Topic: Environment

Climate Action

Communities around the world are contending with accelerating climate change and finding ways to adapt. Through networks and communities of practice, courses and workshops, research, and publications, the Lincoln Institute identifies and shares promising practices for land-based greenhouse gas mitigation, and adaptation and resilience. With partners, we bring together elected officials, community members, and key planning and policy staff to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, strategies, and promising practices to scale up effective climate solutions.

Climate Resilient Urban Form

Urban areas are responsible for most global GHG emissions. Compact, energy-efficient urban form is necessary to meet the climate goals established in the Paris Agreement. Through research, publications, and capacity building, we promote land use policies that reimagine the existing built environment or “build it right the first time,” enabling inclusive, climate-resilient development pathways that protect critical natural ecosystems.

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Financing Climate Action

Publicly driven climate action can increase land values, and a portion of that increase can be shared with the public to pay for the investment itself or additional climate action. We are researching ways to fund urgent climate investments through land-based financing tools and working with partners to provide technical assistance to support on-the-ground implementation. We also evaluate public climate funding sources and emphasize the importance of leveraging both public and private investments to meet climate goals.

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Community-led Climate Action

We work with trusted community partners to support community-led planning and decision- making in locales at greatest risk of climate-related impacts. Among these communities are legacy cities dealing with the impacts of climate change in addition to decades of economic disinvestment and the long-term effects of racist planning and zoning policies. Through our work, the Lincoln Institute informs systemic change in policy and practice, and supports civic leaders, policymakers, and practitioners pursuing equitable climate action with innovative scenario planning processes and urban greening strategies.

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Balancing Competing Demands for Land

Land is a critical component to addressing the climate crisis, but it is under tremendous pressure from market forces while competing demands—agriculture, habitat, renewable energy, carbon sequestration—are leading to increasing conflicts. The Lincoln Institute is illuminating the impact of these demands on human and natural systems to develop equitable solutions.

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Books

Design with Nature Now

We are demonstrating the economic, environmental, and public health benefits of integrating nature more fully into cities, working with ecological systems rather than against them. Design with Nature Now (2019) and Nature and Cities (2016) feature photographs, articles, and essays by leading international architects, landscape architects, city planners, and urban designers.

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Storymap: Land-based Climate Solutions from Around the World

This StoryMap features a growing library of case studies that illustrate the role of land use and policy in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Featured case studies range from the Life Vimine Project in Venice, Italy, to the Watts Rising Transformative Climate Communities Project in Los Angeles.

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Land Lines Magazine

Land Lines Magazine: Special Climate Issue

In July 2022, we published a special issue of Land Lines magazine that features articles on the growing practice of community-led relocation, the link between climate action and property value increases, and land as an essential component of climate solutions.

View the Issue

Leading By Example: How Costa Rica Became a Model for Climate Action

April 17, 2023

By Anthony Flint, April 17, 2023

 

By many accounts, Costa Rica has been a unique Central American success story—“a beacon of Enlightenment” and “a world leader in democratic, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth,” according to the prominent economist Joseph Stiglitz.

A nation of about 5 million people roughly the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica has been punching above its weight particularly in the realm of sustainability and climate action: a pioneer in eco-tourism; successful in getting nearly all of its power from renewable sources, including an enterprising use of hydro; and a leader in fighting deforestation and conserving land with its carbon-soaking rainforests.

The Land Matters podcast welcomed two special guests recently who know a thing or two about this country: Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Claudia Dobles Camargo, the former President and First Lady of Costa Rica. They are both in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area this year—she is a Loeb Fellow, part of a mid-career fellowship program based at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and he is a visiting professor of practice at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

 

Former President Carlos Alvarado Quesada and former First Lady Claudia Dobles Camargo of Costa Rica
Former Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada and former First Lady Claudia Dobles Camargo at the Lincoln Institute offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 2023. Credit: Will Jason.

 

Also in the studio was Enrique Silva, vice president of programs at the Lincoln Institute, who oversees the organization’s research and activities globally, and has years of experience in and familiarity with Latin America.

The conversation, recorded at the Podcast Garage in Allston after a visit by the couple to the Lincoln Institute, included reflections on leadership and climate action, and what it’s been like to take a year to decompress after an eventful time in office, from 2018 to 2022.

Costa Rica has much to show the world when it comes to the implementation of targeted sustainability practices, Quesada said. “We’re not saying people have to do exactly the same [as we did], but we can say it’s possible, and it’s been done in a model that actually creates well-being and economic growth,” he said. “Back in the day, people would say it’s impossible—‘if you’re going to create protected areas, you’re going to destroy the economy.’ It turned out to be the other way around, it actually propelled the economy.”

After seeing big successes in the countryside, the interventions have turned to urban areas. “Costa Rica has done such an amazing job in nature-based solutions, not so much on urban sustainability,” said Dobles, noting the ambitious National Decarbonization Plan she launched with Quesada, which aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. “In order to decarbonize, we really needed to focus also on our urban agenda.”

