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Costa Rica pulls back on U.N.-backed climate agreement named in its honor

The Celeste river waterfall is seen at Tenorio Volcano National Park in Upala

By Alvaro Murillo

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Costa Rica's Congress on Wednesday blocked the country's ratification of a U.N.-backed environmental treaty named after one of the Central American country's municipalities, after it lost support from the administration.

The treaty, known as the Escazu Agreement, was signed in the Escazu area west of Costa Rica's capital in 2018, when Carlos Alvarado was president. He was succeeded in May by Rodrigo Chaves, who opposed the agreement, arguing Costa Rica already has sufficient regulations on environmental matters.

The Escazu Agreement, which came into force in 2021, provides a sweeping framework for countries in the region to strengthen environmental policy, notably imposing requirements regarding the rights of environmental defenders.

Costa Rica's congress overwhelmingly rejected a motion to extend the ratification period, effectively shutting the door on joining the treaty, with 41 of the 57 deputies voting against it.

"This is how we go from a country at the forefront on environmental matters to one that can't even approve an international agreement on the bare minimum," said lawmaker Jonathan Acuna, who dissented.

The majority of lawmakers argued the treaty's mechanism gave too much power to those who accused companies and others of environmental harm.

(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by William Mallard)