Climate Deal 2015

COP20: An opportunity for Colombia to shine in climate talks

Global governments are gearing up for annual climate talks, this year to be held close to home in Lima, Peru. As Lima opens its doors to host the 2014 international climate negotiations – known as the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) – Latin America is preparing to shine and lead the way to a safer, below-2° Celsius (C) world. Being host gives the region an opportunity to put climate change both on the agenda of every Latin American leader and onto the public’s radar. Below we outline the defining issues for Colombia at this year’s talks.

Colombia at the UNFCCC

Colombia is a progressive actor in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As part of the Alianza Independiente de Lationamerica y el Caribe (AILAC) negotiating bloc, Colombia is at the forefront of a group of nations seeking to achieve an ambitious agreement in 2015 to put the world on a low-carbon development and climate-resilient pathway. There is no doubt that Colombia will continue to demonstrate its bold and progressive leadership in Lima as it proactively engages with others in the region. Colombian negotiators know that the urgency of climate change requires building bridges between nations, challenging conventional wisdom on North-South relations, and building critical mass around progress, ambition, and the economic opportunities that climate change offers.

Key objectives for Colombia in Lima

There are two critical areas for Colombia in the Lima meeting. The first involves reaching an agreement on the information, scope, and cycles of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) for 2015. Reaching an agreement on these is critical if countries are serious about meeting the March 2015 INDC submission deadline as well as securing a satisfactory assessment of the adequacy of the commitments. The second area for Colombia entails having a strong and ambitious draft text for the 2015 climate agreement.

Colombia believes that the INDCs should include mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation (MoI) covering finance, capacity building, and technology transfer. Moreover, the draft text will need to be comprehensive and ambitious to allow for a meaningful agreement at the COP21 next year in Paris. Luckily, the co-chairs’ draft paper sets a good basis for discussions in Lima.

Is Colombia ready to lead?

As a proactive player in the UNFCCC, Colombia has been working at home to produce its INDC. Currently the country is on track to present this INDC in March with a scope that includes mitigation, adaptation, and MoI. A recent INDC workshop prepared by UN Development Programme (UNDP) indicates that Colombia is putting together an ambitious contribution that takes into consideration maximum levels of action achievable given national resources, and indicates how international climate finance can help the country go further.

In addition, as part of AILAC, Colombia has submitted a detailed document that lays out the vision for an ambitious and comprehensive legally binding agreement in 2015. This has caught the attention of other negotiators and might help deal with some of the polarizing issues of this discussion.

How can COP20 have a positive impact at home?

While the Colombian delegation works extremely hard on positioning Colombia as a climate leader in the international context, it is important to not lose sight of what is happening domestically and evaluate how this work is actually being reflected at home.

COP20 takes place in a critical moment for Colombia. The government is currently defining the National Development Plan 2014-2018, the guiding roadmap for the next four years. This plan offers an important opportunity to mandate the implementation of national mitigation and adaptation strategies as well as their integration into current practices and policies. These strategies, which serve as the basis for the INDC, are now being translated into numeric sectoral goals that will be entrenched in the development plan. This is a first for Colombia (which has so far lacked specific goals), and is a key factor to incentivise action on the ground.

In addition, dialogues on climate finance are gaining momentum as the country evaluates how to implement measures through strategic use of national and international resources needed to catalyze private sector investment.

While these are important steps, Colombia will need to build on this momentum if it wishes to sustain commitment for an effective and adequate response to climate change. This can be done by approving a national Climate Change Law – currently in formulation – and defining the institutional arrangements to drive climate action across the country. The decree to formalize the proposed arrangement (‘SISCLIMA’) has been looming for more than three years without any legal success.

The underlying importance of progressive action

Bringing this progressive vision to other sectors of the economy – which are often focused on a more traditional approach to development – remains a challenge. Not doing so, however, puts the stability of Colombia at risk and threatens to exacerbate existing inequalities and national vulnerabilities. It is critical that the process properly engage with business “champions” who can help the transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon future. Similarly, any adequate and inclusive implementation will require wide stakeholder engagement, particularly from civil society organizations and local communities. The government will need to make a greater effort to increase transparency in the design and implementation of measures and to ensure public participation in mechanisms at different stages of climate change related programs.

Colombia’s vulnerabilities to climate change under current “business-as-usual” development pathways are increasingly clear to Colombian society at large: water constraints in a supposedly resource-rich country are of great concern to everyone. The droughts in 2014 were another warning sign of the impact that climate change will have on national economic activity and GDP. Equally, the risks that climate change pose to the economy still must be properly evaluated. Alleviating the impacts of climate change, especially for those most vulnerable, is critical.

Lima is an important venue where Latin Americans – and Colombians – can articulate and show something positive to the world. While Colombians are confident in the performance of the country’s delegation, we all need to remain watchful to ensure that international leadership is translated to real action at home. Our international and domestic policies should reinforce each other as the world continues to push for a strong and equitable climate change agreement.

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