MODERATOR: Good afternoon. For Costa Rica it’s an honor to host the official visit of His Excellency Antony Blinken, Secretary of the United States of America. Also we are pleased to receive his distinguished delegation. For the Ministry of Environment and Energy, it’s a pleasure to host this event regarding nature-based solution for climate action in cities and its links with information systems. We give special thanks to the Central Bank of Costa Rica for being our meeting venue today. As mentioned before, we also greet Mrs. Claudia Dobles, first lady of the republic; Mrs. Andrea Meza, minister of environment and energy; Mr. Rodolfo Solano, minister of foreign affairs and worship; Mr. Andres Valenciano, minister of foreign trade; Mr. Rodrigo Cubero, president of the Central Bank of Costa Rica; and, of course, all the high authorities, members of diplomatic missions, private sector, non-state actors, ladies and gentlemen. With this, please now let’s hear our welcoming remarks from Mrs. Andrea Meza, minister of environment and energy. (Speaks in Spanish.)

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER MEZA: Good morning. Good morning to everyone here, and I will start by saying that all protocol is observed, so let’s feel free, in a comfortable place. We are between friends. Good morning, Secretary Blinken – (speaks in Spanish) – which is more than our first lady. She’s our team leader in sustainable mobility and green cities. (Speaks in Spanish) Rodolfo Solano, minister of foreign affairs; Andres Valenciano, minister of foreign trade; Rodrigo Cubero, thank you for hosting us, for hosting this event; deputy ministers, diplomatic representatives, U.S. delegation, friends, thank you for being here.

Secretary and friends, we’re so pleased to be sharing this wonderful setting where we can see the seeds of how we can be transforming our cities, making them greener, embracing nature with more public spaces, with sustainable buildings – cities planned for our citizens and not for our cars. And this is the vision for the future. This is the city that we want and the city that we are fighting for right now.

Yesterday, Secretary Blinken, we mentioned that Costa Rica wants to be a strategic partner to catalyze a more inclusive green resilient development model for the Central American region. And let me elaborate a little bit more of what we understand is this green resilient model. We understand that it needs a transformational change that will take us to a net zero emission and a nature-positive economy. We need to move from just trying to create growth to a more systemic approach to generate welfare for our citizens, to boost our economies, to generate jobs but within the planetary boundaries, and addressing inequalities, generating solutions that offer justice to the countries and communities that have done little to create the climate problem.

And we know we can achieve that vision, and it is critical to do it fast. This is what the science is telling us. But the good news is that we have the technology, we have the resources, and right now we have the political will. And this is what makes everything happen for this transformational change. We recognized yesterday that we need to put people in the center of our development model, and I would just add that it is people and nature.

This pandemic is showing us how interconnected we are. If we want to see and if we want to have healthy economics, we need – and healthy societies, we need healthy ecosystems. And if we want to address the climate crisis, we need nature-based solutions.

But this is also a matter of opportunities, and to build the economy of the future, which within is circular, green, and blue. We must acknowledge that nature is an asset, and that we’re doing a terrible job right now in managing this portfolio.

Let me just share one report, one data from the Dasgupta report. It says that between 1992 and 2014, produced capital per person doubled, and human capital per person increased by about 30 percent globally. But the stock of natural capital per person declined by nearly 40 percent.

Nature-related risk matters to the business community. And do you know why? There we have representatives from the business community here. Because over half of the world’s total GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature. And a nature-positive economy could create more than 400 million jobs by 2030, and we want those jobs for this region. And this is why we’re creating all this. We’re launching our decarbonization plan. We’re having specific packages of policies for short, medium, and long-term actions for strategic sectors – transport, energy, industry, construction, circular economy, agriculture, and nature-based solutions.

But the implementation of these measures needs a whole-of-government approach, and a whole-of-society approach. This is why we’re working with the different sectorial ministries – transport, agriculture. We’re working with the central bank. We’re working with foreign trade. Because we need alignment in these policies. And we are committed with the goals of the Paris Agreement. And we are also clear that we need to generate these good enabling conditions to facilitate engagement of the private sector and civil society in this agenda.

And this is why we selected this place, because Rutas Naturbanas, the project behind this, it’s an example of how we can integrate these kind of visions. Rutas Naturbanas is a grassroots, citizen-led initiative that was started in 2016 by a group of people and organizations committed to climate action and urban renewal, with the mandate – and this is so nice; I love the mandate – to connect people to the city through nature. And here we have Federico Cartin, who is one of the leaders. And we also have Daniel Mikoski as our representative from some of the private sector that it is supporting the initiative.

What I will say is that this project is showing us that it is possible to have public-private partnerships to be transforming the city and to be implementing decarbonization visions.

We also have other good examples through the different, nice stories that we have with CRUSA and the support with a lot of different entrepreneurs, SMEs, so they can adopt green practices, and with other of our strategic partners, such as AED. They are here.

And the other element that has been very interesting with Rutas Naturbanas is that many of the partners are (inaudible) members. And crowdfunding by the foundation has been majorly made possible through American contributions. So we want to thank these.

