed actions by the Plan, there are many concerning tourism. For example, the document calls for the creation of a National Tourism Development Plan 2022-2027, that should incorporate “criteria for adaptation to climate change and variability.” However, it is conditional on the availability of external funds.

It also calls for training for the adaptation of tourism companies to climate change, promoting the conservation and restoration of ecosystems of importance for the tourism activity, with the involvement of local communities. Another element of the plan is the funding of companies of the sector that comply with climate change needs.

Costa Rica has implemented the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) to improve the competitiveness of the sector in line with recommendations from international institutions. Around 250 hotels and 110 tour operators had the CST by 2021, according to the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT).

The Plan states that tourism is one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change in the country. It has already been “significantly affected” by floods, droughts, hurricanes and tropical storms in the past, causing “large losses.” This is why action must be taken to prevent more losses and adapt to the expected climate disruptions.

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asolis@outlierlegal.com

Journalist with more than 10 years of experience in the media. In Costa Rica, Alessandro spent five years working in 'La Nación' newspaper. In Spain, he was a journalist for the digital newspaper 'Economía Digital' between 2017 and 2021. He also has experience in radio, advertising and production of live shows.

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