Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Costa Rican lawmakers this week will discuss a bill to permanently ban fossil fuel exploration and extraction, a move that would prevent future governments from pivoting on the issue as the popular eco-tourism destination country aims to decarbonize by 2050.

Costa Rica started efforts to ban fossil fuel exploration in 2002 under President Abel Pacheco. This ban was supposed to expire in 2014 but later extended until 2050. The new bill, backed by the administration of President Carlos Alvarado, would go further by permanently banning it.

“Our concern now is to remove the temptation, either today or at any time tomorrow, for there to be any current or future government who might think that returning to fossil fuels of the past century is actually a good idea for our country,” Christiana Figueres, a former U.N. climate chief and former Costa Rican government official who has publicly advocated for the bill, said in an interview with Reuters.

Story continues below advertisement

Only a few other countries have taken action to ban fossil fuel exploration and production, including France which aims to do so by 2040, and Belize, which prohibits exploration and drilling in all its territorial waters.

Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity draws international tourists to its jungles and coastal eco-resorts, and it is considered a global model on climate change initiatives. It has never explored or extracted fossil fuels and gets 99% of its electricity from renewable sources, primarily hydropower, according to officials. The country of 5 million people aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A permanent ban would “send a powerful message to the world,” lawmaker Paola Vega told Reuters.

A pro-exploration movement has been trying since 2019 to garner support for a referendum on oil and gas exploration but has failed to bring about a vote. The bill for a permanent fossil fuel ban has faced opposition by some politicians who argue that the resources could help the Central American country bounce back from an 8.7% dip in GDP in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Figueres, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, said fossil fuel extraction for economic recovery “makes absolutely no sense,” as the Costa Rica’s reserves have not been proven commercially viable.

“Were we to have them, we probably wouldn’t see any income from them until at least 10 to 15 years from now, when the demand for oil and gas is actually going to be even less than it is now,” Figueres said, adding she believes the ban has a good chance at approval.

“To have small countries actually take the lead is very important, because those of us that are actually doing the right thing, we definitely punch above our weight,” Figueres added. “Just because Costa Rica is tiny, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a voice.”

Story continues below advertisement

Lawmakers will hold discussions on the bill this week, though a vote may not come before October, according to a lawmaker involved.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies