The role Colombia will play at COP26

Last year, under President Ivan Duque´s administration, Colombia's nationally determined contribution (NDC) to confront the climate crisis was published: it consisted of 148 mitigation measures that seek to achieve the goal of reducing 51% of the countries emissions in 2030 and 30 objectives related to adaptation. However, some experts are skeptical about whether this government, and the next ones to come, will fulfill this objective.

Giovanny Pabón, who used to work in the Ministry of Environment and helped to formulated Colombia´s National Climate Change Policy, is concerned that there are no plans to discourage the use of coal, and that there is still a lot of effort in continue to extract it, along with gas and oil. “It is not about asking that we stop using fossil fuels tomorrow, but it is about having a long-term plan that guarantees a fair transition to the entire value chain so that no one is left behind in this great step," he says.

For Sandra Vilardy, PhD in ecology and environment, and professor at the Andes University, Colombia´s climate commitment might fail if it does not incorporate a key ecosystem: the wetlands, as they capture carbon, but can also emit methane when they deteriorate.  “It is not only about the Amazon, but other areas very vulnerable to climate change, such as the Caribbean, which not only has to do with the survival of small fishermen, but also with tourist activity and the stability of maritime transport.”

Three key themes

An important question is what Colombia is going to do at COP26 if it already seems to have such defined commitments. The short answer is this: negotiate some “rules of the game” so that they can meet those commitments. In the climate change negotiations, Colombia is part of a group known as the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (Ailac), which also includes Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. They are known for being the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that, although they are not large emitters, believe that all countries should make the best efforts to stop climate change.

For this COP26, the agenda that Ailac will have, and which Colombia will stick to, according to Vice Minister of Environment, Nicolas Galarza, has three key themes: financing, adaptation and regulating carbon markets. The first one might be the most important. According to a study led by the National Planning Department, which is still under review and adjustment, the annual investment in adaptation to climate change should be 0.2% of the national GDP until 2030. If we look at the data from 2019, this means that $2 trillion is needed each year through 2030 to meet adaptation commitments.

To achieve this, then, it is reasonable that Colombia is tackling several fronts simultaneously. One of them could be an idea that Duque launched in September during the High-Level Dialogue on Climate Action in the Americas: that countries that demonstrate that they have met climate change goals have their debts forgiven. A proposal that, perhaps, they will make official in the coming weeks, during COP26.

This story was originally published in Spanish in El Espectador on October 28, 2021. It was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

Banner image: Climate action strikes in Bogotá, Colombia / Credit: Mauricio Alvarado, El Espectador. 


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