Dr. René Castro

Environmental Minister, 1994-1998 & 2011-2014
Focus Area(s): 
Natural Resources
Critical Tasks: 
Conserving forests
Blair Cameron
Country of Reform: 
Costa Rica
San Jose
Costa Rica
Date of Interview: 
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In this interview, Dr. René Castro explains the inception and implementation of the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) program during his tenure as Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines from 1994 to 1998. He describes how disputes regarding the best practices for cutting down deforestation resulted in the legal reforms, which helped propel the need for the PES. He discusses the role of members of the opposition party and the president in these reforms, including the passage of a carbon tax. Furthermore, he notes the organizational challenges of transitioning to multiple new agencies, hiring and training staff for these agencies, and balancing power among them. Finally, he reviews the program’s successes and failures and provides his advice to other developing countries pursuing similar programs of forestry reforms.  

Additional Key Terms: national parks, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines, National Forestry Funding Fund (FONAFIFO), Costa Rican Petroleum Company (RECOPE) 

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At the time of this interview, Dr. René Castro was the former Costa Rican Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines from 1994 to 1998. Castro received his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Costa Rica, and both a master’s degree in Public Administration and a doctoral degree in Design from Harvard University. In addition to his tenure as Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines, Castro served as Vice Minister of Interior from 1984 to 1986 and the Head of Transportation Division of the Ministry of Transportation and Vice Minister of Interior from 1982 to 1984. He also served as the President of the Municipal Council of the City of San Jose. From 2010 to 2011 he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and from 2011 to 2014 served as Minister of Environment and Energy. While in office, he was a board member of the Costa Rican Petroleum Company (RECOPE), the Public Transportation Council and the National Emergency Commission. He also worked as a consultant for the United Nations, World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and other development organizations. He serves as a Full Professor at INCAE Business School.  

Dr. René Castro
trust fund
carbon tax