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Current situation

What is Costa Ricaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Emissions profile

While the power sector emission intensity is close to reaching zero emissions, the transport sector is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels and accounted for 36% of Costa Rica’s 2015 emissions. Agriculture is the second highest emitting sector, accounting for another 35% of Costa Rica’s emissions. Due to its high proportion of forest cover, the LULUCF sector represents a large sink for Costa Rica, absorbing around 13% of 2015 emissions with a sink of 2.2 MtCO₂e/yr. Waste is the third highest emitting sector in the country, with most of the emissions in this sector due to anaerobic decomposition of organic waste in landfills, which produces high levels of methane, and low levels of recycling of other materials.6,7

As electrification of the power sector increases to a target of 100% by 2030, the transport sector will continue to be the highest emitting sector through 2030 and beyond, and therefore represents the greatest opportunity for emissions reductions.6 Agriculture is another sector projected to continue increasing emissions unless rapid mitigation can be achieved.

1 Climate Action Tracker. Climate Target Update Tracker: Costa Rica. (2020).

2 Climate Action Tracker. Costa Rica: Current Policy Projections. (2020).

3 Gobierno de Costa Rica. Contribución Nacionalmente Determinada. (2020).

4 Government of Costa Rica. National Decarbonization Plan. (2019).

5 International Energy Agency. IEA Country Profiles: Costa Rica. (2021).

6 Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía. Second Biennial Update Report. (Costa Rica, 2019).

7 Ministerio de Salud Costa Rica. Plan Nacional para la Gestión Integral de Residuos 2016-2021. (2016).

8 Ministerio de Ambient y Energia Costa Rica. Reforma Declara Moratoria Nacional para explotación petrolera. Sistema Costarricense de Información Jurídica (2019).

9 Salgado, L., Dumas, M., Feoli, M. & Cedeño, M. Mercado doméstico voluntario de carbono de Costa Rica: Un instrumento haciala C-Neutralidad. (2013).

10 Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía – Gobierno de Costa Rica. Plan Nacional de Energía 2015-2030. Plan Nacional De Plan Nacional De Observación (2015).

11 Gobierno de Costa Rica. Segundo Informe Biennial De Actualización: Costa Rica. (2016). doi:10.1787/eco_outlook-v2016-2-graph80-fr

12 Gobierno de Costa Rica, MINAE & MOPT. Plan Nacional de Transporte Eléctrico 2018-2030. (2019).

13 Gobierno de Costa Rica. Ley 9518: Incentivos y promoción para el transport eléctrico. Sistema Costarricense de Información Jurídica (2017).

14 Ministerio de Ambiente y Energia Costa Rica. Estrategia para la ganadería baja en carbono en Costa Rica. 110 (2015).

15 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

16 Least-cost pathways analysed here assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Costa Ricaʼs current GHG emissions

MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values

By sector

  • Transport
  • Industry (energy use)
  • Buildings
  • Other
  • Power
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Agriculture
  • Waste
  • Industry (processes)
  • LULUCF
Energy (50%)⟵ LULUCF negative emissions

By gas

  • CO₂
  • CH₄
  • N₂O
  • Other
00

Sectors by gas

Energy
096%0
Agriculture
00
Industry (processes)
076%0

Energy system

Costa Rica uses virtually no coal or natural gas in its total primary energy supply (TPES). Thanks to a moratorium issued on domestic oil production and exploration beginning in 2021, only imported oil would be able to play a role in Costa Rica’s energy supply.8

While the power sector is nearly completely decarbonised, with renewables already accounting for 99% of generation in 2017, oil still plays a considerable role in TPES, accounting for 53% of total energy supply in 2018.5 This is mainly due to the ongoing use of oil-based fuels in the transport sector. The National Plan for Electric Transportation and the National Decarbonization Plan set ambitious targets for decarbonising transport, with key targets of a 30% share of electric vehicles in the light vehicle fleet by 2035, and a 95% share of zero-emissions vehicles by 2050.

Targets and commitments

Economy-wide targets

Target type

Fixed level target

NDC target

Unconditional target:

  • Absolute emissions of 9.11 MtCO₂e/yr in 2030 (incl. LULUCF).
  • Additional cumulative emissions budget of 106.53 MtCO₂e/yr (incl. LULUCF) for the period 2021-2030.
  • Absolute emissions of 106.53 MtCO₂e/yr in 2030 (excl. LULUCF) (equivalent to 10-14% below 2015 levels excl. LULUCF).

Market mechanism

  • Costa Rica uses a voluntary domestic carbon market since 2011 where companies and other emitters can trade credits that have been domestically verified.9

Long-term target

  • Costa Rica has set a net zero GHG emissions target for 2050, including LULUCF.4 This translates to 5 MtCO₂e/yr in 2050 when LULUCF is excluded.2,4

Sector coverage

EnergyTransportIndustryWasteAgricultureLULUCF

Greenhouse gas coverage

CO₂CH₄NF₃HFCsN₂OSF₆

Sectoral targets

Energy

  • The government extended an existing moratorium on exploration and exploitation of oil from 2021 to the end of 2050.8 While this prohibits further production of oil within the country, it does not indicate any phase out date for the use of imported oil as fuel within the country.
  • The updated NDC also sets a target for reducing black carbon emissions from energy by 20% compared to 2018 levels by 2030.3

Agriculture

  • In their Low Carbon Livestock Strategy, Costa Rica aims to reduce emissions from the livestock sector by 2% annually within the period 2015-2025.14

LULUCF

  • Costa Rica’s updated NDC (2020) aims to achieve zero deforestation for mature forests by 2030.3
  • It also sets a target to increase forest cover by 60% by 2030 and to reach 69,500 hectares of agroforestry and silvopastoral systems together with the agricultural sector by the same year.

Power

  • The National Energy Plan 2015-2030 sets a target for 2021 to reach 100% of electricity generated from renewable sources.10 The target’s timeline was updated to 2030 under Costa Rica’s updated NDC submission in 2020.3

Transport

  • Aim to reduce emissions from the transport sector by 65% by 2050, mainly through electrification of transport.11
  • The National Plan for Electric Transportation aims to reduce transport emissions by 3 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030.12
  • The updated NDC (2020) sets a target for 8% of the national light passenger vehicle fleet to be electric by 2030.3
  • The National Decarbonization Plan (2018 – 2050) sets further targets for the share of electric vehicles in the national light vehicle fleet to reach 30% by 2035 and to reach 95% zero-emission vehicles by 2050.4
  • Law 9518 establishes tax incentives, parking quotas and charging infrastructure requirements for electric vehicles, such as 69 fast charging stations becoming operational by 2022.4,13

Footnotes