Opinion: Berta did not die, she multiplied

Poster of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres

We honor International Women’s Day.

To mark the occasion, various women’s organizations and the Federation of Indigenous Mayan Women (Consejera Mujeres Maya Chorti & Red de Mujeres) held a women’s march. The women and their allies marched from the ancient Mayan ruins in the outskirts of the town of Copan Ruinas to the center of the town. Fists raised in defiance, the women were making known their unanimous opposition to economic imperialism, corruption, exploitation and the violence and abuse that has plagued their communities for far too long.

Unfortunately, the story of exploitation and violations of fundamental rights in Latin America traces back to a long history that has its roots in a tradition of colonization and slavery. Despite popular belief, the culture of slavery and colonization has never really left this continent and many local indigenous communities and campesinos (rural workers) in Honduras continue to suffer from systemic economic and political oppression. With wages under $1 a day, modern hyper-capitalistic economy, as espoused by the United States throughout Latin America, resembles a system of resource extortion and wage slavery.  

Mayan women’s indigenous march takes control of the city hall. Photo: Josselin Casselman

Women are often most affected

Women are often most affected by the exploits of the prevailing system that has sustained, and in many instances, increased poverty levels throughout the global south. Unpaid labor among indigenous women and in rural communities is a common reality. Indigenous women are disproportionately victims of abuse, harassment and assassination. Oftentimes in these communities, the perpetrators of violence are never prosecuted because the authorities and systems of justice are unresponsive to the plight of the poor and the marginalized. Violence and abuse is part of the normalized experience of indigenous women, not only in Honduras, but throughout Latin America.

The same systems of oppression that saw indigenous nations of the Americas enslaved, massacred and marginalized by the millions during European colonization, very much continues to this day with a modern makeover. Forces of exploitation and colonization today march under the flag of multinational corporations, big business and oligarchical elitist regimes that rarely represent the interests of the common people.  In Copan, where I work, just down the road from where some of the local indigenous communities are located, hydroelectric projects and mining operations are already busy at work extracting precious resources from the rivers and the lands that are part of indigenous peoples’ territories. In the aftermath of their activities, the local populations are left only with pollution and degradation to deal with on their own.  After all, the sickness and infected bodies of the exploited Indians in far away lands are out of sight and out of mind for the average North American consumer, who is solely concerned with the availability of cheap products.

Mayan women march under the banner of Berta. Photo: Josselin Casselman

People are mobilizing and responding

Fortunately, in the face of ever growing economic, social and political challenges, the people are mobilizing and responding. Women, especially, are increasingly becoming a beacon of hope and leading the way for a brighter future. Yet, women activists here in Honduras are more and more at risk of abuse, murder and violence. The march organized for International Women’s Day by the Mayan women of Copan coincided with the anniversary of the assassination of the world renowned environmental activist, indigenous leader, and human rights advocate, Berta Cáceres. The activists, almost entirely composed of women- mothers, sisters, grandmothers- walked in unison under the banner that read: “Berta no murió, se multiplicó” (Berta did not die, she multiplied). Many of the women present at the march are risking their lives.


The activists, almost entirely composed of women- mothers, sisters, grandmothers- walked in unison under the banner that read: “Berta did not die, she multiplied.”

Many of the women present at the march risk their lives.

The women of the communities are fundamentally engaged in the fight for the preservation of the environment, sustainability, human dignity and improvement of living conditions for their communities. Women are often concerned with the wellbeing of more than just themselves; they are far more dedicated to also assist their communities, their families, their daughters and sons. Without them and their selfless dedication, the grassroots struggle for justice and human rights would not be nearly as active or effective.

Berta Lives On, an artistic expression by the local Honduran artist: Andrea Fonseca Cahin

It is the women who are often on the frontlines of the social struggles against oppressive systems and injustice against their communities and their families. It is no exception that in the district of Copan, Honduras, it is the women’s organizations and women leaders who are the most active advocates in defense of fundamental rights.

Suffice to say, it is a sacred duty that we owe to honor the women of our own communities, not just on any particular day, but over and over again every day. For it is through the women’s continued struggle for equality and justice that the spirit of dignity and resistance is kept alive. I am truly inspired by them. To the extent possible, we must all march with the women of the communities side by side, in the same footsteps of Berta Cáceres, if we are to honor our own humanity and the planet – Mother Earth. #BertaVive


Costa Rica 2018 Election: A Change in Climate Governance?

The first place finish of National Restoration Party candidate Fabricio Alvarado in the opening round of the 2018 elections in Costa Rica sent shock waves through Latin America’s oldest democracy.

Foto Facebook: Fabricio Alvarado

Alvarado, a journalist, singer and Evangelical preacher, rose from 3 percent in the polls in January to gain nearly a quarter of the votes in the first round of the elections on February 4, primarily as a result of his opposition to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ decision in January ordering Costa Rica to recognize same-sex marriage.  Alvarado has threatened to pull Costa Rica out of the Inter-American Court, arguing that the decision is a violation of Costa Rica’s sovereignty.  He will face Carlos Alvarado, a center-left candidate from the ruling Citizens’ Action Party, in a runoff election on April 1st.


While Fabricio Alvarado has been outspoken in his positions on same-sex marriage, abortion and sex education in public schools, his plans on climate change remain unclear.  The environmental proposals addressed in his 56-page Government Plan lack specificity and an understanding of current climate governance structures, standing in stark contrast to Carlos Alvarado’s Plan.

Foto Facebook: Fabricio  Alvarado
Foto Facebook: Fabricio  Alvarado

Fabricio Alvarado is clearly ahead of his rival, leading by nearly 15 percentage points in a recent El Mundo poll.  Following February’s elections, the National Restoration Party now controls 14 of the 57 seats in Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly, second only to the center-right National Liberation Party’s 17 seats.  Fabricio Alvarado was previously the party’s lone congressman.

A victory by the National Restoration Party in the presidential runoff will likely trigger significant changes in governance from the current administration of Luis Guillermo Solís. While topics of religion, gender and human rights have dominated the political discourse in recent weeks, there could also be a significant departure from the current administration’s climate governance policies.

Costa Rica has long been regarded as a leader in climate governance and has adopted bold and innovative environmental policies under the current administration.  With Solís at the helm, Costa Rica signed the Paris Agreement and set forth its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which establishes ambitious targets for a developing nation, reaffirming its goal of carbon neutrality and pledging to become a country of zero net emissions by 2085.  Solís also extended Costa Rica’s ban on petroleum exploration and extraction through 2021.  And this past January, Solís signed into law an electric transportation bill that incentivizes the use of all-electric vehicles.

Fabricio Alvarado devotes an entire section of his Government Plan to Sustainable Environmental Restoration and highlights the importance of addressing the issue of global warming.  In his Government Plan, Alvarado states:

“The world is currently on the precipice of environmental catastrophe if the governments of the world do not take urgent measures to stop global warming, pollution and the destruction of our ecosystems. The Christian stewardship that lies at the basis of our ideology, understood as the obligation that we have to care for and preserve God’s creation, is expressed in our concern for the environment and sustainable development.”

Alvarado goes on to outline a series of sustainable action proposals, calling for the continuation of electricity produced through clean sources and ensuring that sustainability is incorporated in all orders for national development policies.  In addition, he calls for a new mining code to help pay off the country’s debt while leaving a green footprint and a new forest management policy that looks to improve the sustainable market options for Costa Rican wood.

