CCE Country Profile

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Table of Contents

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I) Climate change context

The World Bank describes Costa Rica as “highly vulnerable to extreme climate events and natural hazards” due to its geographical location and economic factors, including climate change related floods, drought, storms, and wildfires. In its 2014 National Communication, Costa Rica declared that the main climate change effects in the country are on water, energy, infrastructure, health, fisheries and coastal areas, biodiversity and agriculture.

Costa Rica’s population of around 5 million lives on approximately  51,060 square kilometers. It is a low carbon-emitting country, emitting 1.7 tCO2 per person in 2019 according to the Global Carbon Atlas. However, the National Communication (2014) states that the expanding agricultural sector is causing increasing deforestation, and thus a loss of carbon reductions enabled by forests in the future. 

Costa Rica is a United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Non-Annex I (non-industrialized) Party. It ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 and the Paris Agreement in 2016. The country accepted the Doha Amendment in 2016.

With a national philosophy of ‘Pura Vida’ (Pure Life), Costa Rica has positioned itself as a global climate change forerunner, setting a range of ambitious goals for action. These ambitions were honored in 2019, when the UN Environment Program awarded Costa Rica the Champions of the Earth Award by policy leadership category) for its efforts in environmental protection and its commitment to combatting climate change.

II) Relevant government agencies

Climate change

The main organization in charge of climate change activities in Costa Rica is the Climate Change Directorate. The Directorate is part of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy and is where the National UNFCCC Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Focal Point is housed. The structure and roles of the Ministry and Directorate are defined under the 2012 Executive Decree No. 35669.

Coordinating closely with the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, the National Meteorological Institute, the National System of Climate Change Metrics, and the National System of Conservation Areas provide data and information about climate change. Additionally, the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Telecommunications is involved in coordinating national research on climate change. Finally, the Secretariat of Sector Planning for the Environment, Energy, Seas and Land Use Planning coordinates the different ministries involved in environment, energy, seas and land issues.

Education and communication

Formal education and training initiatives in Costa Rica are developed by the Ministry of Public Education for primary and secondary schools, the National Council of Rectors for public universities, the National Council of Private Higher Education for private universities, and the National Institute of Learning for technical and vocational training (TVET). Other education and training opportunities are also made available through international partners and non-governmental organizations. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s International Standard Classification of Education provides an overview of the country’s education system.

The Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy oversees the country’s budgets and the overall development strategy for Costa Rica, including in relation to climate change communication and education.

III) Relevant laws, policies, and plans

Climate change


Costa Rica has created a strong legal framework for climate change initiatives with over 25 executive degrees and laws adopted since the ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994, many of which include components focused on education. (Note that national plans and strategies developed after 2015 are ratified through executive degrees.)

To date, there are two main legal policy documents that lay out Costa Rica’s strategic goals and plans for action to combat climate change. While the documents are not primarily focused on education and communication, they all include education and communication components in their strategies.

The country’s first National Climate Change Strategy was established in 2009. The document is the basis for a number of later initiatives and decrees and is referenced in many later documents. The Strategy calls for the promotion and inclusion of climate change information in the country’s formal education system at all academic levels and in multiple disciplines. It also calls for schools, colleges, and universities to develop specific actions to help mitigate and adapt to climate change and to increase the amount of climate change content in the curricula.

In 2018, Costa Rica published a National Policy for the Adaptation to the Climate Change of Costa Rica, approved through Executive Decree No. 41091. This Policy centers on four focal points of human rights, gender equality, Indigenous communities, and an integrated approach to climate adaptation and mitigation. The Policy calls for the promotion and mainstreaming of climate change into the formal education system throughout the document.