And the other element for this transformation is to have a robust, good, technical information. We strongly believe in science and data-based policy-making processes. And this is why we’re celebrating the launch of the formalization of the Costa Rica Comprehensive National Land Use, Land Cover, and Ecosystem Monitoring System, SIMOCUTE, with the official announcement of the executive decree that was signed by the president, the minister of agriculture, justice, and by myself – again, another instrument that is showing that it is possible to have this integrated approach.

But this is – this was possible because of the long-term presence and sustained funding from the U.S. Government, and alongside other international agencies like FAO, so thank you very much for the support.

This is the other element that it is critical: whole of government, whole of society, good information. So Secretary Blinken, thank you for all the support the U.S. has given us at the national level. Thank you for continuing your leadership in mobilizing climate finance for nature-based solutions.

As we mentioned yesterday, we welcome the LEAF Coalition presented by the United Kingdom, the U.S., and Norway. We’re working to submit a proposal soon. Count on us to accelerate climate action. Count on us in the multilateral arena to continue raising ambition on our way to Glasgow. We want to have a success COP and we are committed to that. Count on us to work in the Central American region. We’re partners that share values. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Muchas gracias, Minister. Thank you, Minister Meza.

We invite His Excellency Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States of America to give his remarks. Excellency.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone, and first, Madam Minister, thank you. Thank you for not just your good words, but your important words, and also thank you for the partnership that we have, the United States and Costa Rica, on maybe the most critical issue of our times, and that is preserving and protecting our environment, combating climate change, and saving our planet. We value this partnership and we look to it, I think, more and more in the years ahead.

And let me say, first of all, greetings to everyone. Madam Minister, First Lady, thank you for honoring us with your presence today, and I very much enjoy the opportunity to speak as we were walking down this extraordinary corridor that I think is an example, really, to the world of how you bring people together with their cities through nature. It’s a very powerful idea, but it’s not – it’s more than an idea. We see it realized right here.

And as we were discussing, there is a powerful impact on all of our lives when we have an opportunity, especially those of us who live in cities, to spend some time surrounded by green, to be near the water and the extraordinary rivers that you have, to hear that sound. It has a profound, positive effect, I think, on all of us, and it’s wonderful to see this realized in a practical way right here.

But to both of you, to my colleague Rodolfo, and to all of the ministers here today, I think your presence speaks to Costa Rica’s recognition that all parts of government and all parts of our society, including the private sector, have a role to play in tackling the climate crisis – and more than tackling it, bringing nature and people together in meaningful ways.

I’m also delighted to celebrate the launch of Costa Rica’s National Land Use, Land Cover, and Ecosystems Monitoring System, as the minister mentioned, SIMOCUTE.

This system will make it possible for Costa Rica to collect and integrate high-quality data on natural, agricultural, and biodiversity resources across the entire country. And the aim is not just to measure the impact of greenhouse gas emissions but also to inform better decision making when it comes to managing forests and lands.

Its origins can be traced back to a partnership between Costa Rican experts, a U.S. Government climate fellow, Dr. Randy Hamilton, and several Costa Rican and U.S. Government agencies including, I’m pleased and proud to say, the United States Department of State. And the effort incorporated a range of partners including from the UN Food and Agricultural Organizations and 25 Costa Rican institutions – some of whom I know are represented here today.

This is precisely the kind of collaboration and knowledge sharing across borders, public and private institutions that’s essential to effectively tackling the climate challenge and the climate crisis.

The data it generates will be available online for all to access allowing experts and citizens alike to study them, to track whether government and private actors are actually meeting their commitments. That degree of transparency – and engagement of the citizens – I think is a model that others can and should aspire to.

Of course, SIMOCUTE program is just a small part of Costa Rica’s longstanding global leadership on climate. That’s evident in the targets that Costa Rica has set to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Its proactive role in international climate change negotiations is pioneering use of debt-for-nature swaps.

And of course, what we know too is the powerful use and reliance on renewable energy here also sets a very, very strong example. Protecting nature by creating additional value for forests is at the heart of a new initiative the United States recently announced together with the United Kingdom, Norway, and nine leading companies at the climate summit that President Biden convened in April. And the minister referred to it – the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance Coalition. It’s a mouthful but the acronym, LEAF, is quite wonderful. It aims to mobilize at least a billion dollars this year to support tropical and subtropical countries in their efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

The concept is straightforward: generating verified emissions reductions can be rewarded with payments. These are the kinds of emissions SIMOCUTE is well placed to track. And given Costa Rica’s longstanding efforts to reduce deforestation and restore forests, we hope this is another area where indeed we can work together.

With nearly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions today coming from forests, from agriculture, and other lands, this is an area where we must make significant and swift progress if we are going to avert a climate catastrophe.

I’d also like to thank Ambassador Lyster-Binns from the UK who I think is here today – somewhere – Ambassador. Good to see you. Thank you for your government’s partnership on this initiative.

I think we both know that this is not a battle that countries like Costa Rica can wage alone. Big emitters have their part to do.

The United States is prepared to lead by example, as President Biden demonstrated in the recent targets that he set for our country to cut emissions by at least half in 2030; to double the public international climate finance we provide, to $5.7 billion annually, by 2024.

