Home Trends A conversation with Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia Carlos Correa

A conversation with Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia Carlos Correa

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good afternoon everyone and thank you for joining us today for this timely and most important conversation i’m paula dubrianski i’m on the board of the atlantic council and also on the advisory council of the adrian arch latin america center and on behalf of the atlantic council’s adrian r latin america center global energy center adrian arch herself and also the rockefeller foundation it really is a pleasure to welcome you to here uh our minister correa who is colombia’s minister of environment and sustainability we know that minister korea actually has become a reference point and an example for his very constructive work that he has done while he was mayor of bogota and we want to thank you and congratulate you minister for being here today because you have made so many important strides to protect colombia’s natural resources we look forward to learning more about colombia’s efforts to protect the environment and especially the amazon rain forest which is vital for stabilizing global climate with deforestation illegal mining and wildfires at an 11-year high amazon protection is an urgent call to action environmental protection in colombia is also of strategic importance to the united states given its interconnectedness with the fight against illegal mining drug trafficking and transnational organized crime at the atlantic council through the adrian arch latin america center’s u.s colombia task force we have as a high priority the bilateral relationship and ways in which we can explore new chapters and opportunities to advance it and mr minister your work on environmental sustainability is certainly one additional area for common ground with the united states i am also very pleased to welcome former chair of the white house council on environmental quality and senior fellow at the atlantic council’s global energy center george frampton who will moderate the conversation george a climate policy expert is uniquely positioned to lead this discussion thank you so much minister for joining us and thank you so much george for moderating today’s discussion now let me turn it over to you and welcome to everyone viewing in thank you paula and uh thank you minister correa for joining us today and welcome all of uh you who are watching uh from afar uh colombia many people don’t realize colombia has some of the richest and most important forest resources in the world certainly in latin america including an enormous buffer area into the amazonian rainforest and the government of colombia has really been a leader pioneered in forest preservation programming since 2015-2016 mounted a very ambitious and multi-faceted program secured financing from norway and the uk and hopefully now from the united states uh wants to expand that program and has been something of a model potentially for other forested countries so i’ve basically just asked the minister to start our conversation by outlining the priorities of the program today and what he sees as the biggest challenges the barriers to to expanding it and making it successful minister well thank you george thank you paula for the presentation i know you are such as a friend a big friend to colombia and thank you to atlantic council for having me here today as you say george colombia has big challenges i would like to start telling you that last december president duque made a big announce our ndc’s our national determined contributions we are reducing by 20 30 51 of our greenhouses emissions so it’s a big challenge as i told you before i think is our main priority not only in our government but also thinking about 10 and 20 years ahead uh we have a big priority now is the fight against deforestation 2017 was the the highest deforestation year in our history 219 000 hectares were deforestated then president duques initiate initial initiate his period in 2018 and create a national council of a fight against deforestation uh and in 2018 we decreased 19 that number then the next year 10 20 20 was a hard year for all of us and we have a growth of eight percent in uh in deforestation in colombia but the good news is that this year 2021 we decreased already 30 percent well 30 of deforestation in the amazonia in colombia and we hope by the end of the year we can reduce 50 percent and our goal is to have zero deforestation by 2030. so it’s a big challenge 33 percent of the emissions are generated from deforestation so it’s a very big challenge george and i was telling uh as i was telling you before uh it’s a big fight we we are working with military forces we have an operation called artemisa we already had 10 operations to control more than 15 000 hectares what i can tell you is that that’s a national security strategy against deforestation but at the same time we are restoring 300 000 hectares we are conserving 600 000 hectares in different regions in our country you’re planting a lot of trees we we have a big challenge that is plan to plant 180 million trees by 2022 at the same time that we are fighting against deforestation and the most important thing george is that we are doing this with the people with the communities because this is uh uh this is a challenge that is not only for the country but for us for the people so we’re working with the different communities in the indigens farmers see and people in the amazonia we have different tools like conservation contracts with the families pay for environmental service environmental education and that’s what we’re doing to well to stop deforestation and at the same time to conserve what is important for us george 52 percent of colombia is covered by forests and 66 of our forest is in the amazonia how do you as your program is really designed to bring economic development to small communities forested communities you’re trying to do that at the same that’s an integral part of forest preservation but uh does that sometimes come in conflict with how how do you how do you work to get the support of the communities not to do illegal uh deforestation well can you imagine how many jobs can you create planting 