Although Fabricio Alvarado seems to have some grasp of the urgency of environmental issues we face, he fails to make specific reference to climate adaptation and mitigation in his government plan, nor does he mention to Costa Rica’s NDC.  While the idea of Sustainable Environmental Restoration may be appealing, he fails to link his policies to the Paris Agreement or other international documents.  

Many of the policy proposals outlined in his government plan lack specificity and a timetable for action.  For example, Alvarado calls for the stiffening of penalties for public or private actions that undermine the country’s environmental sustainability.  It is unclear what actions Alvarado would consider to be detrimental to the country, how severe these penalties would be and how they would be implemented.

This stands in stark contrast to Carlos Alvarado’s Government Plan, which builds upon the work of the Solís administration and offers comprehensive proposals for climate governance.  His Plan is based on two principal  goals:

  • Advance the decarbonization of the economy through actions to reduce emissions.
  • Implement effective mitigation, adaptation and risk management policies to be a nation resilient to climate change.

Most importantly, Carlos Alvarado’s proposals directly address the need to fulfill the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.  Alvarado plans to uphold Costa Rica’s promise of becoming a carbon neutral country by 2021 and honor the goals of Costa Rica’s NDC.  Alvarado hopes to make Costa Rica a global model for decarbonization.  

A Carlos Alvarado administration would likely maintain Costa Rica’s place as a global leader in climate governance, but a Fabricio Alvarado-led government would largely be a step into the unknown.  While other issues have dominated the news cycle, Solís’ impressive climate legacy may be at stake when Costa Rican voters go to the polls on April 1.



Elections in Costa Rica and Climate Change: Antonio Álvarez Desanti


2018 Costa Rica Electoral Analysis

We are nearing a change in government in Costa Rica. The electoral process in this country will bring changes, and it is important to analyze in detail how the issue of climate change is reflected in the main agendas of the presidential candidates.


At the international level, Costa Rica is a leader on the issue of climate governance, with its agenda well defined by its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). When Costa Rica ratified the Paris Agreement, it was required to develop a NDC, a commitment in which the country establishes targets to comply with global climate objectives. It is a short- to medium-term plan in which the country establishes a commitment to decarbonize its economy and become more resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change.

Costa Rican presidential candidates


Recently, the University of Costa Rica conducted a poll on the leading presidential candidates of Costa Rica.  Three of these candidates received more than 10 percent support in this recent poll: Antonio Alvarez Desanti, Fabricio Alvarado and Carlos Alvarado.

We will analyze the candidates’ proposals based on the political programs they have posted on the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) website as well as their campaign websites.  Priority is given to analyze what is publicly available online and the candidates’ positions or proposals on climate governance.  

How do these candidates propose to give continuity to the Costa Rican climate agenda?

Antonio Álvarez Desanti – Lawyer and PLN Candidate

Alvarez Photo.png

Government Proposal versus Political Action Plan

Antonio Álvarez Desanti’s campaign has published two relevant documents outlining his vision of government. The Political Action Plan, is a document “based on strategic planning designed to meet the needs expressed by citizens.” More recently, the 2018-2022 Government Program was published, which addresses the issue of sustainability in chapter 14. It is important to differentiate between the Plan and the Program.  The first represents the position of “the trend and movement of Antonio Álvarez Desanti,” while the second “is a result of the union of the work of the secretaries of the Party, the experts who participated at the national convention, and broad sectors and commissions formed by the government plan.”  It is important to see how Álvarez Desanti’s initial strategy was contemplated, evolved and differed with respect to Álvarez Desanti’s current party’s program

Álvarez Desanti mentions in his program:

“Development must be sustainable. That is, we start from a principle of intergenerational equity, where growth and present development cannot be at the expense of future development.”

And Climate Action?

For starters, it is always reassuring to hear the phrase in Costa Rican politics: “climate change is real and it is here to stay.” While this seems simple, it cannot always be taken for granted that  politicians accept science and take it upon themselves to act on climate. The Government Program recently presented by the Álvarez Desanti campaign has been refocused and seems to reflect a language more similar to that of the international community in terms of climate governance.

Desanti 2

The Program tells us that any action we take “has the threat or opportunity of climate change” and that is why, apart from mitigating greenhouse gases, we must adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. In addition, he tells us, “the development model that is built must include climate change as a cross-cutting issue.” This is good news for the continuity of the effort made in recent years in terms of negotiations and project development to respond to the changing climate in Costa Rica.

The Program makes direct reference to the Paris Agreement and this is a positive development because it recognizes and proposes to comply with the structure that has been created. “The work in mitigation and adaptation must be applied in a cross-sectoral and immediate manner; the fulfillment of the commitments made by Costa Rica in the Paris Agreement, December 2015, must prevail.”

What does the Government Program propose?

  • The government, along with the planning process, will act immediately on the following topics:
    • Efficient public transportation
    • Clean energy
    • Public and private sector participation
  • “The country will maintain its diplomatic offensive based on the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities:”
    • Access to international resources established for mitigation and adaptation
    • Creation of internal economic instruments
  • Joint action by public and private institutions and individuals “because Costa Rica’s adaptation and mitigation to climate change is a shared responsibility”
  • Climate change is an opportunity for renewal in Costa Rica and humanity

The program mentions several actions that must be taken to encourage the generation of green jobs, boost production and comply with the provisions of environmental legislation and international agreements.

Acciones planteadas.png

Climate change is one of the variables considered in several key issues developed by the Government Plan.

  • Fuel sector
    • Abolish the use of petroleum derivatives for transportation by 2040
    • Internal combustion vehicles will no longer be imported in 2035
  • Electric sector
    • Greater private investment in electricity generation and promote the opening of the market
    • Diversification of the energy mix
    • Reduce production costs and the climatic vulnerability of the electrical system
    • Reduce Costa Rica’s carbon footprint
      • Replace 10 percent of combustion engines with electric, hybrid and other technologies
      • Implement electric means of public transportation
      • Create the first national network for electricity as fuel
      • Electrify the transport sector with electric trains, electric and water vehicles.
    • Land management
    • Institutional efficiency
    • Promptly rehabilitate the transportation infrastructure damaged by Tropical Storm Nate and adapt infrastructure to climate change
    • Land management actions  and urban management:
      • “Implementation of sectoral and local policies of mitigation, adaptation to climate change, vulnerability and risk for the promotion of balanced urban development through land management actions.”
    • Production sustainability and climate change:
      • “Expand and universalize payment for environmental services in agriculture and livestock, including agrosilvopastoral systems, linking credit programs and agricultural insurance with payment programs for environmental recognition and with the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA)”
      • Create a program to adapt to climate change through climate-friendly agriculture
      • Strengthen the alternative energy program
      • Expand the mix of alternative fuels by using biofuels
      • Create the agroclimatic information network
      • “Establish an Immediate Response Plan that includes Emergency Protocols and their respective Emergency Funds, for all institutions of the agricultural sector.”
      • Create an Agro Emergency Operations Center (COE-Agro)

The agricultural sector seems to be prioritized in the Government Program in terms of climate action, since it appears to have more concrete proposals that are related to climate change and actions that are already being developed.

But what did the Action Plan say initially?