These two documents are complemented by a number of concrete plans for achieving the policies’ goals. A significant document is the Action Plan of the National Climate Change Strategy, which was published in 2015 and approved by Executive Decree No. 39114, and includes climate change education and communication. It lays out how Costa Rica plans to achieve the climate change goals set in the 2009 National Climate Change Strategy, and offers concrete steps for proposed action up until 2021. In addition, the national government declared in the National Decarbonization Plan (2019; officially adopted via Executive Decree No. 41581) that it would aim for net-zero emissions by 2050. The Plan was one of the reasons why Costa Rica was nominated Champion of the Earth by the UN Environmental Programme in 2019. The Plan is also the new baseline document for climate change action together with the National Policy for the Adaptation to the Climate Change of Costa Rica (2018). The Plan puts a strong emphasis on education and culture to reach the net-zero goal. Its mechanism for action is the Carbon Neutrality Country Program (2017).

Costa Rica also included climate change in its National Development Plan 2019–2022, its general plan for the future, which is updated every three years. The most recent iteration of the Plan puts a special emphasis on addressing climate change and its impacts, and highlights the importance of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). It was approved through Executive Decree No. 41848.

In 2020, the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy also inventoried national policies related to Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action), listing all those that  focus on climate change, including the goals and connections to other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The most recent international document that defines Costa Rica’s plans for addressing climate change and its impacts is the updated 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions on climate change action, which was open to consultation by the public prior to submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat in 2020. The Nationally Determined Contributions entrenches the mainstreaming of climate change into formal, non-formal, and informal education and extends this to developing skilled workers for ‘green jobs,’ especially benefiting women, youth, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities. The document is promoted on the Climate Change Directorate Website as an additional strategic document in line with the National Adaptation Plan and the Decarbonization Plan and sets Costa Rica’s future emissions goals.

Education and communication

Costa Rica’s education policies addressing climate change include the 1991 Law 7235, which mandated inclusion of environmental themes in formal education, with the result that environmental education has been mainstreamed in Costa Rica’s national curricula. Later laws and decrees that advanced environmental education into the university sector included the 2011 Executive Decree No. 36672.

The Ministry of Public Education has several key national plans and curricula which address climate change, including the National Curricular Framework (2016), and  various subject area study plans.

The National Plan for State University Higher Education 2021-2025 (2020) covers public higher education, and includes references to climate change. This strategic document targets the five national universities and is developed by the National Council of Rectors.

Currently, Costa Rica has no specific laws, policies, or plans specifically about climate change communication. Yet, the need for an Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) strategy on climate change communication and education is highlighted in the country’s 2014 National Communication to the UNFCCC Secretariat, and is indicated as planned in the 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions. It is anticipated that the Climate Empowerment Plan, to be finalized in 2022, will further develop this focus, with strong participation by Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.

IV) Terminology used for climate communication and education

Most of Costa Rica’s climate change-specific documents, including the National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat (2014), refer to climate change communication and education in terms of “public awareness, education and cultural change,” sometimes discussed in relation to ‘education for sustainable development’ or ‘environmental education.’

In UN reporting on climate change communication and education, Costa Rica has adopted the UNFCCC language of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). For example, the 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions states: “Costa Rica is committed to promoting the empowerment of civil society, the public and private sectors, and academia in matters of climate change so that they take ownership of climate action and can lead from their spaces of action” (p. 46).

In education-specific materials, Costa Rica has tended to use the terminology of ‘environment’ (e.g., the 1991 Law 723), or more recently of ‘sustainable development.’ For example, the 2016 National Curriculum Framework uses the Brundtland Report’s (1987) definition, highlighting the role of education in advancing “development that meets the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (n.d.). 

V) Budget for climate communication and education

The Action Plan for the National Climate Change Strategy (2014) provides the most concrete estimate of the budget allocated to climate change communication and education, stating that US$ 8,325,000 is allocated for activities that fall under the public awareness, education, and cultural change axis. However, no information is publicly available to confirm spending in this area since it was budgeted for in the 2014 Action Plan.

The country’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions points to the need to further develop resources to support climate change communication and education in the country.


I) Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education

Climate change is currently not a specific topic in Costa Rica’s pre-primary curriculum (2014), but there is a strong focus on environmental, sustainability, and biodiversity themes. A description of the types of climate change-related keywords discussed in the curricula may be found in the MECCE Project Monitoring section of this profile. For example, the curricular text includes: 

“Ecological foundation allows us to understand that the environment integrates the sensation of experiences that promote awareness, respect for biodiversity, love of nature, as well as the interdependence that exists between the sociocultural, economic and natural. To achieve this in Preschool Education, awareness is raised towards a sustainable development that harmonizes with the conservation of the environment.”

