">Paying for our climate: local actions in Colombia for a global challenge - FDI Pacífico

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Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral del Pacífico
Foundation for the Integral Development of the Colombian Pacific Region


Paying for our climate: local actions in Colombia for a global challenge

Climate change is undeniable; international scientific evidence indicates that since 1750 the planet is experiencing a net warming, and that during the present century will continue to heat up as a result of emissions of greenhouse gases produced by human action, particularly from the consumption of oil and coal. It has been believed that climate change is global, and hence, solutions have to be global too. The first steps were given with the Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol; nevertheless, this first timid steps are considered insufficient compared to the magnitude of the problem, requiring the inclusion of local initiatives.

Colombia is concerned about the risks to which its population is exposed especially in the Atlantic (in the north of the country) and Pacific Regions (the poorest region of the country, located in the west coast). According to studies carried out by the Institute for Marine and Coastal Research (Invemar) and the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), Colombian coastal and insular areas are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to flood threat over 4.9% of cropland and over the areas occupied by manufacturing industry. The studies also estimate that 44.8% of the land road network of the coast would be flooded, causing large losses in infrastructure. The greenhouse effect would reduce the marine and coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves on the Pacific region, and the prolonged exposure of coral reefs to high temperatures would cause irreversible damages with the loss of its environmental services (such as protection of the coastline to extreme events; seas, hurricanes, etc.).

The Andes region, located in the center of the country, is also exposed to certain risks that should be mitigated; avalanches may occur in the neighboring rivers of the paramos due to the erosion of the lands by the crops and intensive livestock, and there would be a decrease in glacier coverages with negative effects

on the availability of water for those populations that depend on these systems.

To size the impact of climate change, let us look back a couple of years ago. Only between 2010 and 2011, La Niña phenomenon did generate losses of 0.38% of the Colombian GDP in 2010, plus damages of 2% of the product of that year; in total the cost was COP 11.2 billion (around USD 3.808 billion)(Dinero, 2015).

Given the vulnerability to which the Colombian population is exposed, the proposal of the National Government is to reduce by 20% its pollutant emissions by 2030 in the hand of large territorial programs, and local projects to adapt to the effects of climate change and climate volatility. Most of these projects and programs involve the analysis of risks, and in a second step, the design, priorization and implementation of adaptation actions to reduce the identified vulnerabilities.

The bundle of projects are framed in the National Policy on Climate Change, which began its formulation in 2014, and was proposed to articulate the efforts that the country has been developing for several years, and mainly since 2011, through the Colombian Low Carbon Development Strategy, the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change, and The National REDD+ Strategy, among other initiatives, and adds new elements to strategically orientate all efforts towards fulfilling the commitment made under the Paris Agreement.

The development of the Climate Finance Colombian Strategy is one of the biggest Government’s bets to achieve the transition to a greener and resilient economy. In the context of the integration process of Colombia to the OECD and the implementation of the National Development Plan 2014 – 2018 “Todos por un nuevo país” (“All for a new country”), the National Government is building the path to achieve green growth in a compatible way with the weather. In these, it is highlighted the strategic nature of planning and developing robust and coherent financing schemes that guarantee sufficient flow of financing and investment on climate change as well as effective and efficient means for the territories and sectors of the country, to allocate resources in the short, medium and long term.

During the Paris Agreement, it was announced the commitment of members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to guarantee the mobilization of financial resources for climate actions, rounding the USD 100 billion annually. In addition, the creation of the Green Climate Fund sent a clear signal to developing countries about growing opportunities to submit projects to leverage international resources.

Colombia has tried to make the most of these resources for the development of pro-environmental initiatives; during the period 2003-2016, according to the distribution of climate financing in the Latin American region, Colombia received over USD 200 million, and is the fourth country in approved resources reception through the aforementioned funds and funds such as the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), the Amazon Fund, and the Germany’s International Climate Initiative, which are the most supportive funds in the region. The top positions in this distribution are concentrated in larger economies such as Brazil (USD 853 million) and Mexico (USD 721 million), which jointly receive 55% of all financing.

In parallel, between 2011 and 2013 the accumulated investment from the national, regional and local public sector in initiatives that have similar objectives to the climate change reached COP 5 trillion (i.e. USD 1.700 trillion). This reflects the growing concern of the public authorities on the subject to strengthen sustainable and durable development in the territories and sectors of the country. Of these invested resources, 58% were targeted at initiatives for the adaptation to climate change, against 18% for mitigation and 24% for initiatives that unite both approaches. This reflects and reaffirms the fact that Colombia is highly vulnerable to climate change.

The project Strengthening the institutional capabilities for the implementation of local practices of integrated risk management as a measure of adaptation to climate change in the insular and coastal zone of the Colombian Caribbean is a joint initiative between the European Union, the Colombian National Unit for Risk Management of Disasters (UNGRD), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). With resources over the USD 2.000 million from this entities, this action has focused on reducing the vulnerability of population in the Caribbean region by strengthening institutional capacities and technical skills to manage risk.

