For the one in 10 people around the world living on less than $2 a day, life is an emergency. Every day, poverty kills an estimated 15,000 children under the age of 5. The world’s ambulance is growth. To save those kids, countries need higher incomes, more medical clinics, modern water pipes, and sewage treatment plants.

Switch on the sirens and go screaming down the superhighway of economic growth, however, and the world will spew out enough greenhouse gas emissions to put millions of lives at risk from pollution and climate change. There’s no way poor countries are going to stop and wait until they figure out a zero-carbon route out of poverty — and they shouldn’t.

But what if they could slow down just a little bit, and cut way down on emissions? That would look a lot like Costa Rica.

A few months ago, I got a chance to see for myself. On a clear sunny day, I found myself jolting up a country road in Costa Rica. It definitely wasn’t the aforementioned superhighway — it was a bumpy pass that went straight up a mountain.

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