Pew Applauds Costa Rica’s Bold New Plan to Protect Coastal Wetlands

Government shows global leadership in its commitment to nature-based solutions to climate change

WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts today praised the government of Costa Rica for committing to protect coastal wetlands within its updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement. As outlined in the NDC, the country’s actions will help reduce carbon emissions and build resilience to the impacts of climate change: “Costa Rica will continue to lead in conservation, responsible use and restoration of coastal wetlands through deepening scientific knowledge of the ecosystem services these habitats provide and will take steps to better protect and restore these spaces.”

Coastal wetlands such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and tidal salt marshes are home to some of the richest biodiversity on the planet, and scientists and governments are increasingly recognizing their effectiveness as nature-based solutions to climate change. In addition to sequestering three to five times more carbon per acre than other tropical forests, these “blue carbon” ecosystems can help coastal communities adapt to the impacts of climate change by offering flood protection from storm surges.

Scientific understanding of the climate benefits provided by coastal wetlands has developed rapidly in the past decade, aided in particular by the development of methodologies approved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to measure mitigation benefits. However, although many countries’ first NDCs to the Paris Agreement recognized the potential of these ecosystems, few of them outlined specific policies or goals to protect and preserve these climate benefits.

Costa Rica’s updated NDC outlines a suite of detailed commitments to protect and restore coastal wetlands, including:

  • Protection of 100% of coastal wetlands recorded in the country’s National Wetland Inventory—including 22,000 hectares of mangroves.
  • Restoration of priority coastal wetlands areas by 2025.
  • Development of management and monitoring plans that will enable sustainable community stewardship of mangrove areas that are key to local livelihoods.
  • Exploration of innovative conservation financing mechanisms, including the potential expansion of the existing payment for ecosystem services model applied to some terrestrial ecosystems.

“Protection of blue carbon ecosystems in our updated NDC can have real benefits in helping mitigate and adapt to climate change,” said Haydée Rodríguez, Costa Rica’s vice minister for water and the ocean, “both within Costa Rica and more broadly in supporting similarly ambitious countries.”

Thomas Hickey, senior officer of Pew’s protecting coastal wetlands and coral reefs project, issued the following statement:

“Costa Rica is once again leading by example. This NDC outlines a clear and bold path that will not only conserve and restore these amazing ecosystems, but also provide vital learnings for other countries looking at the role nature-based solutions can play in climate policy. 

“Pew is pleased to be working in partnership with the Costa Rican government, Conservation International, and regional experts at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in support of these ambitious goals.”

“Costa Rica has long been an example of achieving sustainable economic growth while valuing and protecting nature,” noted Ana Gloria Guzmán Mora, executive director of Conservation International Costa Rica. “The country now consolidates its position as a global leader with the recognition of the role of oceans and coastal ecosystems for climate action. This NDC is a perfect complement to Costa Rica’s national decarbonization strategy and represents the ambitious commitments the country has made to ensure that people, climate, and nature thrive.”

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