Cost Rica to introduce permanent ban on fossil fuel exploration

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Aug 4 - Today, Costa Rican lawmakers will discuss a bill to permanently ban fossil fuel exploration and extraction, a move which would prevent future governments from pivoting on the issue as the popular eco-tourism destination country aims to decarbonize by 2050. In 2002, Costa Rica started efforts to ban fossil fuel exploration under President Abel Pacheco. This ban was supposed to be extended in 2014 but expires later until 2050. The new bill, which is supported by the administration of President Carlos Alvarado would go further with permanent blocking it. Our concern now is to remove the temptation, either today or at any time tomorrow, for there to be any current or future government who might think that returning to fossil fuels of the past century is actually a good idea for our country, Christiana Figueres, a former U.N. climate chief and former Costa Rican government official who publicly advocated for the bill, said in an interview with Reuters. Only a few other countries are attempting to ban fossil fuel exploration and production, including Belize which aims to do so by 2040 and France which prohibits exploration and drilling in all its territorial waters. Costa Rica's rich biodiversity draws international tourists to its jungles and coastal eco-resorts, and it is considered a global model for climate change initiatives. It has never explored or extracted fossil fuels and gets 99% of its electricity from renewable sources, most notably hydropower, according to officials. The country of 5 million people aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. A permanent ban would send a powerful message to the world, says Reuters. A pro-exploration movement has been trying since 2019 to bring a referendum on oil and gas exploration but has failed to get a vote. The permanent fossil fuel ban has faced opposition from some politicians who argue that the resources could help the Central American country bounce back from an 8.7% drop in GDP in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Figueres, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, said fossil fuel extraction for economic recovery makes absolutely no sense, as the Costa Rica's reserves have not been proven commercially viable. If we had them, we probably wouldn't see income from them for at least 10 to 15 years from now when demand for oil and gas is actually going to be even less than it is now, Figueres said, adding that she believes the ban has a good chance of approval as well as impact. This is very important because those of us that are actually doing the right thing, we definitely punch above our weight, added Figueres. Just because Costa Rica is tiny doesn't mean that we have no voice. Lawmakers will consider the bill this week, although a vote may not come before October, according to a lawmaker involved.