A big task was reinvigorating public transit, starting with a new electric train that would have spanned the city of San Jose. Quesada’s successor shelved the $1.5 billion project, demonstrating the common mismatch between long-term projects and limited time in office. A pilot project to electrify buses was implemented, however, to rave reviews. The couple says they are hopeful the train will be revived.

“I know that this is eventually going to happen. Sometimes you have political setbacks,” said Quesada. “Your administration cannot own throughout time what’s going to happen, but you can plant positive seeds.”

Costa Rica has been nothing if not creative in addressing the many dilemmas inherent in climate action. Open-ore mining is banned, for example, but entrepreneurs figured out a way to extract lithium from recycled batteries.

“That’s very linked to the discussion of the just energy transition, where the jobs are going to come from, where the exports are going to come from. While there’s a huge opportunity for many developing countries which are rich and are endowed with minerals and metals . . . we need to address those complexities,” said Quesada.

Dobles added, “When we talk about decarbonization, we cannot exclude from that conversation, the inequality conversation. This is supposed to provide our possibilities of survival as humankind, but also it’s a possibility for a new type of social and economic development and growth.”

 

Former First Lady of Costa Rica Claudia Dobles Camargo makes a point as former President Carlos Alvarado Quesada looks on
Former First Lady Claudia Dobles Camargo makes a point as former President Carlos Alvarado Quesada looks on. The pair visited the Lincoln Institute office to discuss their climate and sustainability initiatives in April 2023 while spending a year at Harvard and Tufts universities, respectively. Credit: Anthony Flint.

 

Reflecting on being in the land of Harvard, MIT, and Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, Dobles said she has been immersed in “the whole academic ecosystem that is happening here . . . just to be, again, in academia, sometimes just to receive information, not having the pressure of having the answers . . . . It’s been wonderful.”

“Being a head of state for four years of a country, it’s an experience that I’m currently unpacking still,” said Quesada. “I’m doing a little bit of writing on that, but you get to reflect a lot, because it’s a period of time you live very intensely. In our case, we were not only working with decarbonization, with the projects we mentioned, we [were also working] with the fiscal sustainability of the country. We had COVID. We had [the legalization of same-sex marriage].

“We tend to train ourselves for things that are outside of us, like methods, tools, knowledge,” he said. “There’s a part of it that has to do with training ourselves, our feelings, our habits, our framing, our thinking . . . to address those hard challenges.”

Carlos Alvarado Quesada served as the 48th President of the Republic of Costa Rica from 2018 to 2022, when his constitutionally limited term ended. He won the 2022 Planetary Leadership Award from the National Geographic Society for his actions to protect the ocean, and was named to the TIME100 Next list of emerging leaders from around the world. Before entering politics, he worked for Procter and Gamble, Latin America.

Claudia Dobles Camargo is an architect with extensive experience in urban mobility, affordable and social housing, community engagement, climate change, and fair transition. As First Lady, she was co-leader of the Costa Rica National Decarbonization Plan. Her architecture degree is from the University of Costa Rica, and she also studied in Japan, concentrating on a sustainable approach to architecture.

You can listen to the show and subscribe to Land Matters on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyStitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 


 

Anthony Flint is a senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, host of the Land Matters podcast, and a contributing editor of Land Lines.

Lead image: San José, Costa Rica. Credit: Gianfranco Vivi via iStock/Getty Images Plus.


Further Reading

Showing the Way in San José – How Costa Rica Gets It Right (The Guardian)

Former President of Costa Rica Talks Climate Change, Public Policy During Northeastern Campus Visit (Northeastern Global News)

Costa Rica’s ‘Urban Mine’ for Planet-Friendlier Lithium (Agence France- Presse)

How Costa Rica Reversed Deforestation and Raised Millions for Conservation (Diálogo Chino)

The Hardest Working River in the West

A StoryMap Exploring the Colorado River Through Data

Although not the largest or longest river in the World, the Colorado River is known for its many legacies. The Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy developed a StoryMap about the Colorado River, its tributaries, and the lands upon which communities, economies, and the environment depend. It is also about the places, people, and policies that have shaped water and land management and planning in the past and will continue to shape decisions about how we use, share, and conserve these finite resources today and in the future. With a widening gap between supply and demand, the water resources upon which land use, planning, and development depend are more vulnerable than ever.

This story is told across five sections:

  • A Balancing Act
  • Of Storage and Shortages
  • Who’s Using Water and Where?
  • Water Management Hurdles
  • Tools for a Resilient Future
data

The Babbitt Center has created an Esri ArcHub open data portal that contains the data, maps, and related reports seen or mentioned in The Hardest Working River in the West StoryMap. This allows individuals to download and explore the data for themselves.

Explore the Portal