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Monday 23 July 2012   | Costa Rica News Home | Colombia News



INSIDE BUSINESS
Costa Rica's Figueres Urges Energy Upgrades Paid For With Tax Assessments

In between his time being the unofficial PLN candidate for the 2014 presidency, he is a pitchman for a profit-driven solution to the world’s climate-change conundrum.

José María Figueres, former president Costa Rica and possible candidate in the 2014 presidential elections, is the president and public face of the Carbon War Room, an international think tank devoted to helping entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial models achieve “gigaton-level” carbon emission reductions.

Economies of scale, he says, can be found overhead in the market for aviation fuel, on the high seas by simply painting the world’s cargo ship fleet, or in the Caribbean islands where the War Room is helping Aruba and other island nations adopt renewable energy over costly fossil fuel imports.

“There is an issue of scale which is important here if we are to conserve temperatures on the planet,” he told an audience in San Diego last month.

The Washington, D.C.-based Carbon War Room is the brainchild of business magnate Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Britain’s Virgin Group, who parlayed success in the recording industry into airlines, mobile phone networks, space travel and, more recently, social causes linked to global warming.

Figueres, as president of Costa Rica, helped turn the Central American nation of 4.6 million people into a regional standout in eco-tourism and free-market adaptation.

Recently he spoke to U-T San Diego during a recent visit to the city to endorse adoption of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which allow local governments to facilitate the financing of energy efficiency home upgrades and rooftop solar through new property tax assessments.

Q: After years of challenges, a federal appeals court backed the first-ever U.S. regulations aimed at reducing gases blamed for global warming. What does the decision mean for business?

A: The more clarity we have in markets, the more efficient they are, the more capital we can deploy into them and the more competitive our economy will be. Creating a framework around all of the activities that take us in the direction of low-carbon, I think, is the way forward.

Q: You’ve described the Carbon War Room’s efforts to help Aruba adopt a renewable energy-based grid. How did you deal with people who are still heavily invested in the existing energy supply chain? What do you tell them?

A:
I think that you have to have an open conversation with them, because in many cases their business model is not something that will sustain profitably toward the future. So why not invite them to switch over and become part of a new energy matrix.

Q: You’re a sharp critic of many government subsidies. At the same time you are endorsing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs that finance home energy improvements in cooperation with local government. Is there any contradiction there?

A:
By reconverting residential space and commercial space to be energy efficient, you are achieving several things: The value of your asset is going up because the maintenance and operation costs are coming down. Second of all, you are paying for the investment out of your savings, so it’s a no-brainer. And third, you’re reducing carbon emissions.

There are states that have given some tax advantages to innovative, new transformational technologies. And I feel that those are the correct things to do when you are in the beginning of an emerging industry and you want to stimulate investment and create enough activity so that you have economies of scale and good market forces kick in. What I am against is the continued or sustained use of subsidies in every activity.


Q: Last month’s Rio+20 Earth Summit was criticized for its lack of government commitment, timetables and financing. How did you view the results?

A:
In Rio, you had over 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries that came there because they are already doing business in this field. They’re already making a good business opportunity out of the environment. My impression is that in the transition a low-carbon economy, business is going to take the lead and governments will follow. There were some very impressive commitments of enterprises in the field of energy production, water conservation, recycling and waste-to-energy.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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