San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias Urges Investment At Climate Summit

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias addressed attendees at a United Nations climate change summit in New York on Tuesday with a message of wiser spending to help cool a warming planet.

Arias insisted that the world has a maximum of eight years to employ strategies designed to reverse the effects of global warming.

He said such a commitment would require strong investment in developing countries that suffer the most from natural disasters. Arias criticized the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – a group of the world’s wealthiest nations – for not offering enough assistance.

“Last year, the OECD dedicated $120 billion to international development aid, less than half of what international accords require them to provide,” he said. “We must construct an international platform against global warming that allows us to channel aid … from one country to another.”

Arias said that developing countries, which depend heavily on agriculture, need financial help in building and repairing infrastructure, often damaged by storms and fickle weather conditions of excessive rain or drought.

Jairo Hernández, Costa Rica’s deputy representative to the U.N., said that developing nations play the most important role in fighting climate change because they must find ways to cut emissions while not impeding their essential economic growth.

The main task of developed and industrial countries – such as the United States and China, which account for the majority of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions – will be to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who also spoke at the summit, said that the U.S. has made an investment aimed at doubling the generating capacity of renewable energy sources over the next three years. In the first half of 2009, the U.S. generated about 11 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

Costa Rica has long relied on renewable energy sources to generate more than 90 percent of the electricity the country consumes annually, but the amount of dieselgenerated thermal energy used by the country increased between 2005 and 2007, and it is expected to increase in the coming year, as well (see separate story, page 6).

Arias’ administration recently introduced a bill in the Legislative Assembly that would open the nation’s energy market to competition.

The bill is designed to encourage new investment in renewable sources, eventually allowing the country to produce 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy technology (TT, Sept.4).

And reciting perhaps his favorite talking point, Arias said that the $13 trillion of military spending worldwide that has been allotted for the next 10 years would best be used to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

“The world has, in its military spending, a savings account that must be used to save our species from a very real enemy,” he said.

With nonproliferation meetings scheduled after this week’s conference, Arias said the world will “have little use for nuclear submarines when the ocean becomes a burning cesspool … and little use for missiles that set their sites on nothing more than cockroaches in a barren desert.”

Tuesday’s summit was promoted as an chance for heads of state to begin negotiations toward a new pact at the Copenhagen climate change conference in December. The last international treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 183 nations that pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 8 percent from 1990 levels, will expire in 2013.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon requested that countries reach a specific treaty at Copenhagen with regards to reducing emissions. In his remarks, he commended Japan and the European Union for their commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent before the year 2020.

Costa Rica already has vowed to become the world’s first carbon neutral country by the year 2021.


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