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As part of the Ecotourism support program, Costa Rica is offering visitors the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint.
Conservation efforts in Costa Rica through the well-respected National Fund for Financing Forestry (FONAFIFO) will benefit tourists who want to purchase carbon offsets through the new initiative.
FONAFIFO, founded in 1996, pays landowners for the maintenance of forests, watershed conservation, and cleared areas for reforestation. That has helped Costa Rica by providing financial incentives for preservation to counteract rampant forestation.
Thanks in part to FONAFIFO, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO ) of the United Nations, the amount of forest cover in Costa Rica has more than doubled since the 1980s.
In addition to saving over 2,000 forest species, initiatives such as FONAFIFO have improved the reputation of Costa Rica as an eco-tourism destination.
World travelers see Costa Rica as a country where people respect nature by environmental stewardship, according to a study commission from the Tourist Board (ICT).
Carbon offsets: How they work
Carbon offsets help to limit the environmental impact of travel by benefiting projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the program announced Wednesday in Sarapiquí, tourists who choose to purchase carbon offsets will directly fund FONAFIFO, which in turn aids landowners who conserve or protect nature.
By involving tourists in fundraising efforts, FONAFIFO says it will be able to support more landowners, in turn leading to more protected land and more ecotourism opportunities where visitors can see the immediate advantages of conservation.
This creates a “symbiosis that characterizes” Costa Rica’s ideals, Segura said.
“This program is a green engine for Costa Rica’s sustainable economic recovery,” said Andrea Meza, Environment Minister, in a statement.
Pedro García Rueda, the owner of El Jícaro farm in El Roble de Sarapiquí, said FONAFIFO’s Payment for Environmental Services (PSA) program has supported his efforts to regrow the forest bordering the Sarapiquí River.
“The important thing about the PSA project is that the trees are planted so as not to cut them,” he said.
How carbon emissions can be offset while visiting Costa Rica
To measure the carbon footprint associated with their air travel, tourists can visit the FONAFIFO Online Calculator.
Based on distance flown and driven, the tool calculates CO2-e, or carbon dioxide equivalents. For eg, an estimated 1,529 tons of CO2-e is produced by two people traveling round-trip on a commercial flight to the San José area (SJO) from Miami and driving 200 km.
FONAFIFO then provides travelers with the option to offset these emissions by PSA initiatives that will help Costa Rica maintain its forest cover goals and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In our situation, the offset will cost $11.50.
"It is a logical and solid step in having visitors ever more interested in the sustainable tourism dynamic," said Segura. "It becomes a virtuous circle: tourists not only come to appreciate the biodiversity we conserve, but they also help grow their carbon footprint with a relatively small investment."