TED全球问题:Monica Araya: A small country with big ideas to get rid of fossil fuels

How do we build a societywithout fossil fuels?

This is a very complex challenge,and I believe developing countriescould take the lead in this transition.And I'm aware that thisis a contentious statement,but the reality is that so muchis at stake in our countriesif we let fossil fuels stayat the center of our development.We can do it differently.And it's time, it really is time,to debunk the myththat a country has to choosebetween development on the one handand environmental protection,renewables, quality of life, on the other.

I come from Costa Rica,a developing country.We are nearly five million people,and we live right in the middleof the Americas,so it's very easyto remember where we live.Nearly 100 percent of our electricitycomes from renewable sources,five of them.


Hydropower, geothermal,wind, solar, biomass.

Did you know that last year,for 299 days,we did not use any fossil fuelsin order to generate all our electricity?It's a fantastic achievement,and yet, it hides a paradox,which is that nearly 70 percentof all our energy consumption is oil.

Why?Because of our transportation system,which is totally dependenton fossil fuels,like it is in most countries.So if we think of the energytransition as a marathon,the question is, how do we getto the finish line,how do we decarbonizethe rest of the economy?And it's fair to saythat if we don't succeed,it's difficult to see who will.So that is why I wantto talk to you about Costa Rica,because I believe we are a great candidatein pioneering a visionfor development without fossil fuels.

If you know one thing about our country,it's that we don't have an army.So I'm going to take you back to 1948.That year, the countrywas coming out of civil war.Thousands of Costa Ricans had died,and families were bitterly split.And yet, a surprising ideawon the hearts and minds:we would reboot the country,and that Second Republicwould have no army.So we abolished it.And the president at the time,José Figueres,found a powerful wayby smashing the walls of an army base.The following year, 1949,we made that decision permanentin the new constitution,and that is why I can tell you that storynearly 70 years later.And I'm grateful.I'm grateful they made that decisionbefore I was born,because it allowed meand millions of othersto live in a very stable country.

And you might be thinkingthat it was good luck,but it wasn't.There was a pattern of deliberate choices.In the '40s, Costa Ricans were givenfree education and free health care.We called that social guarantees.By abolishing the army,we were able to turn military spendinginto social spending,and that was a driver of stability.In the '50s —


In the '50s, we startedinvesting in hydropower,and that kept us away from the trapof using fossil fuelsfor electricity generation,which is what the worldis struggling with today.In the '70s we invested in National Parks,and that kept us awayfrom the deeply flawed logicof growth, growth, growth at any costthat you see others embracing,especially in the developing world.In the '90s, we pioneered paymentsfor ecosystem services,and that helped us reverse deforestationand boosted ecotourism,which today is a key engine of growth.So investing in environmental protectiondid not hurt our economy.Quite the opposite.

And it doesn't mean we are perfect,and it doesn't meanwe don't have contradictions.That's not the point.The point is that,by making our own choices,we were able to develop resiliencein dealing with development problems.

Also, if you take a country like ours,the GDP per capitais around 11,000 dollars,depending on how you measure it.But according tothe Social Progress Index,we are an absolute outlierwhen it comes to turning GDPinto social progress.Abolishing the army,investing in nature and people,did something very powerful, too.It shaped the narrative,the narrative of a small countrywith big ideas,and it was very empoweringto grow up with that narrative.

So the question is,what is the next big ideafor this generation?And I believe what comes nextis for this generationto let go of fossil fuels for good,just as we did with the army.

Fossil fuels create climate change.We know that,and we know how vulnerable we areto the impacts of climate change.So as a developing country,it is in our best interestto build development without fossil fuelsthat harm people in the first place.Becausewhy would we continue importing oilfor transportationif we can use electricity instead?

Remember,this is the countrywhere electricitycomes from water in our rivers,heat from volcanoes,wind turbines, solar panels,biowaste.Abolishing fossil fuels meansdisrupting our transportation systemso that we can power our cars,buses and trains with electricityinstead of dirty energy.

And transportation, let me tell you,has become an existential issuefor us Costa Ricans,because the model we haveis not working for us.It's hurting people,it's hurting companies,and it's hurting our health.

