The United Nations selected Costa Rica as its 2019 Champions of the Earth award for policy leadership. Citing Costa Rica's plan to decarbonize its economy by 2050, the UN said this Central American country "sets an example for the region and for the world." Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, stated, "Costa Rica has been a pioneer in the protection of peace and nature…Climate change demands urgent and transformative action from all of us."
This course will examine the path followed by Costa Rica, through a critical Ecological Economics, Environmental Policy and Human Geography lens. We will examine the basis for the country´s path transformation since the 1980s and the benefits and challenges that its environmental reputation implies. This process will include critically analyzing the indicators suggesting a decoupling between GDP and deforestation, the appropriateness of Costa Rica´s institutional development, the policy measures taken in the process of seeking admission into the OECD and its environmental justice situation. A comparison of the realities between urban and rural remote areas where most National Parks are located will serve to understand the complexities of the relationship between human development and environmental conservation.

This course is the result of the collaboration between two experienced Ecological Economics scholars: Dr Stanislav E. Shmelev and Dr. Bernardo J. Aguilar-González.

Dr. Shmelev leads Environment Europe, a think tank, a research center and a non-governmental institution based in Oxford, UK. It focuses on conducting research in macroeconomic sustainability, sustainable cities, renewable energy, ecosystems and biodiversity and sustainable waste management, consulting international organizations, governments, regions and companies and runs a successful educational program of Summer and Winter Schools in Green Economy, Ecological Economics, Sustainable Cities and Ecosystems and the Economy.

Dr. Aguilar-Gonzalez is the Executive Director of Fundación Neotrópica, one of the oldest and most prestigious NGOs in Central America, with substantial experience in field environmental education and the application of Ecological Economics to environmental conflicts in tropical regions. He is also a board member of the International Society for Ecological Economics. M.Sc. Fernando Mora Rodríguez is part of the faculty of the School of Geography at University of Costa Rica, the academic host of the course and is a former Vice minister of Water, Seas and Wetlands in the Ministry of Environment and Energy (2014-2018) and currently a Legislative Advisor.

In view of the Costa Rican reality, the course will analyze the current thinking, both traditional and nontraditional, about the relationship between economic systems and environmental problems. It will draw on the expertise of a range of disciplines to place the country´s example within the global need to address current challenges, including tackling climate change, preventing the loss of biodiversity, and achieving sustainability.
We will critically review the ecological-economic contribution to the debate on green economy and consider the problems of natural resource, biodiversity conservation and environmental degradation and the effects of various public economic policies directed at correcting these problems, in the light of Costa Rica´s unique experience. The course will have a very clear policy and practical focus taking advantage of its unique location. The methodology will also, include discussion sessions dedicated to reflection and critical analysis. Our mix of theoretical and practice modules, will take us from the reality of the Central Valley, where most opportunities and affluence are located to a one week field trip in the Costa Rican South Pacific´s Osa Peninsula, named by National Geographic as the most biologically intense place on Earth. There we will experience exchanges with Gnöbe Indigenous territories and visit Corcovado National Park, the Dulce Gulf – one of the few "tropical fjords" in the planet- and other protected areas.

In the methodological part, the course will analyse the concept of economy-environment interactions and industrial ecology, which highlights the importance of intersectoral flows of matter and energy required for the production of the goods and services. The method of environmentally extended input-output analysis, actively used for policy applications around the world, will be introduced to illustrate this approach. Ideas of interdisciplinary synthesis and methodological pluralism will be introduced alongside institutional economic approaches. Next, it will explore the system of tools for decision making based on multicriteria methods, used for policy appraisal, which applied at different levels could shift the patterns of decisions making towards more socially equitable and more environmentally friendly as well as economically sound decisions. Acting as a bridge to the practical module, the final theoretical session will criticise existing approaches to measure macro sustainability performance and will introduce new conceptual tools for the assessment of progress. A particular attention will be paid to ecosystems, the impacts of the economy on the ecosystems and alternative ecosystem services assessment and valuation techniques including multi-stakeholder approaches.

The course is designed for multiple points of entry and could be helpful for PhD students, government experts, representatives of international organisations and business. The course will give participants an opportunity to explore key methodologies for ecological-economic analysis and to apply these to various case studies.

The Oxford, Spring, Summer and Winter Schools in Ecological Economics organised by Environment Europe attracted participants from 58 countries, including Canada, USA, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Iceland, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Latvia, Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, China, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand, including UNDP, UNEP, IUCN, OECD, WWF, GGGI experts as well as representatives of ministries, companies, NGOs and leading universities.
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