And that brings me to my last point, which is why we are making such massive investments. Efforts to reduce emissions and build climate resilience are sometimes, maybe even often, presented as an impediment to growth, a strain on economies. But we believe that the climate crisis should be seen differently – as a once-in-generations opportunity to generate good-paying, sustainable jobs, something the minister also alluded to.

Every country in the world needs to reduce emissions, invest in climate resilience, capture more carbon dioxide. That’s an open space for innovation and broad-based growth – if only we seize it.

And I think that’s been Costa Rica’s experience, as Minister Meza pointed out at the climate summit, when she highlighted the millions of dollars in revenue that Costa Rica’s protected areas generate for communities, and the sustainable livelihoods that they support.

It is, as I said at the start, both a pleasure but also I think important that we are partnered in this effort. This is not just a once-in-a-generations opportunity, it’s in a sense a once-in-a-lifetime obligation that we have before us to try to get this right. We’re only going to succeed if we do it together, if we work in partnership, if we all meet our responsibilities and, in doing that, finding incredible opportunity in those responsibilities. So thank you so much for the warm welcome, but more important, thank you for what we’re doing, the United States and Costa Rica, every day to make progress for our people and for our planet. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you, your excellency. With this, now invite to the stage Mrs. Claudia Dobles, our first lady of the republic, to give her closing speech. Claudia.

MRS DOBLES: Good day to everybody. Your excellency, Mr. Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, thank you so much for your visit for you and your team. Good day to all the ministers, vice ministers, and everybody from the government, from civil society, from all the institutions that work with us as a team. Thank you for being here today.

I would like to start saying that Costa Rica, it’s very well known for pioneering innovative policies, like abolishing the army more than 70 years ago, for investing and focusing on our health care which is universal and is free. That has been a enormous pillar in fighting this sanitary crisis. Also, that we invested in our people. That is the best resources that we have in Costa Rica is the talent of our people. So we don’t have oil, we don’t have other natural resources possibly; we don’t even want to explore that because we are pretty much focusing on our people and our human talent.

President Alvarado when we started this administration said very accurately that climate crisis is a challenge of this generation and that we really need to act and we need to act now. And we are in a pivotal point to make decisions for the future. That’s why we focusing on how to make a more equitable society, how to put our communities in the center, how to put our people in the center, how to put the services that we needed to provide in the center while lowering our carbon emissions, transitioning in a very just and fair transition towards a decarbonized economy; how to provide a new system, a new paradigm. So that’s why facing that we launch a little bit more than two years ago our national decarbonization plan. And it is important to say that while this is going to tackle climate crisis, it’s more of a social economical development based on sustainability and based on our people that we are talking about. So that is very important and this is something that we keep saying to our communities, that these type of interventions, that providing this type of quality of life, this is decarbonization, this is our national decarbonization plan. It’s part of it.

It’s important to say that Costa Rica, it’s pretty well-known – I was saying to Secretary Blinken that Costa Rica, it’s pretty much well-known for our biodiversity, our beaches, our mountains, our rivers. And we have done a very good job on nature-based solutions, on carbon capture, on reforestation, conservation. But if we really wanted to achieve the goals that we have in our national decarbonization plan, we really needed to focus on our urban agenda and we really need to start talking about urban planning, territorial planning. We need to start talking about how can we interconnect the public services that we provide to our people in order to provide better quality of life in order to enhance public transportation to incorporate the concepts of sustainable mobility. How can we work with the national government and the local governments and the rest of our society to provide answers bottom-up?

If we really want to tackle our goals, we need to focus on this urban agenda. That’s why under the leadership of the wonderful minister of environment, which I really want to thank you for your leadership, I have to say that this has been a team work, a whole government that is completely committed, that shared a vision, that really is working to achieve that vision and to create enabling conditions to continue this transition while – before we move to the next administration so the next administration can continue this transformation.

So thank you to all the government and the staff members that have been – made this possible. I really – I really have to say that this is teamwork. It’s even more important when we think about the recovery plans that we need to provide in a post-COVID era, and that we really need to focus on a green recovery, and when we – when we were talking about our national decarbonization plan, we provided specific actions that provided investment plans for a resilient infrastructure that will create new jobs, that will create new markets, that will create new industries based on new, clean technologies, based on the culture of knowledge, and based on sustainability. So I think our national decarbonization plan is also our green recovery plan post-COVID.

And Secretary Blinken said something that I think is very important. Costa Rica cannot do it alone. We have a strong voice and I am very proud to say that Costa Rica has a strong voice on sustainability. But we are not fighting this fight alone. We know that this is a global fight and we know that we have strategic partners in this, and we are very, very happy and I think the world is very happy to see that under President Biden’s administration, the U.S. has a strong commitment, a huge commitment in climate – in climate change and climate crisis.

So thank you very much, Secretary Blinken, for you and your team, and I am sure that we will keep working together. As the Minister Meza said, count on us because we’re committed, and we share the vision, and we share the values. Thank you so much for your visit, and we’ll keep working. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Muchas gracias, Dona Claudia. Ladies and gentlemen, with this we have concluded the event. Thank you for being here and have a great afternoon.

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