Costa Rica Targets Emissions in Critical Livestock Industry as it Gears Up to be World's First Carbon Neutral Country

Costa Rica image 1In 2007, jungle-cloaked Costa Rica declared its goal to become the world's first carbon neutral country by 2021. Since then, addressing climate change has been the cornerstone of the country's National Development Plan, and the commitment to reaching zero net emissions on a national scale has rallied government, academia, the private sector and civil society across all sectors. Current predictions, though, suggest that Costa Rica will be unable to meet the goal. The respected independent climatechangetracker website claims the country will only be able to achieve reductions below 'business and usual' projections of around 8%, unless more action is taken now.

With only seven years to go before the carbon-neutrality goal is to be reached, the country is re-doubling its efforts by targeting the biggest greenhouse gas emitters – the transport and livestock sectors.

In August 2012, the LECB Project was launched in the country with a series of widespread stakeholder consultations that resulted in resounding agreement that project activities should target the transport and livestock sectors. According to the 2005 national greenhouse gases inventory, together, these two sectors produce 60% of the country's emissions. Cutting emissions here would significantly help Costa Rica make much-needed progress towards its carbon-neutral goal, especially in the livestock industry.

The Government has declared the Agriculture and Livestock sector as one of its eight priority areas for action on climate change mitigation. Already several key policies and plans, including the National Climate Change Strategy, are in place. In line with these, during the course of 2013, the LECB Project brought stakeholders together to start developing a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) for the livestock industry.

In Costa Rica the new livestock NAMA is expected to offer a clear roadmap for how to apply the country's unique "eco-competiveness" concept to the industry. At the heart of eco-competitiveness is a focus on increasing sustainability rather than reducing labour costs says Damiano Borgogno, the UNDP Environment and Climate Change Officer in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica image 2The eco-competiveness concept is already proving successful in other industries, such as coffee production, where farmers are adopting sustainable low emission production methods. In many cases farmers have seen an increase in output; they have improved their incomes; and in some cases also boosted the marketability of their products. For example, one cooperative is now producing the world's first carbon neutral coffee – carving out a unique market niche.

Working with the Costa Rican Chamber of Beef Producers, the Ministry of Environment and Energy as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the LECB project will select a group of 'champion' farmers willing to test the proposed low emissions measures and technologies. More farmers will then be encouraged to adopt the most successful of these.

To facilitate an exchange of experiences and knowledge between farmers, opportunities, such as field days where farmers can visit successful pilot farms, will be offered. The ultimate goal of Costa Rica's livestock NAMA is to facilitate 80% of farmers to adopt the promoted measures and technologies, thereby significantly reducing industry emissions. Wider environmental benefits, such as more forest cover and biodiversity, as well as better resilience are also expected.

Costa Rica image 3Higher productivity is expected to boost participating farmers' incomes and the quality of their families' lives as increased incomes will enable them to access better education and health services.

Following in the footsteps of their coffee counterparts, acting today to reduce emissions in the livestock sector tomorrow could also open up new market possibilities for Costa Rican livestock farmers too, Mr Borgogno said. "Consumers in many wealthier countries are starting to look for products that are more ethical and sustainable, and we think this trend will increase in the coming years. The farmers here, who are adopting the eco-competitiveness concept, will then have a market edge," he said.

Targeting emissions reduction in Costa Rica's key industries will be important if the country is to achieve its carbon-neutrality goal. With the livestock NAMA set to provide a blueprint for applying eco-competiveness to this major industry, a clear plan will soon be in place for achieving vital progress.

Key Messages

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In 2007, Costa Rica declared its goal to become the world's first carbon neutral country by 2021. Addressing climate change is the cornerstone of the National Development Plan.

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The LECB Project brought stakeholders together to develop a NAMA for the livestock industry, which is one of the biggest CO2 emitters nationally.

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Currently, the livestock sector has limited resources to make the needed low-carbon transition, but recognises the move could open up new market possibilities for Costa Rican livestock farmers as consumers, especially in Europe, are increasingly seeking out climate-friendly products.

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The ultimate goal of Costa Rica's live-stock NAMA is to facilitate 80% of farmers to adopt specific tried and tested measures to reduce emissions, and to support farmers to overcome some of the barriers they face in doing so.

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