In this second article, from a series of three, we will analyze some of the solutions proposed by the Costa Rican government to solve the crises we face. In the previous article , we gave our analysis about the neoliberal nature of the current government’s environmental approach. In a last article we will analyze true solutions.
As a result of the climate crisis we have faced for some years now, a series of proposals have emerged that are presented as solutions. The different governments have praised them, invested a lot of money in their promotion, and what’s more: they have used them to continue propping up the green image that the country has built over the years in order to attract foreign investment, among other things. And though governments change, the approach is the same regarding environmental matters, since there is a State policy that transcends the political parties that alternate power. All these proposals or solutions (called so by the ruling governments) do not attack the causes of the crises we face, but rather reinforce a system that creates those causes and generate greater inequity and inequality. They also represent another step in deepening these crises. These so-called solutions in turn generate more greenwashing.
In this document we will briefly analyze three major solutions that have been in the public debate for several years, but first we will refer to citizen participation as an essential ingredient in the discussion, elaboration and implementation of any proposal when it comes to environmental matters. The Declaration of Rio, in its principle X says that on environmental matters there must be citizen participation in decision-making (in addition to access to information and justice). This right is also found in other Human Rights conventions and declarations. Nonetheless, this right has been strongly attacked and eroded in Costa Rica since the governments led by the National Liberation and the Social Christian Unity parties, which never promoted or strengthened it during their governments  , nor has it been the case of the last two governments led by the Citizens’ Action party, which has implemented mechanisms lacking direction and have promoted the criminalization of civil protest and social movements  . Without citizen participation, without discussion and joint construction, the environment becomes eroded.
In recent governments, we have identified three major proposals (presented as solutions) that we analyze below:
Carbon Neutrality: is a false solution that arises and is actively promoted in Oscar Arias Sánchez’s last government and what it basically proposes is to neutralize the carbon emissions of any activity through the implementation of various measures. This proposal was promoted by the government as an opportunity to do business from the crisis caused by climate change. For example, a pineapple company was certified as carbon neutral, but they failed to say that this certification was granted because the company measured the emissions of the pineapple freight from the farm to the export port. They planted some trees to say that this is how the emitted carbon was absorbed and thus received the carbon neutral stamp. The use of pesticides, the emissions emanating from the transport of the fruit to its final market, whether or not there was cutting of trees and other species before turning the fields into monocultures was never checked. Car rental companies, offices, banks, and even municipalities have received the carbon neutral certificate for implementing measures such as not using much electricity or heating equipment. In other words, the causes of climate change are not being addressed as they had promised. What a policy like this does is promote business from the crisis. The Carlos Alvarado government, through the Ministry of Environment and Energy, announced that it would not prioritize this policy because it set goals that could perhaps be achieved only within many years  . Nonetheless, it is still being proposed as a solution.
Decarbonization: raises the need to remove carbon from the economy, so in theory, some activities must either be eliminated or at least enter the process to seek their end. This would halt polluting activities and attack the causes of climate change. The government’s approach has been different because it includes compensation mechanisms basically it means that is a company pollutes but pays, it breaks even and thefefore is good. Discussions that we believe are essential do not occur, for example, do we import food or promote national production under agroecological systems in the hands of family units and peasant organizations? If we do the latter, not only could the emissions of carbon be avoided, but internal activities and markets that could help improve the quality of life would be revitalized. The government has also focused its actions on the approval of large loans to build a passenger train in the central valley. Although it is important to have a public transport system for people, it is necessary to attack at the same time the internal transport of cargo, import of vehicles, monocultures (pineapple and bananas, for example), food production, among others if we are to speak seriously about decarbonization  .
Nature-based solutions: this proposal is relatively new. It arises like the previous ones, in the face of the climate crisis that we are experiencing but in the same way, it is far from attacking its causes. Likewise, it begins to be used to address the crisis of loss of biodiversity. Solutions based on Nature is a very broad and simplistic concept that calls for all people who want to combat the climate crisis through the use of nature itself to overcome the crisis. In other words, it is presented as something very easy, which does not imply any structural change and therefore enjoys popularity. This concept is being used more and more by governments, companies and large conservation organizations that under this broad concept enlist REDD-like proposals, compensation mechanisms and try to co-opt real solutions such as agroecology. President Alvarado has referred to this concept when he has spoken about the “new normal” that we will live after the crisis from his position as co-chair of a group formed within the World Economic Forum or Davos Forum.
These three proposals show that we cannot solve crises if the solutions that are presented do not attack the structural causes. Under the current logic, we are only delving deeper and eternalizing those causes, generating new business and providing a green make-up to polluting companies. These solutions are false yet authentic traps.
In the Miguel Angel Rodríguez’s government, an unconstitutionality action was presented against the competencies of the National Commission for Biodiversity Management (CONAGEBio), eliminating the opportunity to build public policies from the discussion between various social stakeholders (social movements, ministries, private sector and academia). However, the chief of SINAC promoted a process of discussion and construction of the positions that the government would take to the Convention on Biological Diversity together with environmental, peasant, indigenous organizations, public institutions, among others.
In the current government led by Carlos Alvarado, legislation against protesting was approved, in addition to a disqualification discourse (even taking it to the personal sphere) against social movements, especially the union workers. This speech has been present in the rhetoric of President Alvarado and also in representatives of the Citizen Action party in congress.
For further analysis and examples about carbon neutrality visit COECOCEIBA-Friends of Earth Costa Rica’s website at www.coecoceiba.org
On our website you will find more detailed analyses about this decarbonization promoted by the Carlos Alvarado administration.