San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica to make big demands at Copenhagen talks

Although global climate change policy negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark have been downplayed in recent weeks, Costa Rica will place hefty demands on the table at next week´s conference in northern Europe.

The Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) said Tuesday that developed and industrialized countries, such as the United States, must reduce emissions by at least 45 percent before the year 2020. At the talks, Costa Rican negotiators will demand technological and financial support for developing nations to adapt to climate change and will insist that a new agreement include accords for forest conservation, wording that was left out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Costa Rica´s chief negotiator at the talks, former environment minister Alvaro Umaña, claimed that carbon sequestration by planting and preserving trees is the “cheapest and easiest way to reduce emissions.”

Umaña proposes that countries adopt mechanisms to reverse deforestation and implement initiatives such as Costa Rica´s subsidies for environmental services, a program that uses a 3.5 percent gas tax to pay rural residents and farmers to plant trees and protect forests on their property. The program has contributed to Costa Rica´s ability to reforest more than 30 percent of its national land in the past two decades.

Long term, Costa Rican delegates will ask countries to cut emissions by 95 percent before 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Representatives will also recommend penalties for countries that do not comply with specific emission reduction goals.

The original goal of the United Nations´ Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen was to draft a legally binding treaty that would establish specific emission reduction and precise figures for financial aid. But at a Nov. 15 summit in Singapore, world leaders decided against a legal pact and will instead seek short-term, general consensus to cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide economic assistance to developing countries. Firm global agreements will follow in 2010, according to news reports.

While Umaña acknowledged that none of his demands will have legal legs this time around, he said the recently awarded time extension “should not be used as an excuse not to act.”

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has yet to announce whether he will attend the talks, which will take place from Dec. 7 to 18.

See the Dec. 4 print or digital edition for more on the Copenhagen climate talks.

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