180 million trees a lot of jobs that we are creating so er when people knows that he can work with the the forest and and obtain money or income they will care more about it so we’re working in education with people we 2020 was a very hard year because we couldn’t be uh on in the territory for the uh kobe pandemic but now we are with all our teams we are in the territory talking to people teaching uh and showing them how can they work with with the forest with the biodiversity and that how can we pay him pay them to conserve biodiversity and forest so i think it’s a process and people is understanding that we have to [Music] care and protect well colombia is the second biodiverse country in the world so we have to protect it you’ve been here this week uh visiting uh with having meetings with some non-profits but also with u.s government officials new biden administration folks how is the how is the reception been and what is it that you really need what can the u.s do to help you well we’ve had a very good agenda this this week we have i i had some meetings with non-profit organizations i’ve been with iccf wwf conservation international [Music] among others and tomorrow we’ll be having a meeting with jonathan pershing from john kerry’s office so we’ll tell you i’ll tell you tomorrow how it goes but but there’s something good happening the united states is is back in the paris agreement and that’s good not only for the united states but for all our countries in latin america and the korean we already are working with different sectors in the united states different organizations as usa for example that are a very good alice of colombia and i hope we can strengthen the relationships for the future now that the united states is back in the paris agreement well jonathan pershing was an important funder of the development of policy on forest preservation from the hewlett foundation he’s been at this for 20 years or more and uh the uh as you know the the u.s norway the uk and a number of companies and banks just announced in the last few months a new financing accelerator program making a commitment of hopefully at least a billion dollars to increase the kinds of programs that you’ve put in place where the government is really key to this committed to both rural development and forest preservation for other countries that are looking or behind you are looking to to try to develop a countrywide program and take advantage of what financing made new financing may be available from richer countries what what what advice would you give someone who’s who’s behind you looking to to build a program like yours well we have a very good alice in norway as you said uk germany there are financial a big program in colombia is called bision amazonia and if looking forward to stop deforestation in the next year usa is working with us too with the communities but i hope that now after these meetings we can get more financing for these kind of programs um definitely colombia has a leadership in the region [Music] president duke in 90 in 20 20 19 launched a a grade a big program called leticia pact that is looking for a better social development for the people in the amazonia colombian is looking to stop deforestation [Music] get better income for the people and there’s a big compromise not only from colombia but peru brazil bolivia suriname [Music] and colombia so it’s a very nice program we are we have a leadership on that area and what i what i always tell my colleagues minister of other countries is that we have to be in the same compromise that we have it’s the same amazonia it’s the same amazonia this is an air we breathe and we have to work together the the amazonia is a system we are all part of this system and we have to do it together so we have to move fast climate change is a reality it is not something that [Music] maybe will happen or could happen it’s a reality and now not only us children companies are thinking about it and we have to be faster than where we were before fast yes i’m afraid to say um well as you say the forest preservation and stopping deforestation is a big component of your very ambitious ndc 55 reduction 51 51 percent europe said 55 yesterday uh yesterday well there but let’s see where they come out uh [Music] another big uh component of your commitment is dealing with coal power and substituting less polluting ways of generating electricity that’s a challenge too isn’t it well it’s a big challenge a minister of energy is working on it that energy transition that colombia have a leadership in the region too and we have many many priorities in these different areas energy transition sustainable mobility you talk you ask me something about agriculture sustainable agriculture too a environmental education the big alliance of protecting the paramus water and of course deforestation and conservation so the energetic transition is a one of our priorities for colombia so you mentioned before we started today a new program in restoring corals so i’m this is not exactly on the forest subject but i’m fascinated i’d love to have you just say a few words about that well it sounds that’s a new it sounds very big people ask me what how do you restore corals two weeks ago we launched a program with conservation international we are going to restore 200 hectares in the caribbean and pacific coast in colombia and we will we are going to restore one medium corals and we already started this is a program for two years and it’s a beautiful program and how do you do it well you want me to explain how to do it well it’s a technique called fragmentation so you fragment the the corals and then go to to uh how do you say like a kindergarten guardians like nursery yeah yeah you you take the fragmentation take the pieces of corals go to a nursery on the ocean and after 12 months you just go and plant the corals on the reef well it’s more technical no this is a completely new process yeah it’s it’s new i think it’s the the biggest initiative in restoration of corals in the world and you mentioned agriculture we talked about that before to what extent does promoting sustainable agriculture in a forested area for local economic development conflict with trying to preserve the forest how do you integrate those two things well we are working