San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica VP denounces Nicaragua at climate change talks

Costa Rica’s first vice-president, Alfio Piva, used the Cancún climate change negotiations on Thursday to condemn environmental damage he says Nicaraguan soldiers caused to the disputed Isla Calero on the San Juan River.

“In the last weeks, Costa Rica has been subjected to extensive environmental destruction [that wasn’t] provoked by nature, but by humankind,” Piva said to delegates.

“Costa Rican territory has been illegally occupied by Nicaraguan troops, and members of its government have caused grave damages to the wetlands and its flora and fauna, in order to open an artificial canal,” he said.

Costa Rica’s foreign ministry has filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice alleging illegal deforestation by Nicaraguan troops, who are accused of digging a canal to connect the San Juan River with a nearby lagoon. Some geologists say that because the San Juan River is connected to the Caribbean Sea, draining water into the lagoon could change the water’s salinity levels, killing fish and harming drinking water for birds.

“[D]estroying forests and wetlands increases the risk and vulnerability of the poorest populations, including the African diaspora communities along the Caribbean coast, as well as the region’s  indigenous communities, who are constantly exposed to hurricanes, floods and other extreme climate events,” Piva said.

The Costa Rican vice-president urged developed nations to fulfill their promise of providing $1 billions to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change. Developed countries announced their intention to pay the amount in Copenhagen last year during the United Nations’ 15th climate change conference, but the agreement is not legally binding.

Piva acknowledged that even $1 billion would be “insufficient to substantially advance efforts at mitigating climate change.”

See this week’s Tico Times print edition for more news from the U.N.’s climate change conference in Cancún, Mexico.

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