Monday, 17 June 2013 20:05

Open Letter to René Castro, Minister of Environment of Costa Rica

Written by 
Mr. René Castro Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica (MINAE) 18 June 2013[i] Minister: It is with deep regret that I must write and inform you of my decision to resign from the Costa Rican delegation of climate negotiators.
The world has long admired Costa Rica as a leader on climate change and environmental protection. Our decision to abandon our army, to champion healthcare, education and environmental protection, has inspired many people beyond our borders. For these reasons it has been an honor for me to represent our country at the international climate negotiations.  We have made a bet toward a model of clean development. We even announced to the world that we would be carbon neutral by 2021. However, the fact that we are so close to accepting a loan from China in order to have a modern refinery worth US$1.3 billion flies in the face of our leadership on climate. How can a country that has set a goal to decarbonise our development pathway have any credibility when it insists on borrowing millions for the sake of fossil fuels?  This inconsistency threatens to unravel two decades of Costa Rican leadership on this issue, and I have no choice but to speak out for Costa Ricans, and the hopes of climate vulnerable people everywhere. I did this by appearing on the radio show with journalist Amelia Rueda on May 30, 2013. I openly raised the subject of our own contradictions hoping to start a more honest and balanced conversation regarding the refinery. I also wrote an opinion piece in Costa Rica's newspaper La Nación that was published June 7, 2013, in which I called for low-carbon cooperation between our country and China.[ii] Clearly, you did not agree with my views. On Saturday June 8, 2013, the Head of the Delegation of Costa Rica asked me to leave the team of Costa Rican climate negotiators. This communication was verbal and took place during the negotiations sessions in Bonn, Germany. After the news broke at home a backlash became evident in the social media not only in Costa Rica but also in other countries. By Wednesday June 12, 2013, you had sent a public letter to Amelia Rueda denying that I had been removed from the delegation in the first place. [iii] Now you insist that I am still in the “group of consultants" and that my contract is, and remains, in effect. This information is not correct. I must publicly correct the record and clarify the following: 1. Contract: I am not a consultant to the Government of Costa Rica. My role has been as pro bono external advisor with tasks related to the delegation of climate negotiators coordinated by the Department of Climate Change under your instruction.  This participation has been possible through support from philanthropic foundations.  Your letter suggests that there is a contractual relationship when none exists. May I ask what contract you are referring to in your letter? 2. Lack of integrity: You do not admit that I have been removed from the delegation and yet the Ministry (MINAE) is on record as stating the opposite to other governments: 2.1 An email dated June 12, 2013, was sent to an official of the Government of Australia, with copies to officials from the governments of the United Kingdom and Ghana, as well as the Secretariat of the Cartagena Dialogue (a negotiating forum in which I represented Costa Rica since 2010). This communication – of which I have a copy - states: “Please note that by decision of the Government of Costa Rica, Ms. Monica Araya has been relieved of her current duties as MINAE External Advisor.” The email trail also appoints a new representative with instructions from the Head of the Climate Change Directorate and states that I will no longer attend the upcoming Cartagena meeting in Ghana. 2.2 The Ministry (MINAE) also communicated to other delegations that I have ceased to be part of the negotiating team. For example, the head of the Costa Rican delegation delivered a list to negotiators of AILAC (Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean States) – which I actively helped create – listing the Costa Rican negotiators that are part of AILAC. My name was left out. What the Costa Rican public needs to know is that this letter was sent on the same week that the Minister publicly denied that I had ever been removed. What is at stake.  This government and you in particular owe the country an honest and open debate about the Costa Rican-Chinese refinery. Why do we need a refinery in the first place? And who will decide? I am convinced that a large majority of Costa Ricans will support a new model of cooperation with China – one based on low-carbon opportunities for both countries. Only this would be consistent with the environmental commitments that Costa Rica has courageously upheld for more than twenty years bringing so many benefits for our country. Sincerely, Dr. Monica Araya Climate Policy and Development Expert.


[i] Con copia a: Amelia Rueda and Foro Nación
[ii]Costa Rica, China y El Clima: Un Momento Decisivo.” La Nación, Costa Rica. 7 Junio 2013 http://bit.ly/13hKxel   (Costa Rica, China and the Climate: A Decisive Moment”)
[iii]Aclaro que no hubo ningún despido de asesora en cambio climático por diferencias sobre refinería.” Ver: http://bit.ly/13CQ6Ww   (I clarify that no removal of climate change adviser has taken place because of differences over refinery)
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Monica Araya

Dr. Mónica Araya is Costa Rican expert on climate and low-carbon development who has worked on sustainability issues for over 20. She is Founder and Director of Costa Rica Limpia - a citizen platform to advance new thinking on environment, development and democracy. She was negotiator for her country in the climate negotiations. She collaborates frequently with leaders in government, business, academia, non-profits and think tanks in several countries. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the UNEP Emissions Gap Report and Co-Chair of the
Latin American LEDS Platform. She obtained a Masters in Economic Policy at Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica and Master and Doctorate in environmental management from Yale University.
For publications see www.monica-araya.com and www.costaricalimpia.org

La Dra. Mónica Araya es una experta costarricense en cambio climático y desarrollo bajo en carbono. Es Fundadora y Directora Ejecutiva de Costa Rica Limpia, una plataforma ciudadana para promover nuevos planteamientos en desarrollo, ambiente y democracia. Ha sido negociadora por su país, Costa Rica, en las negociaciones del clima. Colabora regularmente con líderes en el sector gubernamental, empresarial, academia, entidades sin fines de lucro y think tanks en varios países. Es miembro del Comité Directivo de la PNUMA Emissions Gap Report y Vice Presidenta del Comité Directivo de la Plataforma Latinoamericana LEDS. Obtuvo una Maestría en Política Económica de la Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica y una Maestría y Doctorado en gestión ambiental en la Universidad de Yale.
Para sus publicaciones ver www.monica-araya.com y www.costaricalimpia.org