Since the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change in 1992, Colombia has been characterized for its conciliatory position and the search of alternative ways to accomplish global and national goals of both mitigating and adapting towards climate change. The negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol (1994-1997), pictured Colombia as a country in development, fulfilling the obligation to report periodically about the state of gas emissions.

Developed over the years since 2010, Colombia’s National Adaptation Plan to Climate Change, the National Strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and the Low Carbon Development Strategy are the results of this voluntary public policies development. Additionally, the country was the first in the America to deliver their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) Plan before the COP 2015, establishing the goal to reduce Greenhouse Gases by 20-30% before 2030 and claiming international help to accomplish this goal.

The general aims of Colombia are to contribute to the global goals on the following issues: climate change mitigation and adaption; conservation of biological diversity; combat desertification; and natural disaster risk reduction. These aims have the characteristics of being “politically correct” and imply that Colombia has the capacity for three things. Firstly, they have the capacity to accomplish global goals. Second, Colombia is a country able to accomplish “sustainable development” and recognizes the need to protect the environment and biological diversity as a right of the people. Finally, that Colombia can lead third world countries to recognize the devastating climate change transformation in their territories and in the search for independence, autonomy and sovereignty in the definition of climate change policies.

However, in practical matters, Colombia lacks the conditions to implement the specific actions. The National Development Plan (2014-2018) prioritized productive extraction sectors (i.e. mining, forestry, and monocrops like cane and palm oil) which implies a severe impact of the natural ecosystem and reduction of natural resources for the future. The lack of effective and efficient institutional presence in all parts of the country makes it difficult to trace and implement action in all parts of the country. Finally, war and internal conflicts raise a wide range of delicate issues from illegal mining, deforestation, blowing up pipelines, river contamination, to illicit crops fumigation with prohibited chemicals.

In conclusion, the way the world compromises with global climate change (mitigation and adaptation) cannot only reside in with states. Average citizens and the civil society must take more participatory action and engagement in these challenges in their daily lives by incorporating local knowledge, capabilities and work to create and accomplish collective goals. Additionally, citizens lack the instruments to trace their government’s actions. Because of that, countries need to create better accountability systems and to be able to legally hold governments to their promises.

Written by: Santiago Wills – May 2016 Team