Certified sustainability in Costa Rica

Outside view of the embassy building in San José: the Swiss representation occupies one floor of the building.
The Swiss embassy in San José, Costa Rica, is ISO certified as climate-neutral and is taking further steps towards sustainability. © FDFA

Costa Rica has launched its Programa País, with which it aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2021 and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The country is ahead of many others in this respect: in 2017, Costa Rica covered its electricity requirements with renewable energy for 300 days. The Swiss embassy in San José is also making a contribution to sustainability. In addition to its daily awareness-raising activities, the embassy has been successfully certified to ISO standard 14064-1.

Climate-neutral certification

The ISO standard 14064-1 of the International Organization for Standardization specifies the requirements for climate-neutral certification. In order to obtain certification, greenhouse gas emissions must first be quantified, and a corresponding reduction in greenhouse gases must then be demonstrated. 

Certification of the Swiss embassy was carried out in three phases. In phase one, relevant data on the embassy's ecological footprint was measured and analysed. In phase two, the embassy's emissions were reduced, for example by modernising the lighting system with LED bulbs. Finally, phase three focused on offsetting the remaining emissions. To this end, the embassy supported the 'Finca Florida Forestale' reforestation project on the Osa peninsula, thus offsetting a total of 16 tonnes of CO2. Finally, the whole process was verified by ISO, which certified the offsetting of emissions by the Swiss embassy in San José. 

Promoting sustainability in everyday life

The Swiss embassy has limited scope with regard to sustainability measures. One of the reasons for this is that the embassy occupies just one floor of a large building. This prevents it from being able to take measures such as low-emission electricity production using solar panels on a building of its own.
In addition to ISO certification, the Swiss embassy in Costa Rica is taking further steps towards sustainability. For example, it only purchases renewable hydroelectric power from local suppliers, and its staff have been trained in resource conservation. This includes measures such as switching off lights when there is sufficient daylight, using efficient electrical appliances, using paper sparingly and actively recycling.

How does CO2 offsetting work?

Despite all efforts to achieve sustainability, it is often impossible to eliminate emissions altogether. However, remaining greenhouse gas emissions can be offset by purchasing emission reduction certificates. Actors, be it a state or a company, can finance emission reduction projects abroad and use the certificates issued to offset their own emissions. Emission reductions are thus purchased abroad, so to speak. The FDFA, for example, takes its responsibility seriously and offsets its emissions caused by business air travel by means of emission reduction certificates. 

The rules for the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Climate Convention are currently being negotiated internationally under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This article stipulates that states may trade certificates among themselves from 2021 onwards. Switzerland is already testing the mechanism in pilot projects. It aims to meet its reduction commitments for 2021–30 by purchasing foreign emission reduction certificates.