Colombia: Gustavo Petro and the fight against climate change
Colombia will have a new presidential inauguration in August: What are the challenges that the new president Gustavo Petro will face to advance the transition to a fair climate action?
by Nelson Jimenez, Alejandra Roa and Wendy Toro – Climalab researchers
With more than eleven million votes, Gustavo Petro Urrego together with Francia Márquez Mina were elected as president and vice president of the Republic of Colombia, respectively for the period 2022-2026. These results came out after a second presidential round that was held on June 19, a day that was historic after the participation of 58% of the people qualified to vote in the country. This fact demonstrates that Gustavo as the first openly leftist president in our history, and Francia as the first Afro-descendant vice president, represent the change that Colombian voters are willing to have for the future years. His campaign received significant support in 16 departments of the country, including Chocó (81.94%), Atlántico (67.06%), Magdalena (60.23%), Cauca (79.02%), and Putumayo (79.67 %) territories historically hit by state abandonment.
Under this context and taking into account that Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the challenges facing the management of climate change policies and likewise their economic social impact will be in the sights of the entire population and the international community. That’s why we want to share the next analysis.
A promising scenario for achieving fair climate action
During the speech that Gustavo Petro gave after winning the presidency, he shed light that environmental sustainability and the fight against climate change are two of the biggest priorities of his government plan. He has openly recognized that climate change is the biggest issue that humanity is facing and that has affected Colombia directly. According to the Third National Communication of Climate Change developed by IDEAM, due to the physical, geographic, economic, social, and biodiversity characteristics that increase the vulnerability of the territory, coupled with the absence of adaptation strategies in response to climate change and extreme weather events, in our territory, the 100% of municipalities are vulnerable to this phenomenon.
As a result of this, Gustavo Petro mentioned that the main points to attack this problem from the actions of his government will be:
- Energy transition: Commitment to the transformation of the energy matrix in a fair way, promoting technologies for the development of wind and solar energy, implementing blue and green hydrogen projects taking into account their respective transport and distribution systems, stopping fracking pilots and oil exploration in unconventional deposits.
- Reduction of Greenhouse Gasses – GHG: Recognizes Colombia’s responsibility not only for the emission of Greenhouse Gases produced by the country, taking into account that Colombia does not emit large quantities, but also emphasizing those caused by exporting large quantities of fossil material that burns outside. Thus, responding to this reality, it proposes to stop new explorations and allocate the exploitation for internal consumption. Additionally, it has emphasized opposing fracking pilots throughout the national territory.
- Protection of social leaders: Highlights the importance of recognizing the work of social leaders and human rights defenders in environmental matters and their protection. He sees a priority in the ratification of the Escazú Agreement despite it not being mentioned literally in the government plan. Also, the new elected president has been emphatic in confronting environmental conflicts, recognizing victims, and creating real reparation strategies in their favor.
- Protection of communities and safeguarding of their traditional knowledge: Seeks to provide guarantees for people participation, respect of human rights and social leadership, prioritizing popular consultation, and community initiatives for the protection and security of those who defend the rights and the territory of rural communities, such as the indigenous, peasant and Afro- descendant communities.
- Economy based on environmental sustainability: All its economic commitment is based on gradually reducing the extractivist model for economic non-dependence on oil and coal, without ending the entire industry. The government plan will be to address agrarian and tax reform to obtain public resources seeking to replace those derived from the mining-energy industry.
Undoubtedly, Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez have included the socio-environmental dimension as a priority for the actions within their government plan, although weaknesses can be identified mainly related to the financing of these promising proposals and if in the four years of their term of government will be able to make significant progress on them. In addition, a positive and encouraging scenario of participation is generated for environmental civil society organizations who consider themselves strategic actors in the oversight for compliance with what is stated in their political campaign, recognizing the importance of facing changes resulting from climate variability by evaluating threats to vulnerable communities, anticipating impacts on territories, ecosystems and economies, taking advantage of opportunities and facing the impacts of climate change on the country. Of course, civil society organizations will also be aware of the opportunity to agree to build and strengthen climate action, integrating approaches such as peacebuilding, gender equity, intergenerational equity, and climate justice, among others, that we consider necessary for the protection and safeguarding of our ecosystems and the communities that inhabit them.
Nelson Jimenez: Young man from Bogotá, Environmental Engineer Coordinator of projects on adaptation and vulnerability to climate change with experience and interest in formulating socio- environmental projects, geographic information systems, and passionate about climate action issues and working with rural communities.
Alejandra Roa: Young Colombian woman, born in Bogotá D.C., professional in Social Communication with an emphasis on conflict. Experience in formulating social projects from the perspective of peace, human rights and reconstruction of the social fabric.
Wendy Toro: Young Colombian woman, born in Bogotá D.C., professional in Environmental Administration and postgraduate training in Specialization in Environmental Education and Management, interested in socio-environmental work, climate action with a gender and community approach, and environmental education. for the transformation of Colombian society.