Different Policies, Different Results

A recent column by the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman highlighted the benefits when…

  1. A government realizes the need to preserve its natural resources, and
  2. Structures itself to most effectively manage it.

Realizing the advantages of having so much biodiversity, and acknowledging the risks that there-to-fore development could place on it, the government of Costa Rica made two ground breaking changes that are paying dividends today.

  1. Instituted a “payment for environmental services” fee associated with the use or depletion of natural resources.
  2. Put control of energy and all natural resources within one government ministry.
Working Together with ILM

Working Together with ILM

That second point is a fine example of Integrated Landscape Management in action. The upside to development and the sacrifices that go into achieving it are borne and shared by many, many stakeholders. Weighing these costs and benefits should then be done on a holistic level. The opposite – putting energy development under one department and conservation under another – can pit two government offices against each other.  When conflict arises it appears as though money (or energy development) must come at the sake of environmental integrity and conservation.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and Costa Rica has realized this.

Belize’s own Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment plays a similar role, but has not achieved the same results.  According to the article, 95% of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources (including hydro, which is seen as environmentally detrimental by many Belizeans).  In contrast, most of Belize’s energy comes from Mexico which uses 6% renewables.  Costa Rica has a thriving  eco-tourism market, but Belize – with its barrier reef and English as an official language – has not been able to keep pace with roughly the same amount of protected areas.  Belize brings in $300 million per year in tourism revenue vs $2.2 billion in Costa Rica.  Belize has 2.6 million acres of protected areas vs 3.2 million acres in Costa Rica.

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So what’s the difference?  Governmental leadership and integration – successful programs must have top-level support in order to work, and they must simultaneously address all stakeholders’ needs.

So what’s missing in Belize?  Is it vision, or the collective will to act on this opportunity?

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