Climate Deal 2015

Colombia's Climate Plan seeks a new balance between mitigation and adaptation

Colombia's climate plan to 2030 has been submitted to the U.N. as a contribution to the new climate agreement to be signed in Paris later this year. After Mexico's and Dominican Republic's, this plan is the third one published in Spanish-speaking Latin America and the Caribbean - fourth, accounting for Trinidad and Tobago. The Colombian contribution seeks a stronger balance between its mitigation target, the plans to build a climate resilient Colombia and the existing blocks of climate policy that Colombia has built over the years.

Colombia's climate plan to 2030 includes an unconditional target with an economy-wide scope as well as a conditional target. It offers concrete adaptation elements, information about the assumptions of the climate plan, and very specific information on adaptation plans. The plan (also known as intended nationally determined contribution, or INDC) integrates several policies and initiatives on mitigation and adaptation that Colombia has developed for years. In that sense, the INDC comes at the right time as a exercise of consolidation of existing policies, plans and priorities.

A 20% reduction by 2030 with respect to business as usual

The unconditional target commits Colombia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% with respect to the projected Business-as-Usual Scenario (BAU) by 2030. Economy-wide target that covers 100% of national emissions, according to their 2010 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. It includes the 6 gases acknowledged by the Kyoto protocol: CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6 and covers all emission sectors acknowledged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Based on the outcome of the climate negotiations in Paris in the COP 21, Colombia will consider communicating an indicative target for 2025, consistent with its 2030 target.

The conditional target would increase its ambition from 20% reduction with respect to BAU to 30% with respect to BAU by 2030 subject to the provision of international support (such as climate finance or carbon markets).

A climate resilient Colombia as a new development priority

The adaptation component is based on the country’s progress regarding adaptation within the National Adaptation Plan to Climate Change (PNACC in Spanish) from 2011. In practice, Colombian has formulated 11 territorial adaptation plans to climate change, which identified priority actions. They help decision-makers identify the vulnerability of the territory and define adaptation measures to be incorporated in the different development and spatial planning instruments. Today there are also sectoral adaptation plans - this is an innovation - which tackle agriculture and the primary road network.

Colombia will focus its adaptation and resilient efforts to 2030 jointly with other global targets that contribute to increasing resilience (e.g. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 2030 Development Agenda, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030). The specific lines of work are described in the document (see link below). The document list over a dozen of actions such as formulating and implementing climate plans for 100% of the territory. Another example is the development of "National System of Adaptation Indicators" for the monitoring and evaluation of the adaptation measures that will be implemented. Interestingly, Colombia has also identified six priority sectors of the economy (transport, energy, agriculture, housing, health, and trade, tourism and industry) that will implement innovative adaptation actions.

The plan integrates several building blocks of implementation

The document discusses the means of implementation but does not provide an estimate of how much it will need to implement the plans.

  • Existing policy frameworks : Several instruments will be used to facilitate compliance with the climate plan: the Colombian Low Carbon Development Strategy (CLCDS), the National Strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (ENREDD +), National Adaptation Plan for Climate Change, the ongoing National Climate Change Policy and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2014-2018 which includes a green growth strategy.
  • Mitigation priorities and ministerial involvement : Eight mitigation measures have been identified as priorities: sectoral Mitigation Action Plans (SMAPs) that aim to maximize the carbon-efficiency of economic activities at the national and sectoral levels and in turn contribute to social and economic development. These plans were developed under the Low carbon development strategy and were approved by the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Transport, Housing, City and Territory and Mines and Energy. Mitigation measures have also been identified in the land use change sector.
  • Tracking progress : The plan highlights domestic progress on identifying and developing legal, technical and institutional tools to facilitate monitoring progress towards achieving the INDC.

Is the plan fair?

The Government considers its target to be fair and equitable. The discussion of equity is centered on the target of per capita emissions level of nearly 4.6 Ton CO2eq/capita by 2030. According to the Government, the value would be even lower than the country's per capita emissions in 2010 (4.8 Ton CO2eq/capita). The business as usual scenario suggests that emissions per capital would have been 5.8 in 2030. The document also highlights its middle-income economy status, and qualitative elements (beyond per capita emissions) in particular Colombia's high vulnerability to climate change, the need to build and sustain peace and how building resilience contributes to this goal and to combating poverty.

First reaction

Many analysts, especially in Europe and the US, will narrow the attention around "the 20%" level embedded in the Colombian INDC and Colombia will receive a mark based on it. We need to complement carbon-centric assessments with broader debates about development choices. This is because a broader debate will have to emerge in Colombia around this plan. The contribution for Paris will need to be owned inside the government and, especially, outside of it. Moreover, making progress on this first mitigation target could create space to have a more complex debate around energy sources: What will be the role of coal in the Colombian economy to 2030 and 2050? Will there be a pathway to invest more private and public capital in renewable energy? Clearly, this is a question for the post-Paris context and many stakeholders will be needed at the table in order to shape Colombia's new energy consensus. This topic certainly goes beyond the scope of this note and my point is that it's important to keep this dimension in mind.

Having a third INDC from Latin America and the Caribbean is a highly positive development for the region. Colombia is becoming a positive reference on matters related to climate policy and plays a very active role in the U.N. climate negotiations. This INDC provides a concrete opportunity to increase clarity and transparency about the direction of travel and to integrate different components of climate policy making that are often disconnected.

The deliberate integration of the mitigation and adaptation components will be critical not only to Colombia but also to our region because our cities, natural capital and people are so fiercely vulnerable to climate change. Resilience is looming as a new priority and this might bring the region together, on this topic, despite our deep differences on other issues. Colombia has developed very specific plans for mitigation and will no doubt be a pioneer in building resilience while seeking to grow along low carbon lines. Their descentralized approach will deliver very valuable lessons beyond Colombia. Moreover, the integration of a green growth strategy within the Colombian planning process has no precedents in our region setting a new step in right direction to the extent it broadens the mandate for cleaner growth beyond enviromental governance and makes them part of long-term economic planning.

Monica Araya is Founder and Director of Nivela, follow her at @MonicaArayaTica


Colombia's INDC in English and Spanish is available here.

Also, read Camila Bustos, from Nivela, article on Colombia's climate plans.

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