The campaign of Álvarez Desanti in his Political Action Plan, which is the document he originally published, “the trend and movement of Antonio Álvarez Desanti,” had a section where he presented his thoughts on climate governance. It is interesting to examine this document to be able to contextualize and compare what Álvarez Desanti said at the beginning and what is now proposed to us in the Government Program.


The intention of the Àlvarez Desanti Action Plan is to give priority to mitigation actions. This is interesting in itself, since the country has been promoting a synergy between adaptation and mitigation through the concept of “climate action,” as outlined in the NDC.

What does it mean to prioritize mitigation as opposed to the concept of climate action?

“Costa Rica will focus its climate change actions on increasing society’s resilience to the impact of climate change and strengthening the country’s capacity for low-emissions development over the long-term. Costa Rica will strengthen its climate action with efforts in reduction of emission of greenhouse effect gases, following scientific suggestions of what would be necessary to avoid the worst effect of climate change. Climate action will be based on balanced efforts of adaptation to ensure that communities, especially vulnerable communities, become resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.”  Costa Rica NDC

While priority is given to mitigation, the statement in the Action Plan that “we must also carry out adaptation actions” cannot be disregarded. However, it is interesting to emphasize the intention to focus on mitigation, a proposal that can give room for a discussion on country’s priorities between mitigation and adaptation. This is done by putting in context the climatic threats with respect to which the country must adapt, in contrast to the tiny but harmful emissions of greenhouse gases that Costa Rica emits.


In the 2018-2022 Government Program, this language disappears and changes to:

  • “In addition to mitigation, we must adapt to that reality.”
  • “The work in mitigation and adaptation must be applied in a cross-sectoral and immediate manner.”
  • “Because the adaptation and mitigation of Costa Rica to climate change is a shared responsibility.”

However, it is important that citizens ask how deep this shift has been in the perception of priorities regarding adaptation and mitigation, and whether these perspectives reflect differences between sectors that make up the candidate’s team.

Another of the assessments carried out by this plan is to consider that “Costa Rica was a world leader in climate change mitigation” and that the Costa Rican Climate Change Directorate (DCC) is “practically dismantled.” This statement is an interesting starting point from which we should investigate the vision that the candidate’s campaign has regarding the institutions that have led climate governance, and for better or worse, how should the DCC be made to more closely align with Álvarez Desanti’s vision?

Click here for more information on the DCC

As one of its objectives, the Álvarez Desanti campaign cited Costa Rica’s return to global leadership on mitigation, and the direct effect it would have on tourism and the country’s brand.

“We propose to return Costa Rica to a place of honor in this matter, which will result in a better positioning of our country’s brand for the purpose of attracting tourists and environmentally friendly investments in tourism and in other sectors.”  Álvarez Desanti Political Action Plan

This initial approach of the Álvarez Desanti campaign seems to reflect a narrow view of why greenhouse gas mitigation actions were developed, seeing it as a strategy to encourage tourism and attract foreign investment.

In contrast, the concept of climate action that Costa Rica has developed in recent years represents a proposal for comprehensive development that boosts a low-emissions economy and a resilient society in the face of the adverse effects of climate change. Therefore, the focus of the climate proposal in the Political Action Plan seems to be weighted toward the tourism sector and that it could be used as a tool for attracting investment and marketing. This is far from the objectives established by the Paris Agreement and represents a fragmented vision of environmental and climate governance.

The above is changed in the proposal expressed in the Government Program of Álvarez Desanti, which does not mention tourism in direct relation to climate change and has a comprehensive view set forth in the Paris Agreement. However, it is a key point to investigate and assess the political vision of the movement that drives this candidacy.

Another of the assumptions on which this plan is based is that Costa Rica is approaching “the limits of expansion of forests as a vehicle for carbon capture,” so it is proposed to develop carbon capture through agricultural crops. In addition, existing resources have not been used for this purpose. These are issues that are somewhat addressed in greater detail in the 2018-2022 Government Program.

The issue of forests is intimately connected to Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), which is mentioned in the Government Program, but not the Action Plan. And this is important, given that it is one of the main adaptation options that the country has and that has been expressly stated in the NDC. In addition, it is directly related to production, which is one of the main topics of Álvarez Desanti’s climate proposal.

Costa Rica NDC

Regarding EbA, the Costa Rica NDC says:

“In adaptation, the country will continue its commitment based on the promotion of green and inclusive development under local action, strengthening conservation programs and expanding the payment program for environmental services to include adaptation based on ecosystems.” NDC – Costa Rica.

Regarding this point, when the Government Program refers to “payment for services,” nothing is mentioned about EbA. This is an interesting point of inquiry. How will EbA be implemented in relation to what is in the NDC?

Click for more info about the candidates

Timely Mitigation Actions

  • If necessary, rethink the 2021 carbon neutrality goal
  • “Recover strategic actions” to reduce global emissions
  • Measurements and compensations for the capture that is achieved by different agricultural crops
  • An energy mix based on hydroelectric, wind, solar and thermal generation (see electricity section for development of other details)
  • Order the system of public transport and migration to transport units with less pollution (electricity, hybrids, natural gas or hydrogen)

Timely Adaptation Actions

  • Evaluation of road and bridge infrastructure and their vulnerability to extreme weather conditions
  • A state plan to gradually secure roads and bridges
  • Prevention plan for the possible salinization of coastal aquifers due to the lower recharge because of climate change and the greater urban growth of tourist infrastructure. (Focused mainly in Nicoya, Guanacaste)
  • Evaluating vulnerability to storms and sea level rise of populations in critical areas, particularly on the coast.
  • Extension of coverage of insurance policies, particularly housing and agricultural
  • Organization and strengthening of civil defense systems within the framework of the National Emergency Commission

In terms of mitigation and adaptation, the proposals of the Action Plan of Álvarez Desanti respond in some way to the issues that have been discussed at the national level. It is evident that in the recently published 2018 – 2022 Government Program, there was a significant synchronization between what was proposed and what was developed by Costa Rica in its climate governance.

Rethinking carbon neutrality…

In the Action Plan, a special mention is made of the 2021 carbon neutrality goal.  The Plan calls for rethinking this goal. We know that with decarbonization, the country has set a much more ambitious goal than carbon neutrality, which is in accordance with the Paris Agreement. This is a curious point, which the Government Plans settles by stating:

“The route towards decarbonization (in 2030 Costa Rica must reduce emissions by 25% compared to 2012)”

It is comforting that this vision has been revised by the Álvarez Desanti team, since the initial climate proposal, beginning with rethinking carbon neutrality as the main focus, is severely outdated. Decarbonization is the heart of mitigation actions, much of this project centers  on sustainable development and low emissions in the country.

It would be interesting to ask how the mitigation actions that are proposed in the Government Program of Álvarez Desanti are going to fit with the trajectory to achieve decarbonization. Regarding this issue, what counts in the end are the numbers of tons of carbon and the financing that will facilitate this change.

How will these actions be financed and carried out?

Costa Rica NDC

Some proposals set forth in the website publications:

  • “Start a program of transformation of public transportation to gradually replace vehicles by units that use clean energy, electricity, or others that are developed in the future.
  • Build an integrated public transportation system, including a metropolitan electric train (or other superior alternative, if any), buses, taxis and other public and private means of transportation.
  • Initiate a change in the state fleet toward electric vehicles or other technologies by 2018.
  • Prohibit the importation of vehicles that use fuels derived from petroleum by the year 2035. 

