Skip to main content

Political ecology of Costa Rica’s climate policy: contextualizing climate governance

Abstract

Climate change is a global problem with distinct local impacts that challenge the application of universal policy mechanisms. Climate governance is the broad multiscalar, mixed method approach to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is founded on neoliberal market logics that commodify carbon, while also attempting to be socially and environmentally sustainable. This research focuses on hydroelectricity, a climate governance mechanism that is simultaneously promoted as a solution to climate change and critiqued for its negative social and environmental impacts. This paradox is explored by assessing the assemblage of interactions occurring within Costa Rica, a place known for their sustainable development and renewable energy production. Local indigenous communities, state, and non-state actors voice a diverse array of perspectives regarding construction of the Diquís hydroelectric project, which the state promotes as a key component of its climate plan. To some indigenous peoples, the project is a threat to their landscapes, livelihoods, and cultures; to others, its delay results in missed economic opportunities. In this paper, I utilize political ecology to explore these diverse perspectives in order to contextualize the local dynamics of global climate governance, providing insights for both climate policy in Costa Rica and climate governance mechanisms broadly.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Anaya, J 2011 The situation of the indigenous peoples affected by the El Diquís hydroelectric project in Costa Rica. In Report of the special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. c. United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council 18th session: promotion and protection of all human rights, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development., ed. pp. 4–12

  • Anderson EP, Pringle CM, Rojas M (2006) Transforming tropical rivers: an environmental perspective on hydropower development in Costa Rica. Aquat Conserv Mar Freshwat Ecosyst 16(7):679–693

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arias L 2017 Reduced electricity rates this year? Dont hold your breath. The Tico Times News April 8, 2017

  • Blaikie PM, Brookfield HC (1987) Land degradation and society. Methuen Publication, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant RL (1998) Power, knowledge and political ecology in the third world: a review. Prog Phys Geogr 22(1):79–94

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bulkeley H (2016) Accomplishing climate governance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • CADB, Central America Data Bank (2017) El Diquís Hydroelectric in Central America. Online: http://www.centralamericadata.com/en/search?q1=content_en_le:%22El+Diquis+hydroelectric%22. Accessed 6/10/17

  • Carls J, Haffar WR (2010) Conflict resolution of the Boruca hydro-energy project: renewable energy production in Costa Rica. Continuum, New York, NY

    Google Scholar 

  • Deemer BR, Harrison JA, Li S, Beaulieu JJ, DelSontro T, Barros N, Bezerra-Neto JF, Powers SM, dos Santos MA, Vonk JA (2016) Greenhouse gas emissions from reservoir water surfaces: a new global synthesis. Bioscience 66:949–964

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fearnside PM (2004) Greenhouse gas emissions from hydroelectric dams: controversies provide a springboard for rethinking a supposedly ‘clean’ energy source. Clim Chang 66(2–1):1–8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fearnside PM (2005) Do hydroelectric dams mitigate global warming? The case of Brazil’s Curuá-Una Dam. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 10(4):675–691

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fearnside PM (2016) Environmental and social impacts of hydroelectric dams in Brazilian Amazonia: implications for the aluminum industry. World Dev 77:48–65

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fletcher R 2010 When environmental issues collide: climate change and the shifting political ecology of hydroelectric power. Peace and Conflict Monitor 5

  • Greenberg J, Park T (1994) Political ecology. J Polit Ecol 1:1–12

    Google Scholar 

  • Habtom G (2015) Report on the grave and persistent violation of indigenous peoples’ rights in Costa Rica. 87th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations

  • Humborg C, Ittekkot V, Cociasu A, Bodungen B v (1997) Effect of Danube River dam on Black Sea biogeochemistry and ecosystem structure. Nature 386:385–388

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunter B, Jenkins A, Orton S (2010) Swimming against the current: the teribe peoples and the El Diquís Hydroelectric Project in Costa Rica: human rights clinic. University of Texas School of, Law

