Air We Breathe
It is well known that trees act as the “lungs of the Earth.” Trees now blanket more than half of Costa Rica, and nearly a third of them are thriving in protected areas. More trees means more oxygen for all of us to breathe.
By protecting forests and mangroves instead of destroying them, Costa Rica is at the forefront of the global effort to slow climate change. Costa Rica’s trees pull the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, out of the air and lock the carbon away in their wood and in the soil beneath them. The result? More than 238 million metric tons of carbon stored in Costa Rica’s forests, on top of the more than 35 million metric tons stored in 41,800 hectares of mangroves. Multiple studies indicate that coastal mangrove forests store more carbon than any other forest on Earth, making them crucial in the fight against climate change.
Jobs and Prosperity
From the coasts to the inland forests, Costa Rica’s natural resources provide more than beautiful settings: They represent jobs and income for both residents and the nation. The Gulf of Nicoya, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean and one of the country’s most productive estuaries, provides food and livelihoods for more than 4,000 small-scale fishers. Through Costa Rica’s “payment for ecosystem services” program, farmers and landowners who maintain and restore their forests are paid for the carbon, water and biodiversity services their land provides — services that benefit people near and far. From 2010-2014, the country invested US$ 61 million in the program, benefiting more than 7,000 landowners and protecting 600,000 hectares of private land.
Energy to Fuel Growth
A world leader in renewable energy use, Costa Rica derives 90% of its electrical power from green sources such as water, wind and the country’s many volcanoes. Building on that success, the government aims to make Costa Rica the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021.
Joy and Inspiration
Costa Rica’s system of national parks and protected areas covers about 23% of the country’s land area. More than 2.5 million tourists (more than half of Costa Rica’s population) journey to swim in waterfalls, zip-line through the trees and view the country’s unique wildlife, illustrating how ecotourism can help locals earn a living from the forests in a sustainable way. The country’s diverse marine life also attracts divers and snorkelers. Annually, more than 3,000 people a year visit Cocos Island National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 365 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast with the most shark-rich waters on Earth — and the inspiration for the fictional Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park.