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Move over, Emmys: This country is the 2019 Champion of the Earth

Move over, Emmys: This country is the 2019 Champion of the Earth
[Photo: Berti Benbanaste/Unsplash]

The Emmy Awards may have had the TV industry abuzz last night, but the real prize won’t be handed out until Wednesday. That’s when the United Nations crowns one country it’s Champion of the Earth, which is the UN’s highest environmental honor. This is a Muhammed Ali-style prize fight for the country that is doing the most to combat climate change and winning what is basically a fight for our future.

This year’s champion? Costa Rica.

The Central American country has a plan in place to decarbonize its economy by 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN’s’ Sustainable Development Goals. Costa Rica’s energy is already more than 95% renewable. In 2017, the country ran for a record 300 days solely on renewable power, and the goal is to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

That’s not all: Thanks to an aggressive push to reverse decades of deforestation, more than 50% of the trees have been restored. Those trees are a key element of Costa Rica’s plan to soak up any lingering carbon emissions. Seventy percent of all buses and taxis are expected to be electric by 2030, with full electrification projected for 2050. It’s all part of the country’s plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, including reforms to transportation, energy, waste, and land use to help the country make sure it releases no more carbon emissions than it can offset.

All this, even though the country of five million people only produces about 0.4% of the world’s global emissions. Hopefully, though, Costa Rica’s success in placing environmental concerns at the heart of its political and economic policies could provide a template for other nations as the world (or at least its political and business leaders) slowly recognize that they need to act quickly to curb the deadly emissions that cause rapid, disastrous climate change.

“Receiving the Champions of the Earth award on behalf of Costa Rica, its entire population, the past generations who protected the environment, and future generations fills me with pride and emotion for what Costa Rica has achieved and for what we can continue to do because we can achieve even more,” said Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, in a press release. “I feel very proud to be Costa Rican.”

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