Costa Rica's reforestation programme wins Expo 2020-supported Earthshot Prize


Dubai - Projects in India, Italy and the Bahamas also won prizes for providing environmental solutions.


A Staff Reporter

Published: Mon 18 Oct 2021, 7:37 PM

Costa Rica has become the first country to be awarded as an Earthshot Prize winner, for an innovative programme that has reversed decades of deforestation by paying small farmers to plant trees and restore ecosystems.

The Earthshot Prize, founded by the Duke of Cambridge in October 2020 to reward countries and organisations aiming to find solutions to the world’s biggest environmental problems, was announced at a glittering ceremony in London last night (October 17). Expo 2020 Dubai – together with DP World, Expo 2020’s Global Trade Partner – is a Global Alliance Founding Partner of the prize.

Four other winners were awarded on the night, representing projects in India, Italy and the Bahamas, as well as a multinational team that has invented a technology that turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas that fuels cars and planes, powers industry and heats homes.

The prize winners were awarded £1 million each and will benefit from a network of professional and technical support to scale their environmental solutions to repair our planet and accelerate their impact.

Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and director-general, Expo 2020 Dubai, said, “As a Global Alliance Founding Partner of the Earthshot Prize – alongside DP World, Expo 2020’s Global Trade Partner – we warmly congratulate its first five worthy winners. These inspirational projects reflect perfectly the theme and purpose of Expo 2020, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, and will help to catalyse a worldwide movement during a crucial decade of action to repair our planet. We cannot wait to see how winning the Earthshot Prize will enable them to continue their incredible work, as we collectively push towards the goal of creating a better world.”

Costa Rica was awarded the prize for its Payments for Environmental Services Programme in the prize’s Protect and Restore Nature category. The programme – the first scheme of its type in the country and the region – promotes forest ecosystem conservation and combats land degradation.

William Reuben, commissioner-general of the Costa Rica Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “We are honoured to be receiving this award in recognition of Costa Rica’s contribution to preserving the environment and our innovative eco-services.

“Costa Rica’s Payments for Environmental Services Programme pays small farmers to protect forests, plant trees, and restore ecosystems. It has been operating for many years and has been responsible for remarkable achievements in reverting deforestation.

“As a result of the programme, 53 per cent of Costa Rica’s territory is now covered by forest, which is an increase from 32 per cent two decades ago. The programme pays small farmers to plant trees in the forest-free areas of their farms, which has led to a reversion of the deforestation trend. A total of 18,000 families have received support through the programme.

“Added to this is another innovative initiative, which is eco-tourism. Costa Rica has a system of national conservation areas that have been important to making Costa Rica into an international eco-tourism destination. By offering accommodation to tourists, small farmers involved in the programme get an additional source of income.”

The five prize winners were chosen by a panel of 15 eminent judges, including broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, actress Cate Blanchett and singer Shakira. Each year for the next decade, the prize will award £1 million apiece to five projects that are working to find solutions to the planet's environmental problems.

Reuben said visitors to the Costa Rica Pavilion will be able to learn about the prize-winning programme and other environmental initiatives. He said: “We appreciate Expo 2020 Dubai’s support for the Earthshot Prize and welcome the technical support of Expo and the UAE Government has been key to ensuring our participation in this global event.”

Other prize winners in their respective categories were:

>> Takachar, India (Clean Our Air) for a portable machine that turns agricultural waste into fertiliser, which avoids farmers burning their fields and causing air pollution

>> Coral Vita, Bahamas (Revive Our Oceans) for a project that uses special tanks to make coral grow up to 50 times faster than traditional methods

>> The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs, Italy (Build a Waste-Free World) for an initiative that collects unused food and redistributes it to people who need it most

> AEM Electrolyser, Thailand/Germany/Italy (Fix Our Climate) for technology that uses renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen – the emission-free hydrogen gas can then be used as fuel

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