In the last two decades, Costa Rica has transformed from one of the world’s most rapidly deforesting countries to one of the foremost pioneers in environmental protection. This and other successes in sustainable development were achieved through groundbreaking policies—for instance, in 1997 Costa Rica became the first country to initiate a country-wide payments for environmental services (PES) program and to adopt the terminology of environmental services and PES. The WAVES Partnership will provide policymakers with the tools to continue along their sustainable development path.
Natural resource accounting was undertaken as early as 1991 in Costa Rica. A study by the World Resource Institute (WRI), together with local counterparts, compiled accounts for forestry, soil erosion, and fisheries. While comprehensive environmental policies have reversed the trend of increasing environmental degradation, wealth accounting and valuation of ecosystem services will help address some important questions. For example, Costa Rica has invested a great deal in protecting its forests, especially given the tourism and watershed services they provide. However, little is known about how much tourism revenue is actually generated by forests and protected areas, and to what extent local communities benefit from different kinds of tourism.
The dialogue with the Government of Costa Rica started in May/June 2011. Since then, discussions have been progressing swiftly due to high-level support. The new Minister of Environment has given approval to the initiative, and the main contact points in the government are the Vice Ministers of Environment and Planning. The Ministry of Environment has been identified as the lead agency for the WAVES program in Costa Rica. In addition to government support, several academic institutions and NGOs have expressed their enthusiasm for the project.