What have been the main environmental goals of the government?
The national development plan (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo) is based on the principle of “producing while preserving, and preserving while producing." It seeks to emphasize the commitment of the productive sector to sustainability, the reduction of environmental impacts, and the mitigation of climate change. From that principle, we have developed several strategies with the goal of protecting the environment as a strategic asset of all Colombians: by controlling deforestation, planting 180 million trees, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting a circular economy, fostering environmental education, the control of deforestation through the Artemisa campaign, developing green businesses, awarding contracts for environmental preservation, payment for ecosystem services, the law for crimes against the environment, and a system to monitor and detect forest fires, among other initiatives.
What role can the environment play in the reactