Costa Rica

Widely known for its rich biodiversity and efforts to conserve this biodiversity by placing more than 26 per cent of its land under protection, Costa Rica has developed a diverse economy that includes tourism, the export of agricultural products (principally bananas, pineapples and coffee), and light manufacturing (including the micro-processors and pharmaceuticals). Costa Ricans have the highest standard of living within Central America, with per capita income averaging about US$10,570 (USDS, 2011).

In 1994, Costa Rica initiated an ambitious program to incorporate sustainable development principles in the different programs of governmental institutions. In 1995, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) provided funding to the government of Costa Rica through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to help the National Meteorological Institute elaborate a national inventory on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by sources (GEF/UNDP, GF/0103-92-01) according to the IPCC methodology; the reference year was 1990. Costa Rica determined that the energy sector and, in particular, the transportation sector require immediate attention regarding emissions.

Costa Rica has submitted two national communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), laying out the actions that the government has already taken and the analytical basis for its policy response to climate change and its commitments to take future actions within an official international framework. The First National Communication established the First National GHG Inventory with 1990 as its base year and included an identification of adaptation and mitigation options to climate change for the water sector and coastal areas, as well as agriculture and forestry.

The Second National Communication was submitted in October 2009 and has a revised National Greenhouse Gas Inventories for 2000 and 2005, policies and mitigation measures for greenhouse gas absorption, vulnerability studies and adaptation measures to climate change, a chapter on technology transfer, as well as other pertinent information related to the achievement of the Convention.

Climate change vulnerability studies were also carried out with the financial support of The Netherlands Government through the Institute for Environmental Studies and the Coastal Zone Management Centre, as part of the project: Climate Changes Studies in Costa Rica. The three sectors evaluated in this project, considering potential climate scenarios, were: coastal areas, agriculture and forest ecosystems.

A rise in sea level caused by an increase in global average temperatures could lead to transgressions of the actual coastline and an increment in the amount of areas subject to tide inundations along the 1300 km coastline. Regarding the agricultural sector, studies showed that crop productivity can be affected with climate variability, temperatures can have an effect on crop development in all its phases, water deficit can diminish crop efficiency and biomass levels will be reduced. In terms of forest coverage, a significant reduction for tropical, humid premontane and highly humid montane life zone forests can take place, while an increase in coverage for humid and highly humid premontane may also occur.

The Costa Rican government marked the creation of the National Strategy for Climate Change (ENCC, Spanish acronym) as a top priority for its 2006-2010 agenda. Through this national policy, it is required from all public institutions, local governments and autonomous institutions to produce and put into execution a short, medium and long term action plans containing clear goals around the six main pillars of the strategy: mitigation, vulnerability and adaptation, precise metric system, development of national capacity and technology transfer, education and public awareness and financing. The mitigation pillar has as its main goal to make the country carbon neutral by 2021.

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Strengthening Capacities of Rural Aqueduct Associations' (ASADAS) to Address Climate Change Risks in Water Stressed Communities of Northern Costa Rica

Based on the climate change scenarios there is an expectation that by 2080, annual rainfall is forecasted to reduce up to 65% in the Northern Pacific Region. These extreme conditions will exacerbate climate and water stress in some areas. The “Strengthening Capacities of Rural Aqueduct Associations' (ASADAS) to Address Climate Change Risks in Water Stressed Communities of Northern Costa Rica” project aims to improve water supply and promote sustainable water practices of end users and productive sectors by advancing community- and ecosystem-based measures in rural aqueduct associations (ASADAS) to address projected climate-related hydrological vulnerability in northern Costa Rica. On the demand side, the project will mainstream climate change knowledge and strategies into public and private sector policy and planning in order to promote adaptation of productive practice to maintain ecosystem resilience to climate change.

Level of Intervention: 
Key Collaborators: 
POINT (-84.287109381466 10.251411377812)
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
US$5 million proposed financing from GEF SCCF
Co-Financing Total: 
US$26.6 million proposed co-financing
Project Details: 

The initial plan will be executed by the UNDP Costa Rica Country Office in close cooperation with Rural Aqueduct Association (ASADAS) and the Institute of Aqueduct and Sewers (AyA) and other relevant stakeholders. The Country Office will recruit a team of national and international consultants to undertake the activities. In the course of implementation UNDP Panama Regional Centre will be consulted for advice and guidance as requested.

