Costa Rica has become the first country to announce its aim to become carbon-neutral by 2050. In an official decree signed by President Carlos Alvarado, the country plans to fully decarbonise by 2050 and has extended its moratorium on oil exploration to 2050. The country previously had an unofficial goal of going carbon-neutral by 2021.

While the National Decarbonization Plan will not end emissions completely, it will be offset through the carbon reserves in the country’s forests. The goal is zero net emissions. The country intends to achieve this while growing economically. Its strategy includes a ‘just transition’, to ensure that no one (such as workers in the fossil-fuel industry) is left behind while it moves towards a green economy.

Costa Rica’s plan involves decarbonising four sectors: transportation, industry, waste management, and agriculture. As per the environment minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, the country will modernise its public transport through measures such as setting up an electric train line, the number of cars in urban areas will be cut by half by 2040, and a new waste-management system will be implemented. Specific targets have been set: by 2035, 70 per cent of the country’s buses and 25 per cent of its cars will be electric, the public transportation system will be zero-emission by 2035, and an electrical grid entirely powered by renewables will be in place by 2030.

Achieving these ambitious but necessary goals won’t be easy though. The transportation sector accounts for 60 per cent of the country’s GHG emissions and the fossil-fuel industry is a major source of tax income. However, the country has already shown the rest of the world that carbon neutrality should be the top priority for all governments and if its plans come to fruition, it will provide a roadmap to other countries and prove that economic growth and clean energy can exist side by side.

Last year, 98 per cent of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources, generating clean electricity for a full 300 days. The country has also doubled its forest cover in the last 30 years. Currently, Costa Rica emits about 12,000 kilotons worth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a year, while the US is at more than 12 million kilotons.