San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Companies receive nod for carbon efforts

From the print edition

Businesses that have made efforts to measure and reduce their carbon emissions in Costa Rica got some recognition last week from the Environment Ministry (MINAET).

Nine companies received recognition during the Second Environmental Congress, organized by MINAET and the Costa Rican Chamber of Industries, which has held at San José’s Radisson Hotel on June 28. 

Companies such as Bridgestone, Intel Costa Rica, Travel Excellence, Florida Bebidas, FLorex, Holcim Costa Rica, Geocycle, Cooperativa de Productores de Leche Dos Pinos R.L and Plycem were acknowledged for taking steps to analyze emissions sources – from energy and fuel consumption to residual wastes and water use – and for finding areas to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

William Alpízar, director of MINAET’s climate change program, noted that “the union of public policy … [and] these businesses will carry us successfully to our goal of low-emissions development for the country.”

Costa Rica has set its sights high in terms of reducing the country’s carbon emissions.  It aims to be the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021. That’s going to require a lot of effort on different fronts. For example, in 2010, Costa Rica produced more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide, and it will have to reduce or offset 1 million tons annually to hit the 2021 mark. 

Climate scientists say that global CO2 emissions need to be reduced by 80 percent to avoid increasing global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. That 2-degree mark is considered the threshold beyond which the effects of climate change will become catastrophic and irreversible (TT, Jan. 13).

Alpízar said efforts by the nine companies represent a reduction of approximately 700,000 tons of CO2 emissions in Costa Rica since 2010.

“The forestry sector offsets approximately three million tons [of CO2 annually], Alpízar said. With these 9 businesses reducing their emissions by 700,000 tons, if we had 20 businesses do the same we’d be approaching what our forestry sector offsets. That’s not negligible,” Alpízar added.

Recognizing businesses that make efforts to reduce their carbon footprint is the first step in developing a national carbon registry. The second step is creating a carbon market to allow businesses to purchase or trade carbon credits after they have reduced emissions as much as possible. 

The development of a carbon market for major industries is part of Costa Rica’s approach to lowering the overall level of emissions. The country is also testing a program called Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) in the agricultural sector, led by coffee cooperative Coopedota, which produces the world’s first certified carbon-neutral coffee. NAMA focuses on water use, cogeneration of electricity from coffee waste and distillation of biodiesel from byproduct.

Alpízar said MINAET is working with the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) to implement cleaner technologies in public transportation. In the next few months, public concessions in the transport sector are set to expire, Alpízar said, and MINAET is working with MOPT to negotiate clean technology in the next round of concessions in the sector.

“In the long term, we are talking about expensive investments. It isn’t only a question of incorporating new technologies and making routes more efficient, which requires political will. That is simple,” Alpízar said.

Critical infrastructure – the kind that the giant sinkhole that appeared last week on the General Cañas Highway highlighted – needs improvement and new designs to change the way people think about transportation and cities in order to drastically reduce the country’s carbon emissions, he said.

Meanwhile, companies recognized for reducing carbon emissions are already reaping benefits.

“From 2010 to 2012, we have achieved a carbon-emissions reduction of about 5 percent,” said Gerardo Miranda, environmental manager at Florida Bebidas, a subsidiary of Florida Ice and Farm. “But we will start our big reduction projects in 2014, which requires an investment in new technologies.” 

Miranda said the 5 percent reduction has meant savings of about $700,000 for the company since 2010, as detecting inefficiencies in fuel, electricity and water consumption helps reduce costs. 

“The big advantage that Florida Bebidas has is that we already had an environmental management system in place,” Miranda said. “So, everything we did at the level of measuring our footprint we could overlay on that existing system. Practically the only additional cost was the cost of certification.”

The company received certification from the National Institute of Technical Norms, a private quality standards organization.

“It is very important for businesses to have a system of environmental management,” Miranda said. “In terms of energy efficiency, the big advantage is that you can recuperate the cost of investment in reductions in energy costs. There’s a period of time before you see the return, but you can definitely see the advantages with time.”

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