– Programa de Estudio EDUCACIÓN PREESCOLAR, 2014, p. 15

Climate change is part of the curriculum in Costa Rican primary and secondary education and is currently taught largely in the fourth year of primary education, in the Sciences as well as in Civic Education.

An in-depth examination of references to climate change in the 2016 National Curricula Framework found an emphasis on the need to balance sociocultural and environmental interests, stressing the limits of the earth. The Framework covers nine areas of human influence on the environment, with climate change being one of these areas. The Framework also emphasizes holistic and transformational learning in relation to the broader focus on sustainable development and the related area of global citizenship. For example:

“1. In the contents for learning: [Education for Sustainable Development] involves considering critical issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, sustainable production and consumption, among others, to incorporate them into the development of the curriculum.

2. In the learning outcomes: it is expected to strengthen stimulating learning processes that promote the development of fundamental competencies for sustainable development, such as critical and systemic thinking, collaborative decision-making and the development of ethics that implies assuming the responsibility for the development of the present without losing sight of the needs of future generations.

3. In social transformation: it implies empowering each student, in each age group and in all educational environments, for the transformation of themselves and the society where they live; strengthen the transition towards green economies and societies with sustainable lifestyles and empower everyone to consider themselves as a “global citizen.” “

– National Curricula Framework, 2016, p. 16-17, n.p.

In Costa Rica’s Science curriculum (2016) for primary and secondary education, climate change references can be found throughout the curriculum’s three focal points:

“I. Living beings in healthy environments, as a result of the interaction of biological, socio-cultural and environmental aspects.

II. Sustainable use of energy and materials, for the preservation and protection of the planet’s resources.

III. Interrelationships between the activities carried out by human beings at a local and global level, with the integrity of Planet Earth and its relationship with the Universe. “

– Costa Rica’s Science curriculum, 2016, pp. 40-41

The Social Science and Civic Education Curriculum (2013) highlights the need for students to understand their own behavior, its impacts on nature and on other people living in different socio-economic conditions, and consequences for the environment. Climate is explained but climate change is not directly mentioned.

Beyond these examples, there are few evident national initiatives to include climate change in primary and secondary education in the country. In 2015, the Ministry of Public Education launched an Integrated Program of Education for Sustainable Development and Institutional Environmental Management, which references climate change only once, but stresses the need to fight the global ecological crisis. The program is based on Education for Sustainable Development principles and aims to mainstream sustainability principles into schools and make them accessible to teachers and students.

Further, the Bandera Azul Program, a private organization supported by the government, provides eco certification and supports organizations to become more environmentally friendly. It has a special program for educational centersthat supports schools in their efforts to become carbon neutral by doing assessments and helping them to develop specific action plans. The program, while aiming for a holistic approach, focuses mostly on school infrastructure.

Costa Rica’s latest National Communication (2014) highlighted the importance of education for climate change while stressing that most initiatives remained selective and a more systematic strategy to include climate change in education and communication was needed.

New plans outlined in the Nationally Determined Contributions (2020) suggest a stronger focus on climate change in the national curriculum in the future, and notes the country’s plans to develop a national climate change learning strategy.

II) Climate change in teacher training and teacher resources

This review did not identify a lot of information relating to climate change training for teachers. In general, teacher training in Costa Rica is not a specific discipline at universities; instead, people wishing to become teachers study a subject and afterwards attend a non-mandatory pedagogy course. This pedagogy course is not a standard requirement across all schools and teaching quality can vary greatly. A 2017 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted that, although school attendance is high in Costa Rica and learning outcomes are clear, there is little support and material available to assist teachers, as well as few professional standards. The lack of training and support for teachers was described in this study as one of the biggest issues in the Costa Rican education system, although the study notes the country is making improvements in this area. The need for increased teacher resources is also evident in the lack of support material in the area of climate change education available at the time of data collection.