These commitments that are posted on Álvarez Desanti’s campaign website can also be connected to the NDC.

Costa Rica NDC

The NDC is the guiding document for climate governance in Costa Rica. In this document, it is proposed that the public transportation system and existing fleet must be improved by means of an integrated and sectorized system. In addition, it proposes the integration of non-motorized transportation, the extension of the train, such as the prioritization of an inter-urban electric train; and modernizing cargo transportation to a multimodal one. In short, Costa Rica proposed “the development of an ambitious portfolio of investment in sustainable transport.” The commitments of the candidate Álvarez Desanti can fit that vision, but are they connected with current governance or do they follow a logic of their own? This is a good question for the candidate so that the public should be able to visualize how they are going to address these issues.

The continuity and aspiration of climate governance at the national level is essential

The energy issue is also of great relevance as it is part of the key sectors for mitigation, according to the NDC and the National Climate Change Strategy. In this sense, Álvarez Desanti has declared that a process of energy transition must be initiated.  According to Álvarez Desanti:

“This great transformation will allow us to generate new jobs that the country needs, both skilled and unskilled jobs with the construction and design of new solar parks, the promotion of wind generation, the development of geothermal energy sources that generate the resources for the sustainability of National Parks, the diversification of the way in which we distribute the new clean electricity, the generation of specialists in the design and maintenance of new fleets of private vehicles and clean buses, and the construction of trains with clean energy.”

However, this great transformation that is mentioned and for which very specific actions are proposed, slightly mentions the essential tools of climate governance, that originated from a long and involved process. There is a path internationally designed and published for this great transition.  The country’s projects should be directed from these conversations and commitments to ensure their continuity and progress.

More information on where to vote in Costa Rica

On the other hand, Álvarez Desanti’s proposal does not mention the systems of accountability, transparency and information promoted by the NDC, which are essential for the Enhanced Transparency Framework of the Paris Agreement and for the Global Stocktake. Neither was there any mention of the NAMAs, National Carbon Market, construction of the Adaptation Plan or the Deliberative Councils of Open Participation.

We need to learn more about a cross-cutting issue, such as climate change, which is key to the development of our country and thus deepen the analysis of the government proposals of the candidates for the Presidency of Costa Rica.

More information about climate change

It is necessary to establish a dialogue about what the candidates propose in their programs, action plans and the key tools of national climate governance, such as the NDC. In this way, we can guarantee progress, transparency and continuous advancement for the climate action that the Paris Agreement asks of us. This is a task that every citizen must take when exercising their right and democratic power.

Reminder: La Ruta del Clima has a neutral position with respect to the electoral candidates and the purpose of this series of articles is to inform and facilitate a critical analysis for our readers.


Election in Costa Rica and Climate Change: Candidate Juan Diego Castro

Electoral Analysis 2018 – Costa Rica

(Reminder: La Ruta del Clima has a neutral position with respect to the electoral candidates and the purpose of this series of articles is to inform and facilitate a critical analysis for our readers.)

In these months, we are nearing a change in government in Costa Rica. The electoral process in this country will bring changes, and it is important to analyze in detail how the issue of climate change is reflected in the main agendas of the presidential candidates.

At the international level, Costa Rica is a leader on the issue of climate governance, with its agenda well defined by its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).  When Costa Rica ratified the Paris Agreement, it was required to develop a NDC, a commitment in which the country establishes targets to comply with global climate objectives. It is a short- to medium-term plan in which the country establishes a commitment to decarbonize its economy and become more resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change.

More information about each candidate

Recently, the University of Costa Rica’s Semanario Universidad conducted a poll on the leading presidential candidates of Costa Rica.  Three of these candidates received more than 10 percent support in the polls: Antonio Alvarez Desanti, Juan Diego Castro and Rodolfo Piza.

We will analyze the candidates’ proposals based on the political programs they have available on the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) website as well as their campaign websites.  Priority is given to analyze what is publicly available and the candidates’ positions or proposals on climate governance.  

How do these candidates propose to give continuity to the Costa Rican climate agenda?

Juan Diego Castro – Lawyer and National Integration Party Candidate

Juan Diego Castro has presented his candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic of Costa Rica and his proposal for government has appeared in several publications. Castro’s proposal is derived from different sources such as his campaign website, Government Plan, and information shared by the TSE.

The National Integration Party (PIN) proposes through its candidate a government of reconstruction, seeking to give more importance to spirituality as individuals and as a collective, to achieve sustainable human development. From different posts on his website as well as his Government Plan, we can begin to get an idea of what Castro proposes on the subject of environmental development. Unfortunately, “climate change,” “mitigation,” “adaptation,” “decarbonization,” and “carbon neutrality” do not appear in Castro’s Government Plan.

Why is there no mention of climate change?

This is clearly the main question that citizens should ask the candidate. We must consider that climate change is one of the main foreign policy issues of this country. National projects, such as carbon neutrality, have been in practice and discussion in the country for many years. Climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing humanity and must be included in development models. Climate governance cannot be absent.

More information about where to vote in Costa Rica

Government plan and environmental sustainability

Castro’s campaign site and Government Plan do not appear to directly address climate change, but aspects related to environmental sustainability are included. It is important to analyze them and explore what relationship they could have with the climate effort that Costa Rica has been developing.

The Government Program of Castro mentions that it is open to criticism and discussion. In this spirit, we carry out the following analysis to begin a dialogue that we hope Costa Ricans have with Castro and other candidates about their proposals.

As noted in the Castro Government Program: “The ideas presented in this document are open to criticism and discussion. They are also open to comments and observations for improvement.”

According to Castro, the urgent issues are:

  1. Fiscal situation
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Unemployment
  4. Criminality
  5. Pensions
  6. Waiting lists for the Costa Rican Social Security Fund
  7. Training for employment

The strategic themes are:

  1. Corruption
  2. The structure and functioning of the state
  3. Competitiveness and economic growth
  4. The justice system and security
  5. Environmental sustainability
  6. Health system
  7. Education system

“And we will work with strategic issues for the future, such as the structure and functioning of the state, competitiveness and economic growth, and environmental sustainability.” Castro Government Plan

 Long-term environmental planning

Castro puts forth a proposal to establish long-term planning, looking beyond emergency management situations and integrating strategic issues into planning.

Castro identifies the lack of long-term planning as a problem, stating:

“Short-term planning, without impacts for future generations, becomes detached from the budget process and fiscal policy. This has resulted in decades of delay in the planning of fundamental areas such as infrastructure, housing, security, education, the environment and health.”

Castro enigmatically proposes “solutions instead of diagnostics” in what seems to be a proposal for action. On the issue of climate change, this can have an ambiguous result.  Since the uncertainty with respect to adequate solutions for climate change is constant, it is necessary to adapt and continually reevaluate actions.  There is a need to mobilize climate actions in a flexible manner, since these actions form part of long-term processes that are constantly being evaluated, constructed and deconstructed. On the other hand, if we already know how to proceed on issues of climate governance, it would be useful to communicate them in the Government Plan.

