Many countries now recognize the importance with which we need to limit global warming to at least 1.5 degrees Celsius, in order to minimize damage to the planet through climate change. The Paris Agreement is proof of that, as many countries have signed this to show their commitment to acting on climate change. The Paris Agreement is a binding legal document, requiring all signatories to submit their respective decarbonization plans, measures taken to achieve that and actually implement change. The Agreement even takes into consideration the financial assistance that developed countries need to provide to those that need it such as developing countries that contribute the least to climate change, yet suffer the most from its impacts, and lack the resources to address them.
What is Net-Zero?
Every country emits greenhouse gasses (GHGs) into the atmosphere by using coal and other non-renewable sources (fossil fuels) for energy, heating, etc. Other areas with a lot of emissions include transportation, whether that’s cars or public transport, and the agricultural sector as livestock and crop cultivation give off GHGs. However when countries commit to being net zero, it means that even though they will still be emitting GHGs, these new GHG emissions will be offset by the amount of emissions absorbed from the atmosphere. There are two ways by which countries can achieve net-zero. Firstly, by increasing the amount of carbon sinks, and secondly by reducing their GHG emissions.
A carbon sink is something that absorbs carbon, such as plants, oceans, and soil. By conserving and restoring land, and planting trees, countries can increase their carbon sinks and their potential to absorb GHGs. On the other hand, ways in which countries can reduce their GHG emissions include switching to renewable energy sources, using electric transport, and eating less meat. A big change also needs to be made at the government level, by increasing legislation and regulations that promote the reduction of emissions.
Examples of initiatives taken by countries to reduce their GHGs include:
- Japan’s plans for renewable energy which is a main part of their decarbonisation strategy. They currently have plans to expand their offshore wind farm, with a number of global wind power companies interested in entering the Japanese market.
- Canada has put a price on carbon pollution, charging industries for their carbon emissions. They have also launched different funds and made investments into clean fuel and renewable energy.
- Countries such as China, India, The Netherlands, and England have introduced large numbers of electrical public transport, such as buses and taxis. Many countries in Europe, along with the Netherlands, continue to implement and improve on the current electric public transport models.
The country of Costa Rica is part of the Paris Agreement and has taken measures into their own hands, promising that they will reach a net-zero carbon future by 2050. And they are well on their way to do so. In 2018 they came up with their own plan which included everything from cars to cattle. Research estimated that Costa Rica would require over $30 billion as up-front investments to achieving this plan. But over time the savings and benefits would be 110% at over $70 billion.
Changes they have implemented include an online coin-based system, combatting plastic waste and promoting recycling, encouraging electric cars, and increasing the amount of chargers for these electric cars. Many of their buildings, companies and communities have also been awarded for their sustainable construction and limited carbon emissions. And they have also achieved over 60 km of Biological Corridor restoration, with plans for more.
This kind of net zero plan would not work everywhere as Costa Rica has some advantages that can help them reach their goal. This includes having one of the world’s most successful forest conservation programs, the investment they have already made in their electric grid run by hydropower as well as over half of the country already covered in forests and containing 6% of the world’s total biodiversity.
“In 2021, they reported that 90.7% of their 2022 climate related projects were already underway, with 25% of the initial objectives set to be completed from 2018 to 2022 having already been executed”.
– Eric Smith (Tico Times)
ClientEarth Communications. (2020, December 22). What is a Carbon Sink?. ClientEarth. https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/stories/what-is-a-carbon-sink/.
Government of Canada. (2022). 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan – Sector-by-sector overview. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/climate-plan-overview/emissions-reduction-2030/sector-overview.html#sector1.
Ge, M., Friedrich, J., & Vigna, L. (2020, February 6). 4 Charts Explain Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Countries and Sectors. World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/4-charts-explain-greenhouse-gas-emissions-countries-and-sectors.
Government of Costa Rica. (2018). National Decarbonization Plan. https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/NationalDecarbonizationPlan.pdf.
Irving, D. (2021, August 30). Costa Rica Leads the Way in Cutting Carbon Emissions. Rand Review. https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2021/08/costa-rica-leads-the-way-in-cutting-carbon-emissions.html.
Smith, E. (2021, October 31). Costa Rica and Carbon Neutrality. The Tico Times. https://ticotimes.net/2021/10/23/costa-rica-and-carbon-neutrality.
Sustainable Bus. (2022, July 12). Electric bus, main fleets and projects around the world. https://www.sustainable-bus.com/electric-bus/electric-bus-public-transport-main-fleets-projects-around-world/.
The Japan Times. 2022, June 24). Japan to resume offshore wind power auctions after revising rules. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/06/24/business/offshore-wind-power-auctions/.
The Tico Times. (2021, February 24). Government updates Costa Rica decarbonization efforts. The Tico Time. https://ticotimes.net/2021/02/24/government-updates-costa-rica-decarbonization-efforts.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2022). What is the Paris Agreement?. https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement.
United Nations. (2020, December 2). The race to zero emissions, and why the world depends on it. UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1078612.
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