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FEATURE: Colombia’s climate challenge: to jump-start city action

Colombia has a robust national commitment to tackling climate mitigation and adaptation – writes Carolina Mesa of ICLEI Colombia. But the country’s challenge and opportunity is to encourage cities and subnational areas to develop activities to meet national goals. A few promising initiatives are leading the way.

A robust national framework

Colombia has ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change, with a commitment to reducing emissions by 20% below the Business as Usual scenario by the year 2030. For this post-conflict country, which is seeking to rebuild after years of civil war, this also means committing to sustainable development within a broader recasting of national norms and institutions.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) contribute the most to Colombia’s national emissions, followed by the energy sector, waste and finally industrial processes and product use.

Colombia has made significant steps forward at national level to prepare for implementation of the Paris Agreement, including:

  • In late 2016, the National Climate Change Policy was adopted, which is further elaborated by the Colombian Low Carbon Development Strategy, the National Strategy to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Forests (REDD +), the National Plan for Disaster Risk Management and the National Strategy for Climate Financing.
  • In 2017, Colombia ratified the Paris Agreement by implementing Law 1844, which commits the country to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking specific actions for adaptation to climate change.
  • Not only there were changes at the departmental and national levels, but also in subnational policies. Specifically, to implement the National Climate Change Policy, mitigation and adaptation measures were integrated in regional ordinances and plans, such as the Departmental Development Plans, Municipal Development Plans, Land Management Plans, the Plans for Integrated Management of Coastal Environmental Units and Management Plans of River Basins.
  • The aforementioned changes were ratified through the creation of the Climate Change Law, Nº 1931 of 2018, which aims to manage climate change.

One of the main challenges to achieving Colombia’s climate goals is to use such national policies and strategies as a roadmap – and to be able to localise actions. After all, cities are key actors in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change. Their full cooperation and leadership will ensure better urban planning and the more active participation of citizens.

Cities Roundtable spearheads local action

One case of such city leadership in Colombia was the creation of the “Roundtable of cities and climate change” , led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. This Roundtable aims to support implementation of climate mitigation and adaptation actions in Colombian cities in the coming years.

Some of its results, to date, include: establishing the foundations of the National Strategy of Cities and Climate Change; prioritising and selecting several indicators on climate change; and identifying financial instruments for the implementation of low emissions development initiatives in Colombian cities, among other achievements. Visit the website (in Spanish) for more information.  We in ICLEI participate in the Roundtable in order to further empower cities, their leaders, and populations.

NDC implementation at city level is supported by networks such as ICLEI’s. Our activities include strengthening local stakeholders’ capacities for this purpose. In Colombia, we have been supporting urban stakeholders’ capacity strengthening since last year in cities and urban areas that belong to our network: the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley (Medellín and Envigado), Bogotá, Cali, Ibagué, Manizales, Valledupar, Cartago and Tópaga through the project Urban-LEDS.

This is part of a larger ICLEI programme, which engages 60 cities in more than 8 countries to develop and enhance their planning and management of climate change policies. We also aim to accelerate initiatives that are already underway, by promoting technical capacity building and cooperation, knowledge and data exchange and, most importantly, financial streams to support low-emission development plans and policies.

When it comes to the climate change agenda, we must continue to strengthen the role of cities, and seek to involve more stakeholders in this process, based on the fact that shared responsibility and multi-level governance are integral principles that will contribute to resilient and low-carbon development.

 

image: Bogota, credit Pedro Szekely, flickr

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