“We are not going to make more diagnoses. We are going to propose solutions. Since we are going to govern seriously, we are going to make the most difficult decisions, those that require determination and political commitment at the highest level. We are clear that naming problems and making proposals do not fix anything. To solve problems you have to understand how to do it. We already know how.” Castro Government Plan

In the proposed long-term planning bill published on the candidate’s website, the environment is identified as one of the areas lagging behind.  It proposes to tackle this problem with several reforms to the National Planning Law, offering a long-term vision and making it binding on the National Development Plan.  The bill proposes that medium- and long-term plans will be established every five years.

Castro also proposes modifications to the General Law of the Public Administration in order to unify the vision of public institutions and to modify the Law of the Financial Administration of the Republic and Public Budgets to ensure planned financing. This idea is reiterated in the section on the fiscal situation where it is proposed in the Castro Government Plan:

“A long-term vision will be established in National Planning and the methods for the preparation and approval of national budgets will be changed to consolidate a true public expenditure policy for development.”

This is an issue of great relevance for climate governance given that the Paris Agreement requires countries to develop a long-term development strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These documents must be presented to the international community to complement the provisions established by the Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, which are the cyclical goals that countries adjust to meet climate goals. Unfortunately, there are no references in the proposal to any specific climate or environmental aspect, beyond identifying it as a sector, so what is stated is abstract. This is an important issue given that currently only six countries have submitted their long-term strategies, with Costa Rica’s waiting to be developed.

Environmental theme…

The other source of documentary information that we found to understand Castro’s climate ideology, were the direct statements from the TSE, where  each candidate presents the main points proposed in their respective plans. On the issue of environment and energy, specific actions of Castro’s environmental agenda are laid out.   Natural capital, green taxes, the improvement and reinforcement of environmental policies (urban planning, waste, water resources, and unsustainable performance of productive activities), the alignment of environmental policies with businesses and industries  and the strengthening of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are all mentioned here. It is also said that the planning of the country will be revised to “consolidate sustainable economic and social development, which fosters business growth, employment and sustainable use of the natural wealth of the country.”

In addition, in the transportation infrastructure section of Castro’s Government Program, there is a proposal to develop a rapid train in Costa Rica’s Central Valley through the public works concession. It would be an electric train for public transport in the greater metropolitan area of San Jose, which would reduce travel times of users and road congestion. This proposal is compatible with Costa Rica’s NDC, which calls for an “inter-city electric train.”

The government program sets forth a vision of environmental sustainability as a necessary condition for development. The use of the word natural capital is important, since it expresses a vision of nature from the economic perspective and values its existence in terms of the ecosystem services it provides to society.

“Priority will be given to existing public policies that promote the country’s strong sustainability, consistent with the management of natural capital to promote economic growth and sustainable development. This is to optimize productive resources and environmental services with a functional institutional environment.” Castro Government Program

Another interesting proposal is to revise the governance of Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) on environmental issues, the scope and effectiveness of its stewardship. For a ministry that changes acronyms with each government according to its political vision, it is something that the citizenry should inquire about with the candidate.

What aspects and why do you consider that the governance of MINAE should be revised?

The environmental section of Castro’s Government Program says that it will focus on five areas of political action: “urban expansion and weak urban planning; contamination by solid and liquid waste; the degradation of water resources; the restoration of productive landscapes, and the unsustainable performance of productive activities.”

Other actions that arise are:

  • Create a national system of environmental and geospatial statistics
  • Consolidate the water resource integrated management
  • Strengthen the use of economic instruments for environmental management in the public and private sectors
  • Design economic incentives for the management of water, forests and biodiversity

On petroleum extraction

In a forum with producers and entrepreneurs from the agricultural sector, Castro threatened to upend an 18-year-old moratorium on petroleum exploration in Costa Rica.  The current moratorium has been extended to 2021 by the current administration.  Castro’s words were met with alarm by environmentalists in the country.

“If we live on a treasure of gold or oil, we will exploit it accordingly,” said Castro.

Castro went on to say: “We are not going to subordinate the development and production of this country to the tricks, business and whims of the ecoterrorist groups. I know them, I have confronted them and I have stopped them.” 

And climate change?

Unfortunately, there is no mention of climate change in the publications available on the candidate’s website, Government Program or information provided on the TSE website on governance. There is no mention of key instruments that are being developed as a result of the Paris Agreement or the programs – projects of participating countries.

There are proposals that can be inferred or related to necessary climate actions, but there is no systemic approach in the Government Program. For example, Castro refers to the SDGs, of which objective 13 is climate action.  However, it would be irresponsible to consider this an adequate alternative to directly addressing climate change.  

The climatic actions that the country has been developing over the last two decades and its current commitments are tangible, measurable and have a timetable. Proposals to increase their aspiration or promote their implementation should be in accordance with the reality of climate governance and not ambiguous or abstract. This is what we need to see in the Government Programs or in what is communicated by the candidates in the final phase of the elections.

Climate change governance is not only complex, but is essential for sustainable development plans in any country.  Climate governance is currently reflected in a solid planning and legal structure that Costa Rica has developed over the last 23 years. In addition, it is an issue that transcends the national sphere, since the actions we carry out and declare before the international community will be reported and evaluated with respect to the objectives we set in the NDC as the goal of reduction that all countries have. It is a cross-cutting issue but also interdependent with the international community.

Not making reference to the NDC, Paris Agreement, climate policies and strategies, deliberative open participation councils or any of the cutting-edge programs that identify the country (NAMAs) leaves a gap. Although the environmental issue is mentioned as a priority sector in the structural proposals in general, the climate issue is absent.

The continuity and aspiration of climate governance at the national level is essential.

More information about climate change

It is necessary to establish a dialogue about what candidates propose in their programs and the key tools of climate governance, such as the NDC. In this way we can guarantee progress, transparency and continuous aspiration in the climate action that the Paris Agreement asks of us. This is a task that all citizens must undertake in exercising their right and democratic power.


2018 Elections in Costa Rica: A Theme of Climate Governance

2018 Elections

Costa Rica is about to enter the final phase of its electoral process and there is a diverse group of candidates seeking its citizens’ support.  On the issue of climate, the continuity of effort at governance and the increased desire for action are key to achieving the goals we set  for ourselves.  It is a good time to ask the candidates if their government plans and thinking reflect what is needed to confront climate change and change our development model to one that fully embraces sustainability.


The climate issue has evolved over the 23 years since the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The UNFCCC was the first collective response to combat climate change, which has become a global effort to redefine a viable path for the development of human society and ensure survival in the face of climate change. It is one of the main elements that defined the development of countries under the Paris Agreement.

While this may sound dramatic, climate change affects entire ecosystems and poses a particular threat to our society. Costa Rica, although a small emitter of greenhouse gases, is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  We must look for how to adapt to these negative effects that the current development model has generated.

Costa Rica

Photo: CETAV- UNDP climate change scenario in Costa Rica

Among the risks faced by the country, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) specifically states that Costa Rica will likely suffer from saline water penetration of 150 to 500 meters on the Puntarenas coast, affecting 60 to 90 percent of urban areas.  In addition, amphibians in mountain ecosystems and elsewhere in Costa Rica are particularly vulnerable to extinction from diseases induced by climate change.