with the minister of agriculture doing this we’re working in credits for sustainable development in agriculture i think when when people have money to finance their projects they can think different so with the minister we’re working in different areas better credits for people we are working in uh projectos silvopastoriles silvopastoriles it’s a ghana area and a environmental education farmers has to learn that conserve and having sustainable projects have better profits so they educate the environmental education in all the sectors is very important and we are doing it together you’ve said and we talked earlier that illegal logging is one of the huge challenges here maybe the biggest single challenge what are the tools that you’ve found work or don’t and don’t work what are the tools that you use is this a law enforcement problem is it a rural economic development problem how how do you how do you go about dealing with illegal logging george seven percent of the deforestation is caused by illegal crops seven percent and if you go one mile around the deforestation spots 25 of the deforestation it’s one mile around these spots so uh illegal drugs are delayed directly related to deforestation or environmental crimes uh two weeks ago uh we had a bill approved uh for it it’s called the environmental crimes bill deforestation is a crime now in colombia and it gives jail from 5 to 15 years and not only people who is deforestating [Music] but people who is financing and promoting deforestation species traffic illegal special traffic it’s a crime now in colombia and illegal land taking it’s a crime too and you have jail from five to 11 years and this is a very powerful tool now because before a people or an organization or an illegal organization organization that was deforestating just paid like a uh [Music] multa like a bill and it was he was free now he goes to jail from five to 15 years the artemisa campaign with the military forces to take control of the areas it’s a very important tool to to do that but the most important thing is is creating new jobs for these people reduce poverty [Music] i’m not sure that many a lot of people understand the extent to which the illegal drug production and deforestation illegal logging and deforestation are linked but that’s a that’s a major challenge but what you’re saying is basically job creation is probably job creation and environmental education are the two principal tools in addition to law enforcement but york they are linked directly drugs and illegal business with deforestation you know your difference one hectare cost around 800 who’s financing that of course the illegal business drugs illegal mining and that’s why we are working with a minister of defense but agriculture energy and of course all the the social work with with the government well in terms of environmental education and consciousness on the part of the public about the importance of preserving forest reforestation i i happen to notice uh in connection with getting ready to talk to you that the colombian supreme court has recognized the forest as an asset and i was fascinated by that because in the 1960s uh environmentalists in the united states were thrilled when justice william douglas on the u.s supreme court wrote a very dissenting opinion saying that he thought trees should have standing to bring lawsuits it didn’t have to be the sierra club it was a case in which the sierra club was a party but the trees should actually be able to to be the plaintiffs in lawsuits so i hadn’t seen another supreme court in another country that seemed to actually recognize that you know as as party speaking for the for the people but for the world that the trees themselves should be able to participate in litigation what do you see what are what are the primary uh you know goals of expanding the program i think we just have a couple more minutes but i’m interested to see where you are where you how you see the next couple of years and what are the big uh areas of expansion of your forest preservation program well we have to work on the planting of 180 million trees not only for this government we have to create capacities to live for the for for the state to to continue planting trees of course we’re not talking about just planting we’re we’re talking about restoring ecosystems right but people need to understand why should we plant trees so planting 180 million trees is a big challenge for for us colombia has never had a plant like this before so for planting you need land plants and people and trained people so those are going to be good training people so we learned a challenge for the next year is to have trained people to do that train organizations to continue doing that we have the land we have the plans we always need more financing more money but we need to educate people and leave better train people who who does the training is it universities is it non-profits that are is it a government non-profit partnership well we are working with non-profits we are working with universities we are working with a government institute and different corporations that’s how we are doing it but we need to be as i told you before faster in this because it’s like it’s like you today you say we’re going to plan 180 million trees what’s the first question for everyone how are you going to do that so it’s a big challenge we already planted 64 million we we hope by the end of the year we we have planned uh 120 million trees and for the next year 180 million well i i want to say good luck but that’s not uh but i should probably say thank you for such a ambitious and important uh effort program goal um and the idea of training people to do that and financing it is quite exciting actually so uh thank you very much for being here today for your very important work uh for colombia’s leadership and your own personal leadership and i hope that those of you who have been watching will take this to heart and thank you on behalf of the minister and the atlanta council for all of you i hope this was an interesting conversation have a good day [Music] you


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A conversation with Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia Carlos Correa
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