CLIMATE AND ENERGY
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As we close this year, enjoy the holiday season and ring in the new year, it is a time to share with family and friends, give thanks and reflect on the year that has just passed. We have taken a look back on the last twelve months and the year’s achievements and progress. We are encouraged and celebrate the progress and achievements made in conservation, strengthening governance, and the fostering of an environmental culture. A particular aspect of the national political climate stood out in our recapitulation: in 2016, the Colombian government and the former FARC guerilla –now a political party– signed a definitive peace accord that marked the end of more than 50 years of bellicose confrontation; a transformative element for economic and political dynamics at the national, regional, and local levels. In summary, the peace accord has represented a significant milestone towards the final resolution to the constant state of war of the past 50+ years.
Environmental and civil society organizations face a new, hopeful context. We must take advantage of the opportunities brought about in a post-conflict scenario and, at the same time, foresee the challenges that peace might create. Today, at the end of 2017, we can say that this year brought early signs of both challenges and opportunities. In a country that weaves peace, our work can bear fruit more easily, yet new pressures on biodiversity are created. For example, we have seen a 44% increase between 2015 and 2016 in the national deforestation rate, according to IDEAM’s most recent report. We must thus carefully analyze and consider the pressures affecting the environment in a post-conflict Colombia. This is illustrated in the Living Colombia 2017 Report, a megadiverse country looking to the future, published in November, which examines our ecosystems’ historic evolution, identifies emerging threats, and proposes solutions. This analysis presents a sobering yet hopeful analysis for the future.
A major legal precedent was achieved when the Colombian Constitutional Court recognized the personhood rights of the Atrato River. More than five million hectares of coastal-marine protected areas were declared and,as a result, Colombia has surpassed one of the AICHI conservation goals for the protection of marine ecosystems. Colombia Heritage was created – an ambitious long-term finance strategy to ensure the improvement and care of our protected areas and conservation landscapes. Multi-actor accords to reduce deforestation and creating sustainable food production chains were signed. This year’s accomplishments and achievements, and many others described below, were the result of the relentless persistence and determination of the WWF team and the invaluable alliances and partnerships for which we are very grateful.
What to expect in 2018? Firstly, we will continue to strengthen our efforts to achieve our conservation goals for forest, freshwater, and marine ecosystems and species, and to promote more sustainable food production systems and low carbon resilient development pathway. Similarly, we will continue to support the targets of Colombia´s international environmental commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), deforestation pledges, and agreements determined by the Paris Accord. Additionally, we must keep in mind that Colombia will elect a new president in May for the 2018-2022 term, a critical time to ensure the future sustainability of our ecosystems. In this pre-electoral period, we must push to place biodiversity conservation and sustainability high on the agenda of both presidential candidates and voters.
Looking forward to a new year of vital importance for a mega-diverse country, we thank the hard work and commitments of all our allies and partners, from local communities to business leaders. We wish everyone a well-deserved break during this holiday season and a happy and healthy 2018, and hopes for a country and a planet in peace.
Mary Lou Higgins
Colombia is a forest country; forest cover persists in 53% of the national territory. Nevertheless, Colombia faces the challenge of drastically reducing an upsurge in deforestation: between 2015 and 2016, the national deforestation rate increased by 44% and, according to IDEAM, in 2016 alone 178,696 hectares were converted to other uses.
The most contentious topics in the national political agenda are emerging in this pre-electoral period, and water has become a protagonist. Isagen, El Espectador, WWF-Colombia, and People & Earth carried out Encounters for Water in Medellin, Manizales, Bucaramanga, and Bogota in the framework of the BIBO Alliance. The aim of these workshops was to collect information to strengthen the National Policy for the Integrated Management of Hydrologic Resources. The final workshop was carried out in Bogota and included a public panel discussion for presidential candidates their plans and perspectives on water governance.
Thanks to the work of organizations like WWF-Colombia and Parques Nacionales Naturales, among others, Colombia took a transcendental step forward this year in the conservation of marine ecosystems. Not only did Colombia meet the goal of protecting at least 10% of the country’s coastal-marine ecosystems, as established in the Convention on Biodiversity Convention (CDB Aichi Target), but surpassed this minimum value and now has 14% of the national coastal-marine territory under protection.
More than 2.22% of Colombia´s biodiversity are classified under some category of threat. While this may sound like a very small fraction overall, it is not. In a mega-diverse country like ours, this number represents, among others, 798 plant species, 313 vertebrate species, including multiple freshwater species in river basins like that of the Magdalena, Amazon, and Orinoco Rivers, where fisheries have recorded falls in production of up to 90% in recent decades. If a small group of those species ceased to exist, the resulting ecologic imbalance could threaten the provision of ecosystem services, food security for many communities, and even our own survival.
xxxxxColombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, but also the third most vulnerable to climate change, according to the United Nations. This combination requires commitments to propel a model for economic growth that is more conscious and responsible with the environment and is marked by climate-smart actions.
According to FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization), Colombia is one of seven countries with the potential to meet the food needs of the world. However, this opportunity is currently underexploited. The country wastes 9.76 million tons of food each year, and food production has a far-reaching impact on forests, and other ecosystems, and the environment. How can we consume in a more responsible way without overexploiting resources, degrading land, and generating vast amounts of waste? WWF-Colombia is finding solutions to this issue by working hand-in-hand with sectors that produce, process and trade commodities like beef and palm oil.