More information about climate change

Also, the IPCC points out in a special regional report that the generation of hydroelectric energy and the production of grains and livestock will be especially vulnerable to changes in water supply, particularly in Costa Rica. The changes that the country will begin to experience are well studied and, consequently, a National Adaptation Plan has been designed. To put  the dimension of the challenge in context, the National Climate Change Strategy illustrates how it will affect two basic elements, temperature and precipitation:

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From a financial perspective, the impacts of extreme hydrometeorological events caused by climate change will generate significant economic damage. In the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of Costa Rica, it was estimated that the country has already suffered a total of 1.13 billion dollars in damage from 2005 to 2011. The sectors that have been most affected by climate change are:

  • Road infrastructure
  • Electricity generation infrastructure
  • Farming
  • Housing

It is important to remember these four sectors in analyzing what the electoral candidates in Costa Rica are proposing regarding the climate issue, since we already know what has affected us and how much this damage cost us. In a country where funding is scarce, climate change cannot be left out of the candidates’ government plans, especially because 78.2 percent of the losses mentioned above are public works and will affect the national budget.

The adverse effects of climate change are not fair and will affect the most vulnerable populations of the country.   Women, children and people living in poverty are all disproportionately at risk. The NDC of Costa Rica also tells us an estimate of the damages we can have. It is necessary to emphasize that the development or government of Costa Rica cannot be planned without the climate issue.

“If the country continues to follow its current path, according to some studies, in 2030 losses will amount to more than 7 Billion US Dollars, since 2006, and could reach by 2050 almost 30 Billion US Dollars.”  

Are we going to adapt?

In terms of adaptation, the country has defined objectives that should help us reduce the damage and become more resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change. According to the NDC, the adaptation actions of Costa Rica for the period 2016-2030 are defined so that the government plans of the electoral candidates should also reflect a way to attain them. The adaptation actions that we are going to carry out are the following:

  • Develop a National Adaptation Plan
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Community-based adaptation
  • Adaptation based on ecosystems
  • Planning and local management for territorial adaptation
  • Adaptation of public infrastructure
  • Environmental health as an adaptation measure
  • Capacity development, technology transfer and financing for adaptation

The NDC of Costa Rica gives a brushstroke about each point enunciated but its execution and effectiveness depends on the government in power. It is imperative to know how these goals are going to be achieved or if they will be discarded. An important threat to these goals is that they are not a structural part of the government plan and that their value is only on paper.

We can count on the international community to ask Costa Rica about these points when it has formally declared them, but this does not reduce vulnerability or damage in the end. The only thing that does this is real and effective climate action. With this issue, as with others, it is important to seek coherence and continuity of climate governance goals in the government proposals of the electoral candidates.

Climate governance continues

In ratifying the Paris Agreement, Costa Rica was required to participate in an interdependent, transparent, monitorable process with a common objective: to limit the global temperature increase from 1.5℃ to 2℃. This process has certain tools and a defined timeline for its success, so a country cannot get out of sync without affecting others and being asked to do so.

One of the first public and tangible commitments of Costa Rica in this process was to present its NDC. In this commitment, the country establishes the goals that will be implemented to comply with global climate objectives at the national level. Our main commitment is to decarbonize the economy (one step beyond just carbon neutrality) and become more resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change.

“Costa Rica will center its climate change actions on increasing society’s resilience to the impact of climate change and strengthening the country’s capacity for a low emission development in the long term. Costa Rica will strengthen its climate action with efforts to reduce emissions, following scientific suggestions of what would be necessary to avoid the worst effect of climate change. Climate action will be based on balanced efforts of adaptation to ensure that communities, especially vulnerable communities, become resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.” Costa Rica NDC

The next big step we must take in this process is to declare a long-term development strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These commitments must be accompanied by a transparent system that monitors the country’s actions. This is where the actions that a candidate proposes for the next four years are relevant, given that if there is no continuity in the goals and process, we can miss our commitments and affect the common effort.

To ensure countries’ climate actions are being fulfilled, a system has been designed: the “Global Stocktake.” Beginning in 2023, an evaluation will occur every 5 years and review the progress of each country towards the objectives it has declared and the common goal. In other words, if the future governors do not incorporate the logic of the Paris Agreement into their government plans, our development model, actions and projects that we develop will not help with the common goal, breaking with the effort of so many years. Climate action must be present both in the electoral discussions and in the political implementation of the new government.


2017: A Year in Review with La Ruta del Clima


2017 review

Trump administration reverses course

Within minutes of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the climate change webpage on the official White House website disappeared.  This foreshadowed a crackdown on climate science and Obama-era policies and signaled a seismic shift in policy under this new administration filled with climate deniers and fossil fuel advocates.  


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have helped lead a regulatory rollback of Obama-era policies.  Since January 20, Trump has signed executive orders approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and expanding offshore drilling, Zinke has lifted a moratorium on coal leases on public lands and Pruitt has announced his intention to scrap the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

The United States withdraws from the Paris Agreement, while Syria and Nicaragua join

In a widely criticized move, which Trump claimed was a “a reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” he announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on June 1.  Trump blasted the agreement as a “massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries,” announcing his intention to end the United States’ implementation of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and its payments to the Green Climate Fund.  The United States cannot officially withdraw from the agreement until November 4, 2020.


On October 25, Nicaragua’s Vice President Rosario Murillo stated that her country would be joining the Paris Agreement.  Nicaragua had previously opposed the accord on the grounds that it was not ambitious enough.

During the second day of this year’s climate summit in November, Syrian delegates announced their intention to sign the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only nation opposed to the Paris Agreement.


Natural disasters dominate news cycle

2017 was not a normal year for natural disasters.

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most destructive in history, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate causing devastation in the Caribbean, southern United States and Central America.  Nate led to 22 deaths in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras.  Hurricane Maria crippled Puerto Rico’s power grid and fresh water supply, sparking a humanitarian crisis. The United States suffered more $200 billion dollars from storms this season, making it the most expensive hurricane season ever.

Increasing sea level temperatures and changing atmospheric conditions from climate change in the Atlantic have helped intensify the hurricane season in recent years, with 2017 ranking as one of the seven most intense ever recorded.  

More than 1,200 people died this summer in India, Nepal and Bangladesh from massive flooding during monsoon season.  Rising sea temperatures in South Asia and changing atmospheric conditions have also helped intensify storms in this region.

Wildfires in northern California resulted in over 40 fatalities and billions of dollars of damage.  Countries such as Chile, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Croatia, Greece, Russia, Greenland and Canada were also heavily impacted by wildfires in 2017.  Scientists have speculated that there is a climate component fueling these fires


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One of the hottest years on record

As 2017 winds down, it is on track to be one of the three hottest years on record.  This is coming off the warmest year ever in 2016, with the ten hottest years having all occured since 1998.

COP23 held in Bonn, Germany

This year’s climate negotiations in Bonn, hosted by the island-nation of Fiji, led to a resolution helping advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as the launching of several initiatives and alliances, including:

Talanoa Dialogue:  This inclusive and participatory process will facilitate the “sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling” among governments on how to implement the Paris Agreement and enhance action in countries’ nationally determined contributions.  

Gender Action Plan: This initiative seeks to increase the role of women in climate change governance.

InsuRelience Global Partnership: The InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions was launched with the financial assistance of Germany and the United Kingdom, to help provide insurance and financial protection to populations vulnerable to climate change.  

