Using the case of Costa Rica, this paper examines how 'carbon' became an identifiable problem for that state. We trace how, during the 1980s, rationalities of financialisation and security arose in this country that allowed for Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) to emerge as an economic and political mechanism. Our central thesis is: this period initiated a government project of securing a viable future for the nation's resources by linking them to global financial markets and international trade.