It also provided insights for the incorporation of risk management in the planning instruments by running pilot projects in the region. The benefits perceived from this type of projects go beyond the matter of environmental issues. As suggested by the then deputy Vice-minister of Environment of Colombia, Pablo Vieira, The Green Climate Fund “is an excellent platform to mobilize resources for climate finance that contribute, not only to the paradigm shift of a low carbon and climate resilient economy, but also as a catalyst to generate endogenous development processes in the regions of the country” (El Espectador, 2014).

For example, BIOREDD+ is the flagship environmental program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Colombia. USAID BIOREDD+ developed a portfolio of 14 Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) projects compatible with REDD+ projects in the Colombian Pacific coast (), to be entered in the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The projects seek to protect existing natural resources while fostering the regeneration of degraded tropical forests. The projects are being developed jointly with local communities, by implementing REDD+ project activities with the expectation of generating income in exchange for their conservation efforts. These include sustainable productive activities, social investments, strengthening of governance, land use planning and conservation enforcement mechanisms.

In Santiago de Cali, the capital city of the department of Valle del Cauca (Pacific Region), the consequences of the last winter emergency, provoked by “La Niña” phenomenon, increased the risk of a major flood in the city, protected by a levee along the Cauca River. The eventual breakup of the Jarillón de Cali (the levee´s name) would generate a comparable tragedy to what happened in New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. With resources from the Adaptation Fund of Colombia, the Foundation for the Integral Development of the Colombian Pacific Region (FDI Pacífico) is supervising the Plan Jarillón of Cali which seeks at mitigating the risk through the reinforcement and the construction of new levees in order to reduce the hydraulic and geotechnical threat, with the respective social accompaniment to the vulnerable population.

Among other subnational projects, Colombia is developing various climate change plans with high aspirations under the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In Cartagena (Atlantic Region), the 4C Cartagena Plan is the road map to achieve a resilient, competitive and climate-friendly town, being the first city in the country to have created a long-term vision where the climate of the future will be an opportunity for its development. This plan, funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Netherlands, will provide strong responses for Cartagena to boost its port and industrial area, and promote a climate-friendly tourism sector.

The Huila 2050 Plan (in the Andes Region) have produced lessons learned that will guide new efforts. The plan sponsored by USAID aims to promote a climate-friendly and competitive department with a sustainable development that remains the first region in coffee and fruit production, as well as one of the most productive in various crops that guarantee food security. To achieve this, the plan proposes to have the best agroclimatic system in the country, to generate coffee with zero carbon footprint and adapted to the climate of the future, and to promote a better silvopastoral livestock.

The planning activities in Colombia are also involved in the dynamic of the sustainable development. At Central Government level, it has been identified the lack of a quantitative macroeconomic instrument to measure the consequences of various long-term investment options. In this context, the National Planning Department (DNP), together with the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Colombia (Banco de la República), and the French Development Agency (AFD), are designing a macroeconomic model that includes the impact of ‘El Niño’ and ‘La Niña’ phenomena, as well as the increase in global temperature, and the presence of some key natural resources. This proposal for economic modeling is part of a large bilateral cooperation between France and Colombia on climate and green growth, with a subsidy of almost EUR 8 million from the AFD, including European Union delegated funds (Latin America Investment Facility – LAIF), on finance and climate economics.

The academy is no stranger to the topic, and is a pioneering sector in launching several initiatives for the climate change. the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology, which brings together several Latin American countries, selected (among 99 proposals from the continent) a project from the Group of Forages, Livestock and Climate Change of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. With a budget close to USD 1 million, it will be developed the baseline of the greenhouse emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, related to livestock activities in five countries: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay. The project aims at creating short, medium and long-term solutions to mitigate the effect of these gases generated by these production systems.

The country is doing it relatively well. Despite of the big efforts that are currently being done in the country to foster the development in a more compatible way with climate, with resilient sectors and territories adapted to the climate change, the country need to search new ways to leverage its projects. It was estimated that to meet the projected financial needs for mitigation, and to achieve the goals set in the environmental ambit, an initial investment between 0.07% and 0.16% of the total GDP by 2020 is needed (that is between COP 0.7 and 1.9 trillion). This investment should be increased by 2030, to the range of 0.65% to 0.87% of the annual GDP, which is equivalent to a range of COP 9.8 to 15.8 trillion per year. In this sense, Colombia has the challenge to permeate climate change considerations in the economic and financial planning of all its sectors. Colombia also has the need to increase the flow of investment, to improve the efficiency of its allocation and to diversify its sources to finance climate impact initiatives that enable it to meet the commitments that has acquired at the international level.

By Harrison Sandoval

Analista de identificación y monitoreo

FDI Pacífico



Dinero. (November 13th, 2015). Finanzas por el clima en Colombia: ¿debería importarnos?. Retrieved from: http://www.dinero.com/economia/articulo/financiamiento-colombia-para-proyectos-contra-cambio-climatico/216055

El espectador. (December 14th, 2014). Colombia frente al cambio climático. Retrieved from: http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/medio-ambiente/colombia-frente-al-cambio-climatico-articulo-533061



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