Chief Negotiator Rejects Criticism of Costa Rica's Withdrawal from Oil and Gas Initiative

"There are moments when you are more in the forefront and in others less, but the point is to stay there as it happens in other initiatives," said Ana Patricia Villalobos, a participant in COP27. (Juan Fernando Lara Salas)
La Nacion
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Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Chief Negotiator Rejects Criticism of Costa Rica's Withdrawal from Oil and Gas Initiative

Costa Rica's chief negotiator at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), Ana Patricia Villalobos Arrieta, rejected on Monday the criticism for the alleged national renunciation of historical and political commitments to eradicate the use of oil and gas.

These remarks were made due to the Government's decision to reduce its leading role in the so-called "Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance" (BOGA), created at COP26 in Glasgow (United Kingdom), with the leadership of Costa Rica and Denmark. It is made up of eight governments and three associate members that seek an international conversation for the controlled elimination of the use of these fuels.

On November 3, the Costa Rican Minister of Environment and Energy, Franz Tattenbach, indicated that the country will continue as a member of BOGA but less active. Thus, although it will continue to prohibit oil exploration and exploitation, he ruled out leadership, because in his opinion it is preferable to honor the goals linked to the Paris Agreement with concrete actions.

In this regard, the chief negotiator at COP27 was emphatic in clarifying that BOGA is a young initiative if compared to others of which Costa Rica has been a member for years, such as the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which it leads together with France and the United Kingdom.

Likewise, she said, BOGA is not a formal institution with structure, governance and functions where it is natural for its members to carry out activities and fulfill a role.

In this way, Villalobos responded to the claims of the Climate Tracker group, which said Costa Rica was abandoning its historical role in climate negotiations on the issue of oil, while other voices spoke of damage to the Costa Rican international image for a decision described as abrupt, ambiguous and unclear.

"We have not withdrawn and no one here has renounced historic commitments, nor are we less ambitious, or anything else," said the negotiator, who has spent several years as head of the technical group at these UN summits.

Decarbonization plan

For Villalobos, nothing is achieved with "large amounts of promises and things full of lights and flowers" if at the end of the day there are no specific actions. In her opinion, there are detractors who do not understand the whole negotiation process and may even forget that BOGA does not influence internal activities against the elimination of hydrocarbons.

BOGA, Villalobos added, is aligned with the decarbonization plan for the Costa Rican economy, which is a long-term roadmap that is not extinguished by a change of administration.

"The decarbonization of the economy is a state policy in the face of climate change. We could rest on our laurels, do nothing and continue spending on gasoline or, as we are already doing, change the development model with a view to decarbonizing the planet, and that is what we are doing," she said.

She argued that Costa Rica is as ambitious as it has always been and thus serves as an example to other nations. Since it does not emit as many gases that warm the atmosphere as other economies, it cannot contribute much in cutting emissions. That's why its example matters.

"Example is the key for us and that is why we continue to go along in BOGA, we are going in the right direction and being less active there in no way affects our obligations or our role and leadership in these multilateral fora," she concluded.


This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security. It was first published in Spanish in La Nacion on 14 November 2022 and has been translated to English and lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: "There are moments when you are more in the forefront and in others less, but the point is to stay there as it happens in other initiatives," said Ana Patricia Villalobos, a participant in COP27 / Credit: Juan Fernando Lara Salas.

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