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Costa Rica 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | REVIEW

Costa Rica is building upon its longstanding reputation as an eco-friendly bastion via smart policies aimed at expanding electrical vehicle use and the launching of a new environmentally friendly eco-park.

Costa Rica has had a knack for making wise long-term decisions in the past century. Indeed, much overshadowed by its rightfully lauded move to abolish its military in the 1940s was its decision in the 1970s to opt for hydropower over coal to meet most of its electricity needs. Though under serious pressure from the IMF at the time to do otherwise, it wisely reasoned that making use of its abundant water sources was not only more sustainable for economic reasons, but also for environmental ones as well.

Barely two generations later, Costa Rica has become a world leader not merely in generating hydropower but in green construction and wind and geothermal power. Yet a great gaping hole lies at the heart of further efforts to make the country greener and more sustainable: carbon-powered transportation, which accounts for nearly all the getting around that people do in Costa Rica these days, whether for commercial or personal use. Thus are a number of campaigns underway to increase the use of what one activist is calling “electric mobility."
One of the most prominent of these is Costa Rica Limpia, an initiative launched by Monica Araya, a Costa Rican environmentalist with a PhD from Yale in environmental management, dedicated to increasing public awareness and usage of renewables and clean mobility with a particular emphasis on increasing the use of electric cars. Funded in part by the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, and the UN Development Program and working in close partnership with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Telecommunications' (MINAE) Climate Change Directorate, Costa Rica Limpia is fighting for a zero-emissions transportation sector through the electrification of public and private personal automobiles, taxis, buses, and small trucks. But how so?

For starters, by getting leading businesses across the country to sign onto an “electric mobility pact" in early 2018. With aim of getting 100 public and private organizations on board by the end of the year to invest in electronic vehicle infrastructure, Costa Rica Limpia wants to transform the country into “un país sin muflas"—a country without exhaust pipes. In addition to launching an inaugural Electric Mobility Week and Electric Mobility Fair this year to drum up support for the electronic mobility pact, Limpia has also put a bill through congress that provides tax incentives for electric transportation and would make it much easier to acquire electric vehicles.

In April 2017 another landmark project in sustainable development was announced when Sun Latin America, a Costa Rican developer, teamed up with US-based Discovery Communications to announce they were investing USD400 million in a sustainable eco-tourism park in Guanacaste province that will eventually create 4,000 jobs. Slated to break ground in 2018 and be completed by 2020, the eco-tourism park will include rigorous outdoor activities with a focus on biodiversity and conservation such as hiking, rock climbing, and scuba diving, in addition to a beach, farm, and even volcano. Thought to be valued at USD1 billion, Sun Latin America will cover the initial building costs, which alone will provide more than 2,000 jobs near the northwestern hub of Liberia, Costa Rica in 2018-2019.

A low-key rival to alternative theme park partnerships that put shows and films at the forefront of their model, the park in Guanacaste will be one of only two Discovery-themed parks in the world (the other is in the hills outside Shanghai) and is slated to cater to a new generation of health and environment-mindful millennials that would rather partake in healthy, active, eco-friendly activities rather than take a cruise or lounge on the beach. To sweeten the deal, Discovery's hit show, “Animal Planet," also aired a special in August dedicated to Costa Rican wildlife dubbed “Costa Rica Wild."
That the project is being undertaken in one of the country's least-developed regions kills at least two birds with one stone. And given that the US already accounts for over 50% of the more than 2 million annual visitors to the country, the project will only strengthen Costa Rica's reputation across North America and beyond for standing at the forefront of the continent's most successful eco-friendly business policies.