Costa Rica

Overall rating
Almost Sufficient
Policies & action
1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible
< 1.5°C World
Domestic target
Almost Sufficient
< 2°C World
Fair share target
1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible
< 1.5°C World
Cimate finance
Not applicable
Net zero target

year

2050

Comprehensiveness evaluated as

Acceptable
Land use & forestry

impact on overall emissions is

Relevant

Paris Agreement targets

NDC description

Costa Rica’s NDC from December 2020 includes a target of 9.11 MtCO2e emissions in 2030 and a cumulative emissions budget between 2021 and 2030 of 106.53 MtCO2e emissions (including LULUCF with global warming potentials, GWPs, from the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report, SAR). The CAT estimates the 2030 target to be 12.3 to 12.9 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF in GWPs from the IPCC’s fourth assessment report (see “Assumptions” section for details). For 2030, this is equivalent to an increase between 90% and 98% above 1990 levels excluding LULUCF or 4% below to 1% above 2010 levels.

The CAT rates Costa Rica's target as "Almost" when rated against modelled domestic pathways ("domestic target"), and "1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible" when rated against the fair share contribution ("fair share target"). Costa Rica does not specify a conditional target or an international element in its NDC, so we rate the unconditional target against the two rating frameworks.

Domestic target:
Almost Sufficient

In the absence of a target conditional of international support, we rate Costa Rica’s unconditional 2030 reduction target as “Almost sufficient” when compared with modelled domestic emissions pathways. The “Almost sufficient” rating indicates that Costa Rica’s domestic target—what it aims to do with its own resources and its own territory—in 2030 is not yet consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit but could be, with moderate improvements.

Costa Rica’s updated climate target represents a significant improvement compared to its first NDC, however it is not stringent enough to limit warming to 1.5°C. To improve its rating and be consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit, Costa Rica could submit a conditional 2030 climate target that is at least 18% lower than its current unconditional target (equivalent to an absolute emissions limit of 11 MtCO2e excl. LULUCF in 2030) and, if necessary, outline the international support that it would need to achieve it.

Fair share target:
1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible

We rate Costa Rica’s 2030 unconditional NDC target as “1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible” when compared with its fair-share contribution to climate action. The “1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible” rating indicates that Costa Rica’s fair share target is consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. Costa Rica’s fair share target does not require other countries to make comparably deeper reductions or greater effort and is in the most stringent part of its Fair Share range.

Further information on how the CAT rates countries (against modelled pathways and fair share) can be found here.


Last NDC update

Costa Rica’s updated NDC, submitted on 30 December 2020, includes two unconditional targets: an absolute single year 2030 emissions target, and a multi-year emissions budget for 2021 - 2030. The absolute emissions target is a little more stringent at face value but translates to a 2% lower to 2% higher difference from the first NDC’s absolute target depending on expected emissions from forestry.

Costa Rica’s NDC outlines various sectoral measures and targets but fails to specify the sectoral breakdown. Specifying the sectoral breakdown or at least the contribution of the forestry sector to its target would improve the climate target’s transparency. Costa Rica’s NDC claims to be 1.5°C-compatible, however this is not substantiated in its submission.

Net zero and other long-term target(s)

We evaluate the net zero target as: Acceptable.

Costa Rica announced a net zero target for 2050 in its National Decarbonisation Plan 2018-2050 (Government of Costa Rica, 2019). The net zero target generally covers the key elements but fails to meet best practice standards for some of them.

Costa Rica’s target covers all sectors and gases underpinned by emissions pathway analysis and the communication of strategic goals and emissions targets per sector. Pathways and key measures are identified comprehensively with interim goals attributable to discernible periods to reach net zero through domestic actions and without the use of international credits.

The Costa Rican government currently fails to provide explicit and transparent assumptions on several key elements. Strikingly, Costa Rica provides no information on its intention to establish a periodic reviewing cycle of measures and interim targets. To further saturate their strategy, Costa Rica could provide separate targets for emission reductions and removals and include emissions from international bunkers. The policy document has also not yet been enshrined in law, which could make targets and measures legally binding and more perspicuous.

In 2019, Costa Rica presented its National Decarbonisation Plan 2018-2050 (Gobierno de Costa Rica, 2019b). In this document Costa Rica sets a national target of net-zero emissions in 2050—emissions including LULUCF—and describes a roadmap towards achieving this target. According to the sectoral breakdown provided in the plan, emissions in 2050 will be 5.5 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF. The pathway towards decarbonisation has been modelled domestic as a linear decrease between 2020 and 2050. For 2030, the decarbonisation pathway is between 0.3 MtCO2e and 1.4 MtCO2e below Costa Rica’s NDC target.

There is no clarity on whether the National Decarbonisation Plan replaces Costa Rica’s 2030 and long-term NDC targets as it has not yet submitted an updated NDC to the UNFCCC, but this is expected in 2020. This decarbonisation pathway is more ambitious than Costa Rica’s NDC targets. The NDC long-term target aims at keeping emissions below 7.2 MtCO2e by 2050 including LULUCF with GWPs from AR4 (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, 2015b). In its NDC, Costa Rica additionally sets per capita emissions targets of 1.2 tCO2e in 2050, and - 0.3 tCO2e in 2100 (both of which with SAR GWPs). For the 2050 NDC target, we have estimated a range for the 2050 target based on our assumptions of LULUCF projections given that Costa Rica only provided LULUCF projections until 2030 (see “Assumptions” section for details). We do not include the 2100 target in our analysis.

2020 Pledge

In 2011, Costa Rica communicated the implementation of a “long-term economy-wide transformational effort to enable carbon-neutrality”, that is, to have zero net emissions including LULUCF (UNFCCC, 2011). In its previous assessments, the CAT interpreted this target to mean carbon neutrality by 2021, based on the National Climate Change Strategy (ENCC) from 2008 (Ministerio de Ambiente Energia y Telecommunicaciones, 2009).

In its 2015 NDC (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, 2015b), Costa Rica gave a completely different interpretation of its carbon neutrality goal, namely being carbon neutral by 2085, starting in 2021. Indeed, according to the NDC, the definition of carbon neutrality by 2021 was changed to “(achieve) total net emissions comparable to total emissions in 2005”. The reasons for the change in the interpretation of the pledge, which in practical terms means a delay in climate action of 64 years, are unclear. Compared to the pledge, however, the NDC is more precise. The NDC provides exact net emission projections for 2021 (13.5 MtCO2e in GWPs from AR4).

In 2019, Costa Rica again announced its goal to be carbon neutral—this time by 2050 (Gobierno de Costa Rica, 2019b). It is unclear whether this carbon neutrality goal supersedes Costa Rica’s NDC targets, which are less ambitious. Costa Rica plans to submit an updated NDC in 2020. As stated on their National Decarbonisation Plan, this and other planning documents will inform the NDC update process (Gobierno de Costa Rica, 2019b).

Summary table

Latest publications

Stay informed

Subscribe to our newsletter