The University of Costa Rica is the only public university that offers bachelor’s degrees and licenciaturas (5-year degree, typical in Latin America) in educational sciences. None of the current study plans in educational sciences include climate change.

Costa Rica’s National Technical University along with the Technical University of Panama offered an online coursefor university teachers on climate change for the first time in 2020. In the first course, over 60 teachers participated which the National Technical University estimates will benefit 1,500 students. The course is supported on the Costa Rican side by the Ministry of the Environment and Energy and the National System of Conservation Areas.

In response to the need to better support teachers and educators to integrate sustainable development and environmental considerations more broadly, the Ministry of Public Education developed a website to house teaching resources for climate change, although most of the resources date from 2013 or earlier. The Ministry also developed the Integrated Program of Education for Sustainable Development and Institutional Environmental Management, for which climate change is a key learning area, and for which a teacher training program on Education for Sustainable Development is proposed.

The country’s strategic climate documents highlight a focus on teacher support. The National Climate Change Strategy has placed specific emphasis on the training of teachers and professionals, calling for the “prepar[ation] and distribut[ion] of educational materials for teachers and students on climate change and its effects, in educational centers in the country” and to “train advisers and teachers from the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) on climate change and its effects” (2009, p. 72). The National Decarbonization Plan (2018) also points to the importance of training opportunities for teachers to promote the broader acceptance of carbon-neutral alternatives across Costa Rica.

The country’s national self-reporting and target-setting in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) submissions have only referenced teacher training once in the 2014 National Communicationand not at all in the 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions.

III) Climate change in higher education

Costa Rica’s National Plan for State University Higher Education 2021-2025 (2020) is targeted towards the five national public universities and was developed by the National Council of Rectors. The document places great importance on the role of higher education institutions in actions that promote decarbonization, adaptation, transformation, and sustainable development. The Plan situates action on climate change within the context of ensuring “present generations achieve their existence and productivity goals without compromising future generations of humanity” (p. 91). The Plan also calls for the revision of at least 25% of all higher education syllabi to include topics related to sustainable development, including climate change.

Of the five public universities, climate change-related courses were sparse at the time of this review. he Universidad de Costa Rica offered one course (in biosystems engineering) specifically about climate change. The National University of Costa Rica offered four courses: one in forestry sciences, one in geography, one in political economy, and one in international relations. The Technical University of Costa Rica offered a number of courses related to climate change, such as environmental engineering, but no specific courses on climate change. The State University of Distance Learning currently had no courses that included climate change. The last public university, the National Technical University, also had no specific courses about climate change in its subjects.

The higher education network Redies (Red Costarricense de Instituciones Educativas Sostenibles – Network of Costa Rican sustainable educational institutes) is a group of 18 (primarily) higher education institutions committed to increasing their institutions’ sustainability. They have developed indicators for measuring this goal, including reducing carbon emissions and organizing events on the topic of climate change and universities.

In terms of self-reporting and target-setting in this area, the country’s National Communication (2014) highlights the efforts higher education institutions have taken to promote the need to address climate change to the public, industry, and agricultural sectors. The National Communication mentions universities multiple times and highlights their importance in informing the public and educating the next generation about climate change. The Communication indicates that a large number of Costa Rica’s 59 universities, including the 5 public universities, have taken up a focus on climate change through specific courses and certifications. In addition, the Communication notes that the five national (public) universities and a small number of international private universities have research institutions concerned with climate change, which are funded by the government and regularly report information on climate change to the public.

The country’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions was closely developed in cooperation with the University of Costa Rica, the country’s biggest and most prestigious university. In the Nationally Determined Contributions, Costa Rica commits to creating a process for all universities to include climate change into their programs and provide training so that learners gain the  skills necessary for green jobs. 

IV) Climate change in training and adult learning

Training opportunities and adult learning on climate change are becoming increasingly visible in Costa Rica, though national data on their current availability and uptake is sparse and mostly included in forward-looking planning documents, such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (2020).

The Action Plan for the National Climate Change Strategy (2015) highlights the importance of climate change training initiatives and calls for the creation of a training center (Centro Nacional de Eficiencia Energetica) that would be responsible for training professionals in the efficient use of energy. No information is available on the progress of this center’s creation.

