HECO is presented as an innovative strategy that will guarantee the conservation of Colombia's biodiversity | WWF

HECO is presented as an innovative strategy that will guarantee the conservation of Colombia's biodiversity

Posted on
27 marzo 2018
● Colombia is host for the 6th meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), where the status of biodiversity is assessed, as well as the progress and challenges in ecosystem services, and degradation and restoration of lands of the continents of America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
● In his opening address to the 126 country delegates and civil society participants, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos highlighted Heritage Colombia -- HECO as an innovative program aimed at perpetually conserving protected areas and guaranteeing the sustainable use of natural resources in Colombia, the second most biodiverse country in the world.
Medellín, March 26, 2018 - President Juan Manuel Santos addressed the opening plenary of the 6th meeting of the IPBES -- Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that took place in Medellín from March 17 to 24. Colombia's positive balance in terms of biodiversity conservation and management tools for the sustainable use of its natural resources is demonstrated by the expansion of protected areas to the current coverage of nearly 30 million.
For Colombia, biodiversity is at the core of the country´s environmental agenda. During the current Government, the coverage of protected continental ecosystems and marine and coastal zones reached 14% and 13.7%, respectively, thus ensuring the future of strategic ecosystems for the country and the world, such as the high mountain grasslands, wetlands, tropical dry and humid forest ecosystems, as well as oceans and coasts.
Given the urgency of guaranteeing the conservation of our natural heritage, in his opening speech to the 126 IPBES members, President Santos presented Heritage Colombia HECO as an innovative financing mechanism for the long term conservation of Colombia´s National System of Protected Areas (SINAP, its acronym in Spanish). "This initiative transcends each individual government administration, and will be Colombia´s legacy to the future of humanity" said the President.
HECO aims to protect and improve management of 20 million hectares of national protected areas and large landscapes or jurisdictions, ensuring their long term maintenance and resilience to climate change. HECO should also contribute to greater social inclusion and the construction of peace, and bring opportunities for human well-being and territorial development. The strategy designed to achieve this includes increased coverage, effective management and governance of the SINAP, as well as other complementary landscape-scale conservation approaches.
Following the start-up of HECO, it will be possible to perpetually ensure the protection of key areas for national and global biodiversity, through, among other tools, the involvement of local communities in the governance of natural resources. The operation of the program is based on the creation of a transition fund where public and private resources are leveraged for a period of 20 years. Over time, government resources will phase in to assume the costs of conservation, and develop new sources of sustainable financing for the systems of protected areas in the longer term.
According to President Santos, "through instruments such as the carbon tax, the payment for environmental services and compensation mechanisms, the Government will guarantee the sustainability of the program." HECO is also articulated with the Colombia en Paz and Colombia Sostenible Funds.
The forests, one of the great beneficiaries
One of the strategic ecosystems that HECO will conserve is Colombia’s forests, which still cover more than half of the national territory. This year, the forests are the main conservation objective in Colombia for the Earth Hour campaign, the global mobilization promoted by WWF. (www.conectadosporlosbosques.com)
Protecting forests is strategic for the conservation of the country’s unique and rich flora and fauna, as well as the maintenance of critical ecosystem services provided by forests , such as the provision of food, medicines and raw materials, as well as the flow and regulation of the water used by thousands of communities, the agricultural sector and hydroelectricity. Forests store carbon and thus regulate climate, helping the planet mitigate the impacts of climate change. Finally, forests are home to hundreds of indigenous, afro-descendant and peasant communities, whose lives depend on their sustainable use.
HECO will contribute to the fight against deforestation by protecting, managing and restoring forest ecosystems. In 2016, an estimated 178,597 hectares of forest cover was lost in Colombia, and increase of 44% from the previous year. The main causes are changes in land use and conversion of natural forests to crops and/or pastures. According to the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies - (IDEAM, its acronym in Spanish) the deforestation and conversion contribute 36% of total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the country.
In order to mitigate the impacts, Colombia has created an innovative regulatory decree called the Carbon-Neutrality decree or Carbon Tax. Companies that must contribute can opt for a different option to payment, as for example, through the implementation of reforestation projects or forest protection, and the carbon tax is a mechanism that can contribute to the financing of HECO. Forests can serve as a sink for GHG emissions generated by companies in the burning of fossil fuels.
Colombia has taken on major conservation challenges through programs such as HECO, which will also contribute to the fulfillment of the country's international commitments, including the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Aichi Targets and the process of joining the OECD.
HECO is led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, National Natural Parks, Natural Heritage, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, CI, WCS, and WWF, along with the support of GEF -- Heart of Amazonia, and the World Bank, among others.