It should come as no surprise when Costa Rica – a global pioneer in eco-awareness – signed a letter of intent with (FCPF) Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, to negotiate an agreement with ERPA (Emission Reductions Payment Agreement) worth a whopping $63 million.

This bold move makes Costa Rica the first country to tap this lucrative resource in order to conserve and regenerate it’s precious and vulnerable landscapes to become more sustainable and at the same time, increase the livelihoods of it’s residents.

Costa Rica has, for two years running, been the reigning queen of the happiest countries on Earth. In fact, many people are unaware of the fact that Costa Rica is one of only five, Blue Zones in the world. These are locations around the world that are conducive to longevity and happiness. The unofficial older person alive lives here.

Born in Costa Rica on March 10, 1900, José Delgado Corrales, better known as “Chepito”, is now the oldest man in the world with the death of Spaniard Salustiano Sanchez, Friday, holder of the world record for oldest living man. Chepito is a resident of the famous Nicoya most known for it’s quality of life and longevity of it’s locals. According to the Blue Zone Project, this is one of only five in existence.

Costa Rica aims to protect 340,000 hectares in an effort to meet its 2021 carbon neutrality goal.

The signing ceremony of the Letter of Intent (LOI) was presided by Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, and Fabrizio Zarcone, World Bank Representative for Costa Rica. The LOI was signed by Rene Castro, Minister of Environment and Energy, and Laurent Msellati, World Bank Sector Manager in the Sustainable Development Department for the Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation reinforces the Payment for Environmental Services program. This program, which the National Forestry Fund (FONAFIFO) of the Minister of Environment and Energy has been managing since 1997, will contribute to the National Strategy established to turn Costa Rica into a carbon neutral country by 2021,” said Castro.

The country’s ambitious transition to carbon-neutrality by 2021 depends on better management of forested and agricultural land, where approximately 80 percent of its projected carbon emission reductions are expected to come from.

Costa Rica is building on the success of a decade-old program of Payments for Environmental Services (PES). This program compensates landowners for planting and protecting trees on their property.

Costa Rica was an early adopter of the REDD+ concept, formalized in 2005 as one of the founders of the Rainforest Coalition, and was the first country to put the concept of REDD+ onto the agenda of international climate negotiations.

At the moment, the biggest challenge for Costa Rica is their battle with greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including transport, industry and housing, by developing a domestic carbon market in a flexible, cost-effective way. At the same time, it is providing financial incentives to the private sector for investments in low emission technology and to develop the country’s eco-competitive strategies. Some examples of this include the country’s state-run electric company, ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) whom actively promote the usage of low-energy consuming fluorescent and LED lamps for domestic use.