This project targets three Socio-Ecological Management Units (SEMU) of Northern Costa Rica. The SEMUs 1, 2 and 3, as they are referred to, comprise the cantons (municipal territories) of Guatuso, Upala, Los Chiles, and La Cruz (SEMU 1), Liberia and Canas (SEMU 2), and Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Hojancha and Carrillo (SEMU 3). It has a total territorial extension of 10,608.9 sq-km and a population of 354,132 inhabitants. This region is targeted for SCCF financing as the supply of water resources is threatened by shortages as a result of climate change impacts.

Based on climate change scenarios there is an expectation that by 2080, annual area rainfall is forecasted to reduce up to 65% in the Northern Pacific Region. In the shorter term, rainfall decreases of 15% (2030) in 2020 and 35% in 2050. These extreme conditions will exacerbate climate and water stress in some areas, s

Currently the National Emergency Comission has declared a yellow alert due to a drought affecting the countys comprising SEMU 3. This will compound pressures as water consumption in the target area and is also expected to increase by at least 20% over the coming decades driven by an expected increase of exports of agro-industry products, while investments in water infrastructure, mainly by AyA (Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers), will be reduced due to fiscal and legislative constraints.

Sustained increased demand of water resources by the agriculture sector and lack of finance investment towards water infrastructure is beginning to create stress on water availability in the area. Actual productive practices, mainly pineapple, livestock and citric crops with a high water footprint index are increasing pressure on irrigation, which according to available data, most are rainfed (83% of the total) while irrigation accounts for 17%.

If climate change driven pressures are not addressed, Costa Rica´s SEMUs of the North region will inevitably experience significant water shortages that will have a severe economic impact on livelihoods and productive sectors. As a result of increased frequency of extreme weather events (particularly drought) local communities and farmers in Northern Costa Rica are currently facing reduction on their means of productions, as access to water and water infrastructure and facilities are critical to their livelihoods. Consequently the communities from the target area (SEMUs 1,2,3) are becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate variability.

Approximately 1,900 ASADAS exist as locally organized groups of men and women from the user communities who are interested in the non-for-profit management of the local aqueduct and sanitation system. In a decentralized manner, municipalities and ASADAS provide services to about 46% of the total Costa Rican population. ASADAS alone administer and operation water systems for over 30% of the population, primarily for those in rural areas and border regions. Existing aqueduct infrastructure is often outdated and overloaded causing inefficient water service delivery, which in turn complicates the collection of fees from end users. Instability in fee-collection leads to financial uncertainty, which impedes the AyA’s ability to plan for and implement targeted improvements and new investments.

Most ASADAS and the local governments of the target area need to develop the necessary skills and have access to knowledge tools and adequate investment, in order to address the scarcity of water supply. AyA’s current investment plan, including capacity development activities directed mainly to ASADAS, rarely incorporate community-based or ecosystem-based measures. In addition, financial institutions lack proven tools capable of providing correct incentives for private sector enterprises to integrate community and water-related adaptation measures. If these entities do not strengthen their capacities to cope with climate change, the vulnerability of rural populations of the Northern region of Costa Rica will increase.

Expected Key Results and Outputs: 

Component 1. Building community-based infrastructure and technical capacities to address projected changes in water availability

Outcome 1.1: Infrastructure and technical capacity of ASADAs strengthened to cope with climate change impacts to aquifers in the target area.

Output 1.1.1.: Strengthened metering systems to track water supply to end-users (micro- and macrometers) in the ASADAS network provide updated information on climate-related risks and vulnerability of project area water resources.

Output 1.1.2.: Water catchment (well, spring, and/or rain), storage, and distribution systems in rural areas improved and resilient to climate change.

Output 1.1.3.: Water-saving devices installed in homes.

Output 1.1.4.: Pilot sanitation and purification measures (e.g., sludge management and dry composting toilets) and other adaptive technologies for wastewater management to improve water quality.

Output 1.1.5.: Water sources and associated aquifer recharge areas protected and/or rehabilitated through reforestation, natural regeneration, and other protection and conservation measures.

Outcome 1.2: The capacity of ASADA end-users in particular that of women, Maleku indigenous communities and Nicaraguan migrant workers to mainstream climate change adaptation into their livelihoods systems is built.

Output 1.2.1.: Community-based climate change training program with a gender focus and includes minority groups, such as indigenous communities. - Training Toolkit on good practices for water-conscious consumer behavior and biodiversity monitoring in place. - At least 1,500 household members and producers, including women (35%) trained to maintain and improve the use of water and sanitation in a context of increased climate impacts - Extension services (i.e., community outreach) for land use and production practices include course and support material

Outcome 1.3: Meteorological information integrated to sub-regional development plans and strategies to increase resilience of rural communities to address water variability.