Powering Past Coal Alliance: Canada and the United Kingdom announced the formation of this alliance, which includes more than two dozen nations, two U.S. states and several Canadian provinces.  The alliance’s members, which include Costa Rica, committed to “phasing out existing traditional coal power in their jurisdictions, and to a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage within their jurisdictions.”

America’s Pledge – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown held a launch event at the U.S. Climate Action Center for the America’s Pledge initiative, which brings together members of the private and public sectors in the United States committed to remaining in the Paris Agreement.   

France and the United Kingdom make strides

Under a draft bill submitted in September, France will no longer issue new oil and gas exploration permits on its mainland and territories, and current concessions will be phased out by 2040.   This bill is largely a symbolic move, as France imports the vast majority of its hydrocarbons used for consumption.  Hulot also announced France will ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and has been vocal about reducing France’s dependence on nuclear energy.

Following France’s lead, the British government announced its intention to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040.  

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced an effective ban on fracking after a public consultation demonstrated overwhelming opposition to the technology.

Tesla and Volvo make advances in electric vehicles

In July, Volvo announced that all new vehicles from 2019 onwards would be hybrid or fully electric.  In a historic move, the Swedish car company announced that it would produce five fully electric models between 2019 and 2021.
Elon Musk revealed an electric semi-truck produced by Tesla in November, promising production would start in 2019.  This new truck can travel up to 500 miles in between charges. 

Giant iceberg splits from Antarctica

An iceberg roughly one-ninth the size of Costa Rica and weighing one trillion tons, split from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica.  While it was unclear the extent that climate change played, this event was symbolic of the urgency of the threat global warming poses.


America’s Pledge: Filling the Void at COP23

During the COP23 Conference in Bonn earlier this month, a group of leaders from state and local governments, the business world, colleges and faith organizations established the U.S. Climate Action Center, a giant pavilion where they reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement.  High profile figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice President Al Gore and California Governor Jerry Brown spoke about the importance of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and meeting the two-degree climate target established in Paris.


IMG_2995During COP23, Bloomberg and Brown held a launch event for America’s Pledge, an initiative that brings together public and private sector leaders committed to meeting the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement. This broad alliance sent a message to the rest of the world that much of the United States was willing to move forward, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord.  Governors, senators, mayors, corporate executives, university presidents, and religious leaders pledged to do their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support renewable energy.  


“The group of U.S. cities, states, and businesses who remain committed to the Paris Agreement represents a bigger economy than any nation outside the U.S. and China,” said Bloomberg in his remarks about America’s Pledge at COP23. “We should have a seat at the table – and the ability to work with peers in other nations. And that’s the aim of this pavilion.”

Bloomberg went on to say: “The Trump Administration did send a delegation here to Bonn, and this might be the first climate conference where coal is promoted as an example of sustainability – but it will also likely be the last. The world is moving on, and so is the U.S.”

Leaders of America’s Pledge initiative were not without their critics who pointed out that many of these leaders have often been at odds with environmentalists.

Governor Brown, who was targeted throughout his appearances in Bonn, presides over the country’s third largest oil- and gas-producing state.  And while Brown has been hailed by some as a climate hero for helping extend California’s cap-and-trade program to 2030 and signing green energy agreements with partnering Chinese cities, he has often been criticized by “keep it in the ground” activists for embracing fracking and urban drilling in California.

Bloomberg has also been a proponent of fracking and was critical of New York’s decision to ban the technology, coauthoring an op-ed piece in The Washington Post entitled “Fracking is too important to foul up.”  Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who spoke at COP23, has been criticized by environmentalists for backing natural gas pipelines and championing off-shore drilling.  

Corporations and banks represented at the U.S. Climate Action Center, such as Walmart, Citigroup, Inc., and JPMorgan Chase, also have mixed environmental records.  While Walmart has pledged to become 100 percent supplied by renewable energy and create zero waste, only about 13 percent of its energy use in the United States comes from renewable energy.   Citigroup, Inc. has committed $100 billion to finance sustainable growth over a 10-year period, but has spent billions of dollars financing coal power plant operators.  JPMorgan Chase financed billions of dollars in extreme oil projects, such as Arctic drilling and tar sands extraction.

While many of the leaders of this initiative have far from immaculate environmental records, their defiant stand at COP23 helps fill the void in U.S. climate leadership that was left by the current administration.  As Bloomberg pointed out, this coalition represents more than half of the U.S. economy and would constitute the world’s third largest economy.  

“Cities, states, regions, and businesses can help to lead the way. Around the world, we need to empower local and regional governments to take action – and to work with business leaders to leverage their resources and expertise,” said Bloomberg. “America’s Pledge seeks to do just that – and we hope the UN will continue working on ways to incorporate non-state actors into the international process, in every country in the world.”


If America is to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement, it will require an all-hands-on-deck strategy. With the current administration turning its back on climate change, other players must step in.  As the world continues to fall short of the Paris Agreement targets, this new coalition of U.S. politicians, corporate executives, religious leaders and university presidents must take leadership in denouncing fossil fuel extraction and committing to carbon neutrality.


Notes from the Bonn Zone Day 11

Thursday marked the next to last day of COP23 as negotiations edged toward a close.


On Thursday morning, a side event on the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) was held in the French Pavilion, where the CAFI presidency was transferred from Norway to France.  The CAFI Initiative partners a group of Central African countries with donors to “recognize and preserve the value of the forests in the region to mitigate climate change, reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development.” The CAFI event featured a variety of speakers from Europe and Central Africa, including Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, Vidar Helgesen, and France’s Minister of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Nicolas Hulot.   They discussed the importance and urgency of CAFI and the role their countries have played in the initiative.

“The gluttony of man for the earth can be limitless.  The planet will not survive the loss of its forest resources,” said Hulot.  

Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, Vidar Helgesen, speaks on CAFI at the French Pavilion.

Hulot stressed the need to be good stewards of the forest: “Our window is getting shorter and shorter.”

Thursday morning also featured a high-profile event on “Uniting for Climate Education Further, Faster, Together through Partnerships.”  The speakers included UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Princess of Morocco Lalla Hasnaa, Saint Lucia Minister of Education Gale Tracy Christiane Rigobert, Italy’s Director General for Sustainable Development, Energy and Climate Francesco La Camera, and climate and education advocate Zuriel Odulowe.


Climate and education advocate Zuriel Odulowe speaks at high-profile event on Uniting for Climate Change.

In her opening remarks, Espinosa highlighted the important work the UNFCCC is doing in relation to climate change.  However, she stressed that there is much work to be done, noting that only 40 percent of countries have climate change in their education curricula.

“We need to do more to prepare people of all ages for the challenges that climate change poses to our societies and our economies,” said Espinosa.  “I call it the age of renewal. Those prepared to lead it will be the ones who will define this century.”

Following her opening remarks, Espinosa signed  a formal cooperation agreement on climate education between the UNFCCC and Morocco’s Mohammad VI Foundation.

The COP Presidency Event on Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action featured a strong lineup of speakers and panelists that included COP President and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, President of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine, Former Irish President Mary Robinson and Minister for Environment and Energy for Costa Rica Edgar Guitierrez Espeleta.  Speakers and panelists discussed the connection between climate change and human rights, their frustration with the lack of progress being made on the ground and the importance of the Geneva Pledge on Human Rights and Climate Action.

IMG_3253 (1).JPG
Former Irish President Mary Robinson addresses Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action 

Robinson delivered the event’s closing remarks with a powerful reminder of the threat climate change poses to human rights.  

“There is no doubt it’s the biggest human rights threat that we face because it becomes an existential threat to the human race if we don’t deal with it,” said Robinson.  “That existential threat is closer than we think.”

Notes from the Bonn Zone: Days 9 and 10

WWF waiting for Emmanuel Macron to visit the #PandaHub

Days 9 and 10 of COP23 marked the arrival of several high profile figures such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General António Guterres as the conference nears its end.  


Tuesday afternoon featured a side event on Migration as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: A Gender Perspective at the Talanoa Space.  The event featured a panel of women speakers from the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Women’s Bureau of The Gambia.  Panelists spoke about the vulnerabilities women face from climate change and the connection with migration in their respective regions.

Ndey Fatou Jobe of the Women’s Bureau of The Gambia spoke about the role women play in her country’s economy, where they comprise 50 percent of the labor force and account for 40 percent of total agricultural production.  Women, she said, are often marginalized in the Gambian economy with limited access to credit.  She also pointed out how climate change has affected agricultural production and compounded struggles faced by women.  Ndey Fatou Jobe believes economic empowerment is the key to reducing women’s vulnerabilities faced by climate change.

Panel discussion on Migration as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: A Gender Perspective

“When you are empowered economically, you become strong,” said Fatou Jobe.  “The most important part is to educate women and provide the necessary finance.”

Later in the afternoon, a group of Democratic and Republican U.S. officials from state governments committed to the Paris Agreement spoke on the importance of meeting the 2°C target, demonstrating that combatting climate change is not a partisan effort.  Democratic governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington delivered powerful speeches on the need for states to take a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while a bipartisan panel of state officials from New York, Maryland, Colorado and Massachusetts reaffirmed this message.

IMG_3109 (1)
Panel discussion on bipartisan efforts to combat climate change with state officials from Maryland, Colorado, Massachusetts and New York

“Donald Trump cannot stop us.  Let’s get on with whipping climate change.  It’s the destiny of our peoples,” said Inslee.

Jared Snyder, the Deputy Commissioner of Air Resources, Climate Change and Resources of New York, paraphrased a famous Mark Twain quote to describe New York’s response to the current political situation: “Support your country all the time. Support your government when it deserves it.” And she added,”On climate change, it is something that we feel differently from our government.”

French environmental minister  and renowned nature documentarian Nicolas Hulot arrived at the French Pavilion on Wednesday morning to talk about the work of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS), an initiative developed by the French government, Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction from the World Bank, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and World Meteorological Organization.  The CREWS initiative is designed to increase the capacity for Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems in vulnerable nations.   Hulot’s presentation was followed by two panels of representatives from participating countries and partnering organizations.

“In the face of climate change, Everyone must be warned well in advance in case of natural disaster. This is the minimum. This is the purpose of the CREWS system,” said Hulot.  

On Wednesday afternoon, the unofficial United States delegation hosted a Business Showcase series of panels, where corporate leaders discussed their initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at their companies.

Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President of Private Sector Engagement at the World Wildlife Fund opened the seven-hour event with the following message: “The big changes will probably not be coming from government.  Business is our innovation center.”

Jeff Moe (left) of Ingersoll Rand and Barry Parkin (center) of Mars, Inc. speak on their companies’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The first event, The Audacity of ‘Still In,’ featured representatives from Ingersoll Rand and Mars Inc., who spoke about their company’s investments in renewables and their efforts to transition to a low-carbon portfolio.

“I think the answer for us is very simple,” said Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer of Mars, Inc.  “We are going all out for clean energy.”


#SamNosCuenta: Notes from the Bonn Zone: Day 8

Marcus Pratsch of DZ BANK AG Speaking at the Talanoa Space

As negotiations resumed on Monday, there was palpable energy in the Bonn Zone that culminated in a spirited protest at a side event held by the United States on “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation.”


This event featured a panel of Trump administration members and the vice president of coal generation and emissions technologies at Peabody Energy, marking this the first time that the official United States delegation had spoken publicly at COP23. A huge line of people waiting to attend the event formed hours before the panel discussion started.  Shortly after the session began, a large group of protesters began singing an alternate version of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”:

So you claim to be an American
But we see right through your greed;
It’s killing across the world
for that coal money.
And we proudly stand up and tell you to
Keep it in the ground.
The people of the world unite
and we are here to say.

Protesters quickly exited the event and were joined by a large group of supporters in the Bonn Zone’s atrium, where the lively rally continued.  

Before this protest, numerous side events focusing on investments in renewable energy and other green technologies were held throughout the Bonn Zone.  An early morning session was held on Sustainable Investment, Private Capital and Climate Finance at the Talanoa Lodge, an exhibition area hosted by the German and Fijian governments built for civil society, industry, regions and municipalities.  Representatives for this event included DZ BANK AG, Commerzbank AG, the African Development Bank Group, Shell International, Ltd. and CDP, an international organization formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project that works with market forces.  Participants talked about the experience of mobilizing private capital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, developing the global green bond market and utilizing the carbon capture and storage process.  

“Ultimately, everyone’s climate portfolios have to be resilient and below the two degree goal,” said Paul Simpson, the CEO of CDP.

Paul Simpson speaking at the Sustainable Investment, Private Capital and Climate Finance side event.

Another side event on Reducing Livestock’s Long Shadow – Opportunities to Keep Warming Well Below 2⁰C was held later that morning.  The event began with a fiery speech by Ifat Zur of the Green Course, an environmental NGO based in Israel.  Zur blasted the livestock industry for being an inefficient and wasteful sector that is built upon the suffering of billions of animals.  Zur criticized the conference for its decision to offer meat options, pointing out the hypocrisy of a climate change conference serving carbon intensive food.

“Lucky for us, vegan food is delicious.  It is better for us,” said Zur.

Flyer for livestock side event.

Zur was followed by Dr. Helen Harwatt, formerly of Loma Linda University.  Harwatt also discussed reducing the footprint of the livestock sector, pointing out it contributes to 23 percent of total warming.

“The Paris Agreement will be increasingly difficult to meet if methane reductions are not also addressed strongly and rapidly,” said Harwatt.

In the afternoon, the French government held a side event on Engie, the French multinational electric utility company, and its role in helping reach the 2℃ target.  The panel featured two speakers, Paul Simons, the Deputy Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IAEA), and Isabelle Kocher, the Chief Executive Officer of Engie.  The panelists discussed strategies undertaken by IAEA and Engie to reduce their carbon footprint.

“We have decided to be at the forefront of the way,” said Kocher.

Following the Engie panel discussion was a side event, Ecovillages for Climate Action: Opportunities for Europe,inspired by Asia, Africa and Latin America.  In this event, speakers working in these three regions of the world shared their stories of their work in investing in solar panels, green buildings and fertilizer technologies.

During the Ecovillages event, Thomas Duveau of Mobisol, a German business that works on installing solar energy systems in East Africa, spoke about  the Solar Revolution – the Contribution of Off Grid Solar to Electrifying Rural Africa.   Duveau stated that a $50 billion investment could provide electricity for the entire continent, pointing out that the only thing that is lacking for this is the investors.