    Google Scholar 

  • ICE, Grupo. Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) (2015) Costa Rica: Matriz eléctrica, Un modelo sostenible, único en el mundo. Producción de la Dirección Comunicación e Identidad Corporativa Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) Costa Rica

  • IHA, International Hydropower Association (2017) Hydropower Status Report. online: https://www.hydropower.org/2017-hydropower-status-report. Accessed 8/16/17

  • INEC, Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Censos (2013) Territorios Indígenas: Principales indicadores demográficos y socioeconómicos. X Censo Nacional de Población y VI de Vivienda 2011. online: http://www.inec.go.cr/sites/default/files/documentos/inec_institucional/estadisticas/resultados/repoblaccenso2011-02.pdf.pdf. Accessed 8/10/17

  • International Rivers n.d. Problems with Big Dams (2017) Online www.internationalrivers.org. Accessed 8/17/17

  • Jacka JK (2015) Alchemy in the rain forest: politics, ecology, and resilience in a New Guinea mining area. Duke University Press, Durham, NC

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Koo B (2017) Preparing hydropower projects for the post-Paris regime: an econometric analysis of the main drivers for registration in the clean development mechanism. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 73:868–877

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lindo VR (2006) Hydroelectric power production in Costa Rica and the threat of environmental disaster of through CAFTA. Boston Coll Int Comp Law Rev 29(2):297–321

    Google Scholar 

  • MacKay F, and AM Garro (2014). Violations of indigenous peoples’ territorial rights: the example of Costa Rica. Forest Peoples Programme. online: https://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2014/02/violationsterritorialrightscostaricaenglishfeb2014.pdf. Accessed 6/15/16

  • McPhaul J (2017) Costa Rica’s supreme court stops hydroelectric project for failing to consult indigenous peoples. Cultural Survival. Online: https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/costa-ricas-supreme-court-stops-hydroelectric-project-failing-consult-indigenous-peoples

  • Oliver-Smith A (2009) Development & dispossession: the crisis of forced displacement and resettlement. School for Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe, NM

    Google Scholar 

  • Ortiz, DA (2015) IACHR tackles violence against native peoples in Costa Rica. Inter Press Service News Agency: News and Views from the Global South

  • Peet R, Watts M (1996) Liberation ecologies: environment, development, social movements. Routledge, New York, NY

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Robbins P (2012) Political ecology: a critical introduction. J. Wiley & Sons, Malden, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Rudd JW, Hecky R, Harris R, Kelly C (1993) Are hydroelectric reservoirs significant sources of greenhouse gases. Ambio 22:246–248

    Google Scholar 

  • Scudder TT (2005) The Future of large dams: dealing with social. environmental, institutional and political costs. Earthscan, London, UK

    Google Scholar 

  • Scudder TT (2012) The future of large dams: dealing with social, environmental, institutional and political costs. Taylor & Francis, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Tilt B (2015) Dams and development in China: the moral economy of water and power. Columbia University Press, New York, NY

    Google Scholar 

  • Tsing A (2005) Friction: an ethnography of global connection. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  • Watts D, Albornoz C, Watson A (2015) Clean development mechanism (CDM) after the first commitment period: assessment of the world's portfolio and the role of Latin America. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 41:1176–1189

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • WEC, World Energy Council (2016) World Energy Resources: hydropower. online: https://www.worldenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/WEResources_Hydropower_2016.pdf. Accessed 1/30/18

  • West P (2006) Conservation is our government now: the politics of ecology in Papua New Guinea. Duke University Press, Durham, NC

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emily Benton Hite.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hite, E.B. Political ecology of Costa Rica’s climate policy: contextualizing climate governance. J Environ Stud Sci 8, 469–476 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-018-0480-y

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-018-0480-y

Keywords

  • Indigenous resistance movements
  • Climate policy
  • Hydroelectricity
  • Political ecology