The National Policy for Sustainable Production and Consumption 2018 -2030 (2018), published by the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, the Ministry of Planification and Economic Development, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Culture places a strong focus on training for green jobs that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit energy consumption, and contribute to climate adaptation. For example, the policy emphasizes training for “knowledge management on the effects of climate change, climate services and development of local and institutional capacities” (p. 24).

In its Strategic Plan 2019-2025 (2018), the National Learning Institute, which is Costa Rica’s primary organization for technical and vocational education and training (TVET), highlights the importance of working in an environmentally friendly manner with a special focus on avoiding carbon emissions and pollutants. The Professional Institutes of Community Education and the Integrated Adult Education Centers are two other governmental providers of adult education. The two institutes, governed by the Ministry of Public Education, are focused on working with youth and adults who did not finish primary or secondary education. At the time of this review, there were no climate change courses available, however ecotourism courses were offered.

Costa Rica’s National Adaptation Plan (2018) also points to the need to train local government officials in key institutions and to organize capacity development programs for communities prone to experiencing climate emergencies. One training example is the Virtual Classroom for Climate Change project, funded by the Green Fund for the Climate, developed by the Municipal Development and Advisory Institute and the Climate Change Directorate, and supported by the United Nations Environment Program. The project aims to increase the climate resilience of people in regional governments and municipalities by strengthening their climate change knowledge. Planned expansions include a website to help reach and train more people. This is part of a bigger project that will be extended over the coming years called Plan – A: Territories Resilient to Climate Change.

Training and capacity building are not mentioned extensively in the country’s official United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) documents. Costa Rica’s National Communication (2014) highlights efforts organized by the National System of Conservation Areas to train journalists on the topic of climate change and on effective reporting in this area.

The most recent Nationally Determined Contributions (2020) refers to climate change capacity building three times and to training twice, including in relation to green jobs and with specific populations ‘historically excluded from the labor sector.’ It states:

“During the period of implementation of this contribution, the country will develop specific training programs for women, young people, people of African descent, indigenous people and other groups historically excluded from the labor sector, in order to facilitate access to green jobs, including areas such as the of renewable energy, regenerative and precision agriculture, sustainable construction and recovery of valuable assets, in which they are often underrepresented.”

– Nationally Determined Contributions, 2020, p. 49

This shows that in the future more information about climate change training in the country will most likely become available.


I) Climate change and public awareness

The majority of Costa Rica’s national climate policies mention public awareness campaigns (e.g., National Science, Technology and Innovation Plan 2015-2021, 2015; National Biodiversity Strategy 2016-2025, 2015; National Risk Management Policy 2016-2030, 2015; National Policy for Sustainable Production and Consumption 2018 –2030, 2018; National Development Plan, 2019). Costa Rica’s Action Plan of the National Climate Change Strategy (2014) has budgeted US$ 8,325,000 to raise public awareness of climate change.

The country’s National Communication (2014) provides multiple examples of why increasing public awareness is so important. For instance, it states that “Awareness programs are required in the educational system and in the press, to influence the consumer and create an internal market that rewards products of sustainable production” (2014, p. 101). There have also been campaigns and efforts to raise climate awareness among specific target populations in Costa Rica, from those communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change to those viewed as key gatekeepers to wider behavioral change or awareness-raising. For example, the country reports in its National Communication that it has implemented awareness campaigns on climate adaptation that target rural populations, whose proximity to the sea puts them at heightened vulnerability to tropical storms intensified by climate change. Another program has targeted awareness about energy-saving techniques in the home, as this venue is considered important to intergenerational knowledge transfer of pro-environmental behaviors.

The National Communication and the Voluntary National Review (2020) both  describe a series of climate change micro-programs broadcast through radio, film, and television. The programs covered a range of topics, including early actions and climate adaptation strategies taken by civil society, companies, and other segments of society to become carbon neutral. There have also been campaigns focused on educating citizens about good driving habits and the environmental benefits of using public transportation, efficient water and energy use, and responsible consumption and production.

