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Follow the green leader: Why everyone, from Prince William to Jeff Bezos, is looking to Costa Rica | Costa Rica
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Follow the green leader: Why everyone, from Prince William to Jeff Bezos, is looking to Costa Rica | Costa Rica

Dantita the tapir in Braulio Carrillo National Park, close to San Jos in central Costa Rica.

IIf Cop26 had held a popularity contest, Carlos Alvarado Quesada (Costa Rican president) would have been the clear winner. Boris Johnson, Jeff Bezos and Prince William all wanted to meet the leader of this tiny Central American country, eager for a moment in the sun.

The climate summit in Glasgow was in effect Costa Rica’s Super Bowl, giving the country another opportunity to showcase its impressive environmental credentials. It is the only country in tropical America that has succeeded in halting and reversed deforestation. This is a commitment that many others made at Cop26, but are far from achieving.

Costa Rica celebrated its bicentenary in 2021. It is now aiming for total carbonisation by 2050, not just a net zero target. Christiana Figueres was the UN climate convention’s head in 2015. Carlos Manuel Rodrguez is the chief executive of the organization. Global Environment FacilityCosta Ricans are regularly found in leadership positions on the international environment.

Quesada was proud to mention Costa Rica’s record in his interview with the Guardian in 2021. Quesada, however, cautioned that the example of Costa Rica should not be used to guide others.

Dantita the tapir in Braulio Carrillo National Park, close to San Jos in central Costa Rica.
A tapir in Braulio Carrillo national park, near San Jos. Costa Rica’s policy of paying citizens for the restoration and protection of ecosystems has helped reverse deforestation, which is threatening the species.Photograph by Michiel van Noppen/2021 Wildlife photographer of the Year

It is not wise to take the Costa Rican example as gospel. Take what is good about us, but adapt it locally. He said that the thing about our example was the possibility for change, not the specific change. We have seen the world in Glasgow make global decisions, but we can’t be seduced into believing that there is one solution.

Costa Rica was one of five Earthshot prize winners in October for its policy to pay citizens to restore and protect forests. The scheme is responsible for helping to reverse one the worst deforestation rates worldwide. It altered the cost of clearing forests for coffee, banana, and pineapple plantations. Recognizing that forests are more valuable alive than dead, it was credited with helping to reverse this trend. This policy has resulted in a boom in ecotourism.

Quesada is nearing the end of his term, but he doesn’t want to stop there. He acknowledged that Costa Rica was green, but not bluish, prompting the Cop26 announcement of his countrys involvement with a vast new marine-protected zone.

If we set an example, others will follow our lead. He says that’s our approach.

In Glasgow, Denmark, Costa Rica and Denmark launched the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance(Boga) to accelerate the end of fossil fuel industry. Attracted intense media attention. Although the initiative was initiated by a small number of countries that had already pledged to phase out fossil fuels it is hoped that a coalition of the willing will lead to global change.

Costa Ricas environment minister, Andrea Meza appears on screen as Kate, the Duchess, of Cambridge announces the Republic of Costa Rica as the winner of the Earthshot prize protect and restore nature award in London, October 2021
As the Duchess announces Costa Rica the winner of the Earthshot Protect and Restore Nature Award, Andrea Meza, the Environment Minister, appears on screen. Photograph: Yui Mok/AFP/Getty

Andrea Meza from Costa Rica, the environment minister, who helped announce Boga said that winning Earthshot was a moment in national unity, similar to winning a football game. She emphasizes the importance to combine the intrinsic value of nature with financial realities to protect it.

The Costa Rican case has taught us that nature should be part of any development plan. It is not about developing and protecting nature. It is about understanding that nature is essential to the type of development you want. She said that we understood this.

You’ll notice the difference after one or two generations. We are proud to be able to see the differences between the sloth and the hummingbird.

Follow biodiversity reporters for more information and age of extinction coverage Phoebe WestonAnd Patrick GreenfieldFollow Twitter for the latest news and features

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