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FEATURE: Mainstreaming climate issues into local development plans in Colombia

Liliana Ramos and Mathieu Lacoste of CDKN Colombia outline opportunities for tackling climate vulnerabilities at local level and explain how Colombia’s forthcoming elections for mayors and governors open new possibilities for debate.

Colombia’s voters will decide the future of the country in October, when they vote for their new mayors and governors. A few months away from the polls’ verdict, the political debate is becoming more and more intense and polarised around how to tackle local development in the context of high socioeconomic inequality, the peace-building process and increasing vulnerability to climate change. In the run-up to the election, the candidates are now designing their strategies, defining the detail of their legislative programmes, establishing alliances and seeking votes.

With its presence in different regions of the country, CDKN Colombia is seizing the opportunity to reach out to electoral candidates and request the inclusion of climate compatible development in the political debate. We see the opportunity for climate compatible development to be explicitly incorporated into the Local Development Plans that the successful candidates are due to deliver during the first quarter of 2016.

Why reach out to political leaders on climate compatible development at the subnational level?

The regions of Colombia are already experiencing the aftermath of a changing climate. However, those impacts may become deeper over time. According to the new climate projections released at the end of March by IDEAM (the agency in charge of developing the climate change models in Colombia) for the Third National Communication on Climate Change (, the vulnerability of most parts of the country to climate change will increase by 2070 and 2100.

This situation implies that Colombian leaders and communities have to rethink the development of their jurisdictions in the long run and prepare for the future in a way that includes climate change variables in their planning processes. It also means that early actions must be taken in the regions to tackle the social, economic, institutional and planning challenges posed by climate change before it is too late. Reducing people’s vulnerability and strengthening their resilience, as well as promoting new jobs through a less carbon-intensive economy is required at the subnational level. In a sense, this reality challenges the high level of centralisation in the country and the traditional way of doing politics and it calls for a more efficient allocation of resources (and perhaps, indeed, more resources altogether) in the regions.

Part of the effort will be in hands of the national government; the rest in hands of the local institutions; but above all, success will depend on the degree of coordination between the national and subnational levels that results from the regionalisation process ushered in by the new Development Plan 2014 -2018 “All for a new country”. In this national document, climate compatible development and green growth are cross-cutting themes. The Plan implies that the regions will be empowered with more responsibilities and will be compelled to deliver more results in those areas.

CDKN promotes the improvement of local governance on  climate compatible development

Based on this policy context, CDKN is implementing a new project called “Improving governance on climate compatible development at local level”. The project aims to guide key local decision-makers in paying more attention to climate change, promoting a new vision of local development in the long run and mainstreaming climate issues into  their local development plans.

It also seeks to share relevant information and practical tools to convince them of the role political leaders can play in creating new development pathways. The end goal is climate-smart, more resilient development at local level and redirection of investment to achieve that.

This project has various entry points. First, it aims to create a practical guidance document on climate compatible development planning at the local level written in an easy language where some basic knowledge and key opportunities for territories are highlighted. This product will eventually be shared with most of the elected mayors and governors of the country. Second, the project will  design and develop an online course for the new mayors, governors and advisors to train them in climate compatible development. This course will be hosted by the Public Administration School (ESAP) that provides all newly elected staff with a mandatory training on public finance management and administrative responsibility. Third, the project seeks to engage directly with the candidates and their advisory staff through three inspirational regional workshops. These CDKN-led workshops will take place in three strategic regions of the country where climate compatible development is vital for the area’s overall development, where there is already a certain level of progress in terms of climate change actions and there are opportunities to maximise ongoing work.

Sensitising local election candidates to climate issues in Cartagena

In partnership with Funcicar, the Commission of Debates of Cartagena and the Technological University of Bolivar, CDKN held a session on the benefits of integrating a climate compatible development approach in their governing plans as well as the opportunities related to the implementation of Plan 4C to build the Cartagena of the future.

Several candidates and campaign advisors and staff, organisations calling for political transparency and several private and business unions attended the workshop. They were introduced to the development and growth challenges climate change poses for the city, its sectors and population. CDKN also screened some images of the upcoming video of Plan 4C to illustrate the issues and position Plan 4C as a tool to improve local planning and governance, employment, productivity, safety, environment and citizenship in a broader vision for a climate compatible Cartagena by 2040.

The session was received with great enthusiasm by the candidates and their campaign managers, who expressed their interest in receiving the support of CDKN. They also showed interest in Plan 4C and its strategies for the formulation of the government and future development plans for 2016 to 2020

For CDKN Colombia, this is a first step toward a deeper engagement in the regions: a step toward mainstreaming climate issues at the subnational level and toward promoting climate compatible development policies that will build more resilient territories and sectors.






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