The Nationally Determined Contributions (2020) lays out ambitious plans to make the Costa Rican population more aware about climate change and its effects. The document  states that the country aims to develop a strategy to empower climate action, which will be targeted at the whole population including indigenous peoples and policy-makers and be offered until 2022.

II) Climate change and public access to information

A growing number of climate change communication initiatives in Costa Rica support the public’s ability to find out more information about climate change and its impacts. Much of this information is freely available on the websites of several Costa Rican ministries and government-funded research institutions.

For example, the Climate Change Directorate has a website dedicated to informing the public about climate change initiatives and actions. The National Meteorological Institute, the National System of Climate Change Metrics, and the National System of Conservation Areas each operate climate change information websites, including a ‘knowledge platform.’ Each of those institutions collects data on the state of climate change in Costa Rica. The National Environmental Information System also hosts open access data on climate change.

The government also produces guides to inform the general public about efficient use of energy which is often distributed in conjunction with public awareness campaigns and workshops.

Examples of key national-level initiatives include a Climate Change Directorate initiative which has published several videos aimed to increase the general public’s “scientific and technological literacy.” The initiative aims to foster increased pro-environmental decision making and behaviors, including in relation to climate change. Other initiatives are intended to warn the public about climate change and its effects, as in the case of the National Risk Management Policy 2016-2030 (2015), published by the National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Attention.

Social media is used widely in Costa Rica to access information, and all relevant ministries and agencies have Facebook pages and (to a lesser extent) Instagram accounts where they inform the public about their initiatives.

Costa Rica also goes to great lengths to make information available about the environmental friendliness of products for consumption. For instance, the Action Plan for the National Climate Change Strategy (2014) includes a focus on informing the public about products that are carbon neutral. This is achieved through an ‘eco-labeling’ campaign that labels carbon-neutral products and helps to distribute these products widely.

The Nationally Determined Contributions (2020) reports the country’s intention to establish an open data system to make information on climate change accessible to everyone.

III) Climate change and public participation

Costa Rica has created several national-level public participation mechanisms through its National Climate Change Strategy (2009), all of which engage the public in decision-making processes for climate change. These mechanisms are currently in place and used by the government and the public.

For example, the Scientific Council on Climate Change is an independent, consultative body made up of academics, researchers, and experts listed by the country as a key mechanism for public participation of academia in climate action. Created by Executive Decree (No. 40615), the Scientific Council is attached to the Climate Change Directorate of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy. Its role is to advise the Government of Costa Rica on scientific research and technological development in the area of climate change.

Another key national-level initiative, the Citizen Advisory Council on Climate Change, is a citizen participation platform that seeks to strengthen accountability as well as the provision of and access to information. Part of the country’s open government policy, the Citizen Council acts as a bridge between government and citizens to raise  climate change awareness and participation. The Council played a role in facilitating the consultation process of the 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions.

Another public participation initiative, the Integrated System for the Processing and Attention of Environmental Complaints, was created by several different agencies within the environmental sector. The Integrated System functions as an official reporting mechanism and information management scheme in Costa Rica. It is used both for filing environmental complaints and to support decision-making, evaluation, and monitoring of compliance of environmental complaints.

Apart from the official mechanisms above, a large number of civil society organizations, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector, and other organizations also support public participation in climate change communication and decision-making in Costa Rica. For example, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design’s The Next Season project encourages artists to enter public climate change discourse by creating art in dialogue with science. Along with being part of a museum exhibition, the project offers artists up to US$ 16,000 in financial support to participate in this climate change communication activity.

Several public-private-partnerships are playing an important role in facilitating public participation in climate decision-making. The National Policy for Sustainable Production and Consumption 2018 -2030 (2018) mentions partnerships as necessary for the successful adoption of a wide range of efforts to engage the public, including for green jobs and to create ‘eco-competitiveness’ among businesses. An example from the NGO sector is Fundación Fundecooperación para el Desarrollo Sostenible. This NGO is a critical actor in the implementation of many government initiatives through active partnerships with the government, including supporting the government in engaging the public in climate decision-making processes.