Output 1.3.1.: Fifteen (15) new Automated Weather Stations (AWS) and/or Automated Flow Stations (AFS) installed to provide consistent and reliable environmental data in real time in the selected SEMUs.

Output 1.3.2.: Vulnerability Index, Adaptive Capacity Index developed and supporting the climate early warning and information system, and the Risk Management Plan for Potable Water and Sanitation (RMPPS).

Output 1.3.3.: Information monitoring system for the AyA and the ASADAS’ Management System (SAGA) to track the impact of adaptation measures with the aim to reduce the vulnerability of rural communities to address water variability due to climate change, and articulated to national-level information systems (National System of Water Resources and Hydrometeorological National System).

Output 1.3.4.: Climate early warning and information system on climate-related risks and vulnerability of project area water resources generated and disseminated to ASADAS, end users, and partners.

Component 2: Mainstreaming of ecosystem-based adaptation into public and private sector policy and investments in the targeted area.

Outcome 2.1: Ecosystem-based climate change adaptation measures are integrated into public and private sector policy, strategies and investments related to rural community water-sourcing infrastructure and services, i.e a national model of EcosystemBased Water Security Plans is developed by the project and formally endorsed by national institutions.

Output 2.1.1.: Four (4) participatory RMPPS implemented within each target canton (SEMU 1: Guatuso, Upala, Los Chiles, and La Cruz; SEMU 2: Liberia and Cañas; SEMU 3: Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Hojancha, and Carrillo).

Output 2.1.2.: The AyA and the CNE investments for the prioritized project area integrate climate change risks.

Output 2.1.3.: Ten (10) livestock and agricultural producing companies adopt a voluntary fee system (Certified Agricultural Products and Voluntary Watershed Payments) to pay for the protection of water resources.

Output 2.1.4.: Valuation modeling of ecosystem-based adaptation measures (UNEP methodology) and economic valuation of ecosystem services (UNDP methodology) support the integration of water-related risks and new ecosystems management practices within productive sectors (agriculture and livestock industry).

Outcome 2.2: The purchasing and credit policies of at least 20 agricultural and livestock trading companies and 5 financial institutions operating in the target region promote adoption of productive practices that help maintain ecosystem resilience to climate change.

Output 2.2.1.: Farmers incorporate ecosystem-based climate change adaptation measures into their production processes, making use of revised purchasing and credit policies of agricultural and livestock trading companies and financial institutions.

Output 2.2.2.: Knowledge management system allows disseminating data, information, and toolkits to foster and mainstream ecosystem-based adaptation practices in other water-intensive productive sectors across the country.



Display Photo: 
Expected Key Results and Outputs (Summary): 

Component 1 - Building community-based infrastructure and technical capacities to address projected changes in water availability

Component 2 - Mainstreaming of ecosystem-based adaptation into public and private sector policy and investments in the targeted area.

Costa Rica – GEF Trust Project Identification Form

Project Identification Form (PIF) for the project titled “Capacity-Building for Mainstreaming MEA Objectives into Inter-Ministerial Structures in Costa Rica”

Capacity-Building for Mainstreaming MEA Objectives into Inter-Ministerial Structures in Costa Rica

The main barriers towards an effective implementation in Costa Rica are twofold: poor policy coordination and inadequate mechanisms to learn and apply best practices. This UNDP-supported project therefore seeks to maximize synergies among the policies, rules and decision-making procedures governing the management of biodiversity, climate change and land degradation, among other environmental issues in Costa Rica.

Level of Intervention: 
Key Collaborators: 
POINT (-84.1113281572 9.9093327093)
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
$ 980,000
Co-Financing Total: 
$ 1,650,000
Tom Twining Ward
Regional Technical Advisor
Project Status: 
Programme Meetings and Workshops: 

The project will maximize synergy in the decision-making process governing the management of biodiversity, climate change and land degradation through the creation of the following –

  1. Integrated inter-ministerial decision-making process for the global environment through targeted reforms for meeting global environmental objectives (Outcome 1.1); Implementation of governance reforms (Outcome 1.2); Creation of an approved strategy for environmental policy reforms under implementation (Outcome 1.3) and; Strengthening of an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate environmental policies (Outcome1.4).
  2. Integrating cross-cutting Rio Convention provisions into environmental legislation and regulation by conducting cross-sectoral discussion of targeted environmental legislation  and regulation (Outcome 2.1); Review of areas of mutual exclusivity between sectoral and environmental legislation and regulation (Outcome 2.2); Preparation of key amendments to legislation and regulation  to be consistent with Rio Conventions (Outcome 2.3) and; Creation of an approved strategy for  implementing the legislative and regulatory  reforms (Outcome 2.4).
  3. Management capacities to integrate global environmental priorities into national environmental and development strategies, plans, and programmes. This will be achieved by designing training programmes (Outcome 3.1); Conducting information campaigns targeted to technical staff  and decision-makers (Outcome 3.2); Operationalizing an on-going inter-agency collaboration to catalyze and institutionalize technical capacities (Outcome 3.3) and; Strengthening the management capacity of National Focal Points regarding the mainstreaming of MEA objectives (Outcome 3.4).


Costa Rica's Second National Communication

The creation of a National Communication offers countries the opportunity to contribute with technically sound studies and information that can be used for designing mitigation and adaptation measures, and project proposals that can and will help increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Activities generally include: V&A assessments, Greenhouse Gas Inventory preparation, Mitigation Analysis or Education, and awareness raising activities.The ultimate goal is the integration of climate change considerations into relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions.

Key Vulnerabilities identified in Costa Rica's Second National Plan (2009):

  • Water Resources
  • Forestry
  • Agriculture and Livestock
  • Energy
Level of Intervention: 
Key Collaborators: 
POINT (-84.1113097994 9.95404424402)
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Through improved identification of national circumstances, government agencies and other actors will increase their abilities to insulate at risk urban and rural populations from the adverse effects of climate change.
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
Assessments and Background Documents
Co-Financing Total: 
Project Details: 
Potential Adaptation Measures

Water Resources

  • "Summer” programs by the Costa Rican Institute of Waterworks and Sewerages (AyA)
  • Formal and informal education campaigns
  • Construction of wells and water storage tanks
  • Repair and renewal of broken down pipelines
  • Sediment removal in water intakes
  • Investment in infrastructure (wells and tanks) and technology
  • Reducing concessional flow or maintaining environmental flow
  • Protection of aquifers and water intakes
  • Limiting concession number on basis of sector and source
  • Water pollution levy
  • Improved control measures and monitoring in resource use (meters)
  • Improving infrastructure, surveillance and control of water capture from springs (ASADAS)
  • Sanitary risk program from AyA
  • Monitoring and control
  • Water rationing


  • Protection, reforestation and prevention of degradation
  • River bank restoration
  • Agroforestry systems - erosion reduction through provision of organic material to soil water protection (quantity and quality) by encouraging infiltration and reducing runoff that could pollute waterways carbon capture, enhancing potential of silvopasture systems
  • Watershed management (Pirris/ Platanar Project at the river spring level)

Agriculture and Livestock

  • Integral farm management (Virilla upper river region)
  • New production alternatives (hydroponics, greenhouses, controlled climates, others)
  • Irrigation projects and capacity building to raise irrigation efficiency
  • Drainage ditches in areas affected by excessive rainfall
  • Combined aquaculture and irrigation systems, water recycling


  • Greater efficient equipment, as in compact fluorescent lamps
  • Charge control
  • Generation from cleaner sources
Expected Key Results and Outputs: 
  • Sustainable development and the integration of climate change concerns into medium- and long-term planning
  • Inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases
  • Measures contributing to addressing climate change
  • Research and systematic observation
  • Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and response strategies
  • Education, training and public awarenes
Monitoring & Evaluation: 

In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.

Parties to the Convention must submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The required contents of national communications and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I and non-Annex I Parties. This is in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the Convention.

The core elements of the national communications for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties are information on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and details of the activities a Party has undertaken to implement the Convention. National communications usually contain information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness.

Since 1994, governments have invested significant time and resources in the preparation, collection and validation of data on GHG emissions, and the COP has made determined efforts to improve the quality and consistency of the data, which are ensured by established guidelines for reporting. Non-Annex I Parties receive financial and technical assistance in preparing their national communications, facilitated by the UNFCCC secretariat.

Yamil Bonduki
Coordinator, National Communications Support Programme (NCSP)
Roberto Villalobos
Country Contact
Climate-Related Hazards Addressed: 
Funding Source Short Code: 
Project Status: