Monica Araya

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 and

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 y

Monica Araya gives her insights into the growing role of non-state actors in the Latin American and Caribbean region, a topic which she presented at the last 
ECLAC dialogue for Latin American countries, held in Santiago de Chile in May 2015. CDKN supports these dialogues through its Advocacy Fund.

A stadium in Costa Rica became 100% solar powered in May. Powerful headlines energised readers in a region whose love for football and the sun is legendary. A source of pride, this became the first stadium in Central America of this kind.

Tangible benefits, including $185,000 in savings a year, tell a credible story to citizens of why embracing clean energy is smart. The stadium’s conversion also shows that actions by all stakeholders, not only the state, are necessary if we are to collectively shift toward growing economies while emissions go down. Non-state actors, such as companies and city-led initiatives, can make an affirmative difference this year. This will be especially the case once governments sign a new climate agreement in Paris this December.



A new report released yesterday finds that, thanks to new investments in infrastructure and rapid technological innovation, it is possible to tackle climate change while at the same time improving economic performance. Challenging conventional wisdom, the report refutes the notion that countries must choose between fighting climate change and growing their economies.

Monday, 11 August 2014 07:40

Citizens for a Clean Society

Clean SocietyReinventing development will need imagination – a bigger and freer imagination - to transform our aspirations, to reinvent our countries and especially our urban future. Development as usual–growth at any cost, polluted cities and over-exploitation of key resources—hurts people and compromises our ability to prosper in the long term. And shouldn’t development be the means to a better life for the great majority of people?

We are entering the urban and more southern century - by 2050 most people around the world will live in cities. And most of these people will live in developing countries. The mix of pressing demographics and development as usual do not add up to a promising future. There is no such thing as a collective prosperity in countries running on dirty energy, polluted water and toxic air. An alternative course is possible –through cleaner and safer pathways-- if we abandon obsolete notions that accept unsustainable development as if it were inescapable. We can afford bigger aspirations, especially as our southern confidence expands almost as fast as the growth of our middle class and business opportunities.

Friday, 22 November 2013 06:35

Governments can say no to fossil fuels

fossil fuels The fossil fuel lobby has a disproportionate influence on world leaders, but governments are not as powerless as they pretend.  If we are serious about closing the emission gap this decade and avoiding serious dangerous climate change, our work in finance, technology, and politics must drive decision makers towards saying no to high carbon infrastructure that would lock in emissions for the decades to come. Governments do have the choice to say no.
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.
Tuesday, 07 May 2013 07:58

A New “Why” for Climate Action

The world needs a new “why” for climate action.  Unless the public embraces a vision for climate action that is consistent with their notions of prosperity, politicians will not challenge the status quo inside their governments and political parties.  Latin American countries need a new “why” for climate action; and nowhere is this potential for reframing political storytelling on climate action greater than in middle-income developing countries.  The public is worried about climate change. But is it asking politicians to commit to bold climate action at home? Not yet.
In December 2010, the international community explicitly stated “We choose consensus” at the United Nations Climate Change conference in Cancun.* Although countries remain divided and the Cancun Agreements do not guarantee climate security, on that December day we triumphed with a pragmatic spirit, which was much needed for the UNFCCC negotiations to repair the damage left from Copenhagen. The conference’s results and skill of both the Mexican diplomats and the UNFCCC chief surprised even the most optimistic of commentators (who were very few). Yet a little over a month later, we are left questioning how we can raise the ambition of the efforts and give them the proper legal form. In the 21st Century, a global mark that guarantees climate security requires an agreement between China and the United States. China and the United States, the “G2”, are the two principle economies and the two greatest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. And yet there is still no solution for this geopolitical jigsaw puzzle. Nonetheless, this paralysis between the “G2” should not reduce us to a role of passive observers, or even worse, to one of victims. In Cancun, the progressive and pragmatic countries, especially those of us small countries and those at greatest risk if diplomacy were to collapse, opted to be proactive. The Mexican President of the conference was patient and open to dialogue so that Cancun would give the key and necessary signal: we have no definite solution (in mitigation and in its legal form); however we can take an intermediary path within the construction of the climate architecture. That night—in one of its scarce occasions—the international community strove to reach an agreement. We progressive countries celebrate this success. However, important dynamics unraveled behind the scenes. Cancun demonstrated that climate alliances can and should incorporate the voices of both developing and developed countries. In order to face the paralysis we are in, we must open up new dialogues. Only then, with quality proposals, can we counteract the unilateral impulses of those countries that threaten to break the consensus because they are either big or inflexible or both. I participated in a promising dialogue that took place in Cancun: the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action. In my opinion, it is the most imaginative and constructive platform that currently exists in the climate negotiations. What is the Cartagena Dialogue? The Dialogue emerged as a spontaneous and informal effort to elaborate the negotiation texts in Copenhagen. Given the bitter result of COP15, a small group of negotiators decided to rescue the effort together and transform it into a positive platform. Crisis tends to create the most skillful ideas. And so, this informal space was born. It was open to countries with ideas to create an ambitious regime, both comprehensive and legally binding across constructive positions and that, within the domestic sphere, strive to continue with or promote low carbon economies in the medium- and long-term. These countries share a main goal that the negotiations advance, and that countries work together positively and proactively both within and with other regional groups. For example, in the Cartagena Dialogue we openly discuss the motivations behind distinct positions (“What does country X want to gain through this and why?), we clear up misunderstandings (“I have heard that your group is against Y, is this true?”) to explore the spaces for convergence in the negotiations (“What do you all think about a paragraph that suggests…”) But I must stress that the Dialogue is neither a negotiation block, nor does it have the intention to challenge the blocks in the negotiations. The dialogue serves as a discussion forum to exchange opinions and to explore options and texts that can generate support and consensus from other parts. Why the Cartagena Dialogue? The name comes from the first group meeting, which took place in Cartagena, Colombia, in March 2010. In July 2010, the Dialogue took place in Maldives, and it met for the third time in Costa Rica (October-November 2010). There were additional informal gatherings in Bonn, Germany, and in Tianjin, China. In the year 2010, the following countries participated in one or more meetings: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, the European Union, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malawi, Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Mexico (as President of the COP16), the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Rwanda,  Dominican Republic, Samoa, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. The most inspiring part of the Dialogue is the unusual and refreshing constructive spirit that allows for the exchange of ideas. Outside of the formal negotiation rooms, a safe space is created where frank discussions can take place to explore areas of common interest in a fluid environment without pressure.  One can breathe a refreshing air of trust—which is very different from the polarizing environment that prevails in the plenaries and usually results in stalemate or paralysis. From Cancun to Durban Given the fragile political conditions facing Cancun, a key objective during 2010 facing the conference in Mexico was to find convergence. We needed to establish the precedent that it was possible to have an agreement, which would capture what we ‘can live with,’ even if it does not meet one hundred percent of what my country individually wants (or even if it had some paragraphs that we do not like at all). And we succeeded. In Cancun, the Cartagena Dialogue met daily and several times at night in subgroups to search for consensus, to take the pulse of the negotiations, and to explore strategies to work with the most inflexible countries. The Dialogue will meet for the next time in Malawi in March 2011. There, we will exchange ideas of how to make beneficial and strategic contributions at the COP17 in Durban. It is complex and often frustrating to reach an agreement among nearly 200 governments. There is no recipe for success. But we know the ingredients: discipline, better listening and less screaming. Through the Dialogue we have explored how the “engineering of convergences” work. And innovatively, we have drawn up the only informal platform that includes as many developing countries as developed.  The challenge in 2011 is to instill ambition and legal certainty to come closer to the climate security objectives that science—and our consciences—demand. *We know that Bolivia had objections but the international lawyers have reminded us that consensus does not have to mean unanimity. A special thanks to Cecilia Pineda, Brown University, for translating this piece.
Latin America matters in international climate politics. Its emerging leadership role at the international climate change talks, on low-carbon pathways and climate finance illustrate how some Latin American countries may shape the negotiations and the region this decade.