In self-reporting on past actions, Costa Rica’s Voluntary National Review (2020) highlights a successful series of Climate Dialogue Roundtables that involved at least 130 financial institutions, insurance companies, support organizations, ministries, and other actors.

In terms of future target setting, both the National Adaptation Plan (2018) and the Nationally Determined Contributions (2020) place particular emphasis on ensuring future climate-related policies and action are participatory and inclusive, especially for people with disabilities, youth, older adults, and other populations vulnerable to climate change..


I) Country monitoring

There is currently no single agency or entity in charge of climate change communication and education monitoring in Costa Rica. However, several organizations and initiatives serve a related function.

Nationally, the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, the National System of Conservation Areas, and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency published a summary report about environmental knowledge in 2017, drawing on data from a 2014 study by the University of Costa Rica and United Nations Development Program. This report suggests the majority of Costa Ricans (79%) know about climate change and its causes and 70% understandthat humans are the primary cause. 

The Sectoral Council for the Environment, Energy, Seas and Land Use Planning is positioned by the National Adaptation Plan (2018) as the highest coordinating body for the Plan’s execution. It is also responsible for publishing a progress report every four years, with the first to be published in 2022, on the implementation of the Plan, with an anticipated focus on climate change communication and education.

The National Institute of Statistics is the main statistical resource body that tracks Costa Rica’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and collects other relevant data related to climate change education. According to the Institute, Costa Rica has included topics related to the indicators for SDG 4.7 (sustainability education) and 13.3 (climate change education) into the curriculum of schools, teacher education, and student evaluation. However, the Institute stresses that including a topic in a policy does not guarantee implementation. The Institute indicates that its measurement tools do not allow for the monitoring of the extent to which topics are applied in practice. They further clarify that measuring the degree to which SDG 4.7 and 13.3 are included in curricula is beyond the scope of analysis currently conducted by the Ministry of Public Education, from which the Institute draws relevant data.

The Country Programme Carbon Neutrality (2017), which aims to make Costa Rica carbon neutral by 2050, has a special subcategory for educational centres to measure their carbon footprint. The Program  aims to measure the effectiveness of educational centres while at the same time raising awareness of climate change among  the student population. The Program includes an acknowledgement system which allows educational centres to be certified to encourage participation every three years. The Climate Change Directorate is the main organization responsible for overseeing this program.

Costa Rica also participates in international standardized learning assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which collects data relevant to climate change education. According to the PISA 2018 Global Competence Study, students in Costa Rica are among those with the highest levels of agency with regard to global issues, an indicator which includes cognitive knowledge about climate change.

Costa Rica states in its Nationally Determined Contributions (2020) that it plans to establish a monitoring system relevant to the Nationally Determined Contributions, National Adaptation Plan (2018), National Decarbonization Plan (2019), and other policies by 2022. It further states that Costa Rica intends to establish indicators to monitor whether marginalized communities are included in the processes of climate change policymaking and aims to enhance its climate change information strategy to ensure all have access.

II) MECCE Project Monitoring

The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project examined Costa Rica’s 2015 Education Sector Plan (ESP) and its 2016 National Curricula Framework (NCF) for references to ‘climate change’, ‘sustainability’, ‘biodiversity’, and the ‘environment.’

Climate change is not mentioned in Costa Rica’s 2015 Education Sector Plan (ESP), which does emphasize inclusion of environmental education into the curricula of primary and secondary schools. Climate change is specifically referenced in the 2016 National Curricula Framework (NCF), which also references education for sustainable development and environmental education. The NCF mentions ‘climate change’ nine times and ‘global warming’ once.

Figure 1 highlights the distribution of references to climate change relative to those to education for sustainable development and environmental education in Costa Rica’s NCF and ESP, including a total of 153 references.

The National Plan for State University Higher Education 2021-2025 (2020) mentions ‘climate change’ 11 times, ‘sustainability’ 69 times, and ‘environment’ 8 times.

Other strategic education and communication documents that may include climate change, for example for technical education or adult education, are currently not publicly available.

This section will be updated as the MECCE project develops.