Sustainable urban transport: Avoid-shift-improve

Project description

Title: Climate change mitigation in Costa Rica’s transport sector
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) under the International Climate Initiative (IKI)
Country: Costa Rica
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica
Overall term: 2017 to 2021

Foto Klimaschutz im Verkehr - Andrea Denzinger


In Costa Rica, the transport sector is responsible for 68 per cent of all energy-related CO2 emissions, a significantly higher proportion than the global average. The transport sector is therefore the biggest obstacle to Costa Rica reaching its ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first climate-neutral country.

The main problems are the rapid growth of the country’s vehicle fleet (5 per cent per year) and the long vehicle life cycles, which for passenger cars amount to 16 years on average. In urban areas such as the capital city of San José in particular, where nearly half of Costa Rica’s residents live, urban sprawl and urbanisation have led to a dramatic increase in private and freight transport on the roads.

The public transport system is based on a disconnected bus system, and the rail transport system (light rail) is obsolete. This results in ever-higher stress for the urban population due to congestion, noise and emissions. The country lacks the political strategies, legal framework and targeted investments it needs for developing a climate-friendly transport system and for promoting modern technologies. In many cases, conflicts between different stakeholders with special interests hamper uniform sustainable transport planning.

Since Costa Rica has a high share of renewable energy resources, the country could actually play a pioneering role in the region in introducing climate-friendly drive systems, such as those used for electromobility. Costa Rica and Germany have the opportunity to share many experiences and expertise and learn from each other.


The Government of Costa Rica implements more emission-reduction measures in the transport sector.


The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH advises the Government of Costa Rica on behalf of the German Government. At the national level, the project supports the Government of Costa Rica with a roadmap for climate-friendly transport. This includes coordination between different ministries and providing specialist advisory services in areas such transport planning and energy efficiency. The project also teaches conflict-management methods.

At the municipal level, the project supports pilot measures for improving the urban transport system in the San José metropolitan area, for instance by connecting different transport systems and promoting non-motorised transport options. International and national experts and the population are actively involved in developing sustainable transport solutions.

The project is closely aligned with Costa Rica’s national climate strategy and relevant national action plans such as the energy and transport plans, as well as with other projects operating locally. In terms of content, it follows the ‘avoid-shift-improve’ approach co-developed by GIZ. The more fuel a vehicle burns, the more CO2 it emits. Thus there is no choice but to reduce the amount of fuel we consume. We need to avoid making non-essential trips and transporting goods unnecessarily. Whenever possible, transport should be shifted to environmentally sound modes of transport. The project promotes economical vehicles and alternative drivetrains in order to provide incentives for resource-friendly, efficient mobility and transport.

The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Further Information