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Issues of the Day Environmental Milestones in Global Warming Efforts, Carbon-Free Energy Production

Two international accords were reached over the past few weeks that limit greenhouse gas emissions. This, and a report in La Nación indicating that alternative-energy leader Costa Rica has completed more than 110 consecutive days using power generated entirely from renewable sources suggest that serious efforts are underway to combat climate change.


International Agreements

A pact reached on Oct. 6, 2016 in Montreal at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN-affiliated agency representing 191 countries stipulates that aircraft greenhouse gas emissions will top off at 2020 through the use of alternative fuels and improved technologies. 


According to AP, voluntary compliance to limit the discharge of earth-warming substances into the atmosphere by aircraft will take place from 2021-2027 and then will become mandatory. 


The resulting reductions in CO2 emissions is estimated to be equivalent to removing 39 million cars from the roads each year.


A second major accord was ratified by the representatives of 170 countries last weekend in Kigali, Rwanda. The agreement aims to curtail hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a coolant used in air-conditioning and refrigeration that, though representing a small percent of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is one thousand times more damaging than carbon dioxide, the most prevalent substance of this kind.  


Three Important Pacts

As reported in Scientific American, the negotiators at the Rwanda meeting concluded the third of three recent international pacts aimed at combatting global warming. The first was the result of the historic Paris Climate Change Conference in Dec. 2015 when delegates from 190 countries agreed to adopt policies aimed at keeping global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius and if possible, 1.5 degree C, the former being considered the upper limit to how much temperature rise the planet could endure before extensive and irreversible climate change effects take place.  The second major agreement was the aviation pact.


Whether this trio of impressive agreements will be implemented remains to be seen.


Still, the very fact that these accords were hammered out offers room for optimism.


Costa Rica: Edging Toward Sustainability

Costa Rica, a small country on the Central American isthmus with 4.8 million inhabitants is showing the world at large that it is possible to lower the human carbon footprint without sacrificing the welfare of citizens. 


So far this year, this middle-income country which is evolving into a resilient market economy based on a strong social welfare state system has accumulated 189 days during which its energy needs were fully met through the use of non-carbon sources. Globally, only 20 percent of power needs are met by mobilizing such sources. 


From June through early September Costa Rica met 79% of its energy requirements by harnessing riverine power through a sophisticated network of turbines and dams, while 13% of its remaining needs was met from geothermal sources and 3% through wind generation.


The Will to Become Carbon-Neutral

Since 2012 Costa Rica has on average derived 71% of its power needs from hydroelectric sources, 21% from other renewable sources and 8% from geothermal ones. The country is blessed with many rivers and mountains and is dotted with active volcanoes and hot springs and these natural power founts are the primary sources of Costa Rica’s electricity. Also, wind power is being developed to help meet the country’s energy needs.


Costa Rica enjoys both a particularly rich resource endowment including those that enable it to be a leader in alternative energy production (The Guardian) and a deep-seated commitment to protecting its environment. 


The national leadership aims to make the country carbon-neutral by 2021. To do so, Costa Rica will need to reduce it’s dependence on fossil fuels for transportation, which constitutes the country’s next challenge on the way to becoming what might be the world’s most environmentally sustainable society. 

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