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Costa Rica received high praise at the Paris climate talks in 2016 for its 99 per cent renewable energy in 2015 and commitment to obtain carbon neutrality by 2021. However, a deeper analysis by freelance environmental journalist Lindsay Fendt, who is based in Costa Rica, throws into question whether Costa Rica’s claim is sustainable for the country or attainable by others.

The country was the first in the world to power their country for 75 days without the use of fossil fuels, setting an example for the rest of the world. What was not mentioned is that the surge of rainfall powering hydroelectric plants across the country is likely due to climate change, writes Fendt in a commentary published by the Guardian.  

A period of unusually heavy rainfall, attributed to climate change, boosted productivity in hydroelectric plants, the country’s main energy source. Just months earlier the country suffered one of the worst droughts in its history, showing how swings in climate might quickly negate any progress. As well, the country still struggles with the fact that fuel-driven transportation accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions. Costa Rica has made major investments to produce clean energy, yet it still has issues like these, suggesting it may be even more difficult for highly populated industrialized countries to successfully adopt Costa Rica’s plan, and for any country to sustain hydropower over the long run.

While Costa Rica has gained some media attention for it use of renewable energy, only he Guardian’s story deeply scrutinizes the claim to make scientifically supported environmental connections.



Lindsay Fendt, “The truth behind Costa Rica’s renewable energy”, The Guardian, March 30, 2015,


Student researcher: Alex Johnson (University of Regina)

Faculty evaluator: Patricia W. Elliott (University of Regina)