Situated at the heart of the double continent of North and South America, Costa Rica lies at an important crossroads for biodiversity in the Americas. It is the repository of over half a million already identified species, and that number could reach 1.5 million with the new taxonomic technologies developed in Costa Rica. We have a wide range of fauna; in addition, jaguars, toucans, sloths, leatherback turtles, manatees and the endemic mangrove hummingbird call it their home.
For decades, our government has strongly embraced conservation as a pillar of sustainable development. The area covered by forest had fallen to just 26 percent back in the 1980s but has since rebounded to over 50 percent. This success is due to a combination of strong conservation policies and incentives, and effective and sustainable policies for agriculture, tourism and energy. In 2017, all energy produced originated from renewable sources for over 300 days, with over 99 percent of the nation’s energy emerging from renewable energy sources (combining hydroelectricity, geothermal energy, biomass, solar power, and wind power). This year our country became the first in the world to ban open pit mining and we have made a firm commitment to move towards the decarbonization of our economy.
Costa Rica is also a pioneer in biodiversity finance, launching several finance solutions of scale and innovation. The government imposed a 5 percent tax on carbon emissions resulting from the use of fossil fuels to generate revenue to pay landowners to refrain from clear-cutting on their land and instead to create tree plantations. Our national Payments for Ecosystem Services Programme has been in place since the mid-1990s, impacting over one million hectares of forests to date.
Yet Costa Rica’s biodiversity still faces significant challenges, and thus the country embarked on the BIOFIN adventure as one of the first members back in 2013. This process has allowed us to identify needs to strengthen our institutional framework, in order to transcend towards an ecosystem services approach that allows expanding the scope of protection towards goals aimed at the conservation, restoration, rehabilitation and recovery, use and sustainable management of the different sources of ecosystem services.
It has also allowed us to move towards greater awareness of the investments made by the country in favor of biodiversity, that had traditionally been valued only in terms of the resources allocated to those entities whose main function originated in the protection of biodiversity, such as the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the National Commission for the Management of Biodiversity (CONAGEBIO) and the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC).
As part of the contribution of the BIOFIN initiative, it was possible to evolve towards the identification of a "hardcore institutionality" of biodiversity, which encompasses a wider universe of institutions relating to the management and use of biodiversity directly, according to the Rio Markers. Based on this new methodology, it is possible to determine that the investments of Costa Rica in biodiversity amounts to approximately US$300 million annually, equivalent to 0.5 percent of GDP.
Thanks to another contribution of the BIOFIN programme, it was possible to update the National Biodiversity Strategy, which establishes a roadmap for the actions needed to attain the national biodiversity objectives, with a special emphasis on the challenges that Costa Rica is facing in this area.
Although part of the financing needed for the implementation of this strategy is available, there are goals that still require economic resources; and 18 profiles of new programs and projects have been identified that still require the allocation of additional resources (the financing gap). The financial needs are estimated to be between US$25 and US$50 million per year, over a nine-year period.
As another result of the implementation of BIOFIN methodology, a Biodiversity Finance Plan was prepared in order to identify a portfolio of initiatives, that is, a menu of finance alternatives, with the purpose of evaluating their implementation viability and feasibility, as well as their potential for the generation of finance resources aimed at filling the financing gap for the implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategy.
Costa Rica encourages other countries to adopt the BIOFIN Methodology, as it has demonstrated to lead to new insights and ideas on biodiversity finance, provides a valuable global platform for cooperation and experience sharing between countries, and is by design adaptable to the national context. Most importantly, it helps to start a new dialogue in the country with a more prominent role for Finance Ministries, Chambers of Commerce, banks and enterprises as frontrunners in biodiversity finance. Such new partnerships are required to
Based on the evaluation of the menu of available finance alternatives, several finance solutions have been prioritized, whose implementation will be supported during Phase II of the BIOFIN initiative. These finance solutions include working on green bonds for protected areas, promoting green production practices, enhancing the biodiversity role in green lending and promoting investments in ecotourism.
President of the Republic of Costa Rica