‘This country is what the world would like to be’: can Costa Rica’s environment minister keep its green reputation intact?

Last Updated: June 20, 2024By

Navigating Costa Rica’s Environmental Crossroads


“Man, this country is like the blueprint for the planet’s dream future,” Franz Tattenbach, Costa Rica’s environment and energy minister, muses. At 69, this dude, an economist, totally gets his job: keeping Costa Rica’s rep as the ultimate biodiversity hotspot and forest revival hero intact. Since the disco days of the ’70s, each new government’s been on a mission to treat its wildlife right, rolling out a conservation plan that’s got the whole world nodding in approval.

Chillin’ in his ninth-floor crib in San José, Tattenbach’s got a killer view. The mountains hug the Central Valley, and beyond them? It’s straight-up Tarzan territory, with wild beaches and enough wildlife to make your head spin. Almost 6% of the planet’s biodiversity calls this 51,100 sq km chunk of land and sea home sweet home.


Back in 2019, Costa Rica snagged the UN’s big shiny prize for the environment, the Champions of the Earth award. Why? ‘Cause their forest game was strong, covering over half the country, a major upgrade from the ’80s. And oh boy, the wildlife? Diverse doesn’t even cut it.

But hold up, Tattenbach’s feeling the heat. Lately, green peeps and NGOs are side-eyeing Costa Rica’s eco future. Ever since Rodrigo Chaves took over as prez in 2022, it seems like the country’s swiping right on economic growth and ghosting sustainability. Yup, they’re even flirting with the idea of bringing fossil fuels back into the mix.


I mean, just last year, they were all about banning oil and gas. Fast forward to now, and they’re talking about drilling again. Chaves even name-dropped Norway, praising them for juggling gas extraction and Mother Nature like pros. But yo, Tattenbach’s on board too, saying they gotta weigh the pros and cons.

But here’s the deal: Costa Rica’s facing a full-on smackdown of fake news, haters, and eco-warriors, all up in their grill. And Tattenbach? He’s all about keeping it real. Sure, Chaves wants to spread some good vibes, but Tattenbach’s still got Mother Nature’s back.


Now, Costa Rica’s stuck in this tricky spot: keeping its green cred while making bank and letting companies do their thing. It’s like trying to find the perfect balance between saving the planet and making it rain.

At the UN’s Cop28 climate shindig, Costa Rica straight-up ghosted the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, leaving former prez Laura Chinchilla feeling betrayed. Costa Rica co-founded that crew, but Tattenbach’s singing a different tune now. He’s saying a full-on oil ban ain’t in the cards anytime soon.


Instead, they’re going for a low-key vibe, making moves based on what’s best for this little slice of paradise. They’re all about adapting to the climate crisis without making a big fuss.

But just when things were looking semi-smooth, Norway hits ’em with a curveball, saying, “Nah,” to helping out with their oil plans. Tattenbach’s not sweating it though; they’ll figure something out.

So, what’s next on the to-do list? Sorting out the mess of urban chaos, fixing up the sewage situation, and dealing with the pollution party courtesy of agriculture and industry. Oh, and there’s the whole car craze too. Seems like everybody’s rolling solo in their rides ’cause public transport’s a no-go.

Sure, Costa Rica’s got the green energy game on lock, but when it comes to getting around, they’re guzzling fossil fuels like it’s nobody’s business. And thanks to El Niño and some drought drama, they had to rely on diesel and bunker fuel to keep the lights on.

But yo, don’t believe the hype. Costa Rica might not be squeaky clean, but they’re still slinging some of the planet’s cleanest energy. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between eco-friendliness and keeping the lights on.

Tattenbach’s got big plans though. He’s all about scooping up some cash to keep the green dream alive. And he’s already making moves, cracking down on polluters and protecting marine life like it’s his side hustle.

But let’s keep it real. Money talks, and Tattenbach’s feeling the squeeze. Dude just wants to see some green, both in his wallet and in the wild. It’s been a slow grind, but hey, nothing worth having comes easy.

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