Because when policiesand infrastructure fail,this is what happens on a daily basis.Two hours in the morning,two hours in the evening.I don't understand whywe have to accept this as normal.It's offensiveto have to waste our time like thisevery single day.And this highway is actually quite goodcompared to what you seein other countrieswhere traffic is exploding.You know, Costa Ricans call this "presa."Presa means "imprisoned."And people are turning violentin a country that is otherwisehappy in pura vida.It's happening.So a lot is at stake.

The good newsis that when we talkabout clean transportationand different mobility,we're not talking aboutsome distant utopia out there.We're talking about electric mobilitythat is happening today.By 2022, electric carsand conventional carsare expected to cost the same,and cities are already tryingelectric buses.And these really cool creaturesare saving money,and they reduce pollution.So if we want to get ridof oil-based transportation, we can,because we have options nowthat we didn't have before.It's really exciting.

But of course,some get very uncomfortablewith this idea,and they will come and they will tell youthat the world is stuck with oil,and so is Costa Rica, so get real.That's what they tell you.And you know what the answerto that argument is?That in 1948, we didn't saythe world is stuck with armies,so let's keep our army, too.No, we made a very brave choice,and that choice made the whole difference.

So it's time for this generationto be brave againand abolish fossil fuels for good.And I'll give you three reasonswhy we have to do this.

First,our model of transportationand urbanization is broken,so this is the best momentto redefine our urban and mobility future.We don't want citiesthat are built for cars.We want cities for peoplewhere we can walk and we can use bikes.And we want public transportation,lots of it,public transportationthat is clean and dignifying.Because if we continueadding fleets of conventional cars,our cities will become unbearable.

Second, we have to change,but incremental changeis not going to be sufficient.We need transformational change.And there are someincremental projects in my country,and I am the first one to celebrate them.But let's not kid ourselves.We're not talking about ending upwith really beautiful electric cars hereand a few electric buses therewhile we keep investingin the same kind of infrastructure,more cars, more roads, more oil.We're talking aboutbreaking free from oil,and you cannot get therethrough incrementalism.

Third, and you know this one,the world is hungry for inspiration.It craves stories of successin dealing with complex issues,especially in developing countries.So I believe Costa Ricacan be an inspiration to others,as we did last year when we disclosedthat for so many dayswe were not using any fossil fuelsin order to generate all our electricity.The news went viral around the world.Also, and this makes me extremely proud,a Costa Rican woman, Christiana Figueres,played a decisive role in the negotiationsof the Paris climate agreement.So we have to protect that legacyand be an example.

So what comes next?The people.How do we get people to own this?How do we get peopleto believe that it's possibleto build a society without fossil fuels?A lot of work fromthe ground up is needed.

That is why, in 2014,we created Costa Rica Limpia."Limpia" means "clean,"because we want to empowerand we want to inspire citizens.If citizens don't get engaged,clean transportation decisionswill be bogged down by endless,and I mean endless, technical discussions,and by avalanches of lobbyingby various established interests.Wanting to be a green countrypowered by renewablesis already part of our story.We should not let anybodytake that away from us.

Last year, we brought peoplefrom our seven provincesto talk about climate changein terms that matter to them,and we also brought this yearanother group of Costa Ricansto talk about renewable energy.And you know what?These people disagree on almost everythingexcept on renewable energyand clean transportation and clean air.It brings people together.

And the key to real participationis to help people not to feel small.People feel powerless,and they are tired of not being heard.So what we do is concrete things,and we translate technical issuesinto citizen languageto show that citizens have a role to playand can play it together.For the first time, we're trackingthe promises that were madeon clean transportation,and politicos knowthat they have to deliver it,but the tipping point will comewhen we form coalitions —citizens, companies,champions of public transportation —that will make electric mobilitythe new normal,especially in a developing country.

By the time the next election comes,I believe every candidatewill have to disclose where they standon the abolition of fossil fuels.Because this questionhas to enter our mainstream politics.And I'm telling you,this is not a question of climate policyor environmental agenda.It's about the country that we wantand the cities that we haveand the cities that we wantand who makes that choice.Because at the end of the day,what we have to showis that development with renewable energyis good for the people,for Costa Ricans that are alive todayand especially for thosewho haven't been born.

This is our National Museum today.It's bright and peaceful,and when you stand up in front of it,it's really hard to believethese were military barracksat the end of the '40s.We started a new lifewithout an army in this place,and here is where our abolitionof fossil fuels will be announced one day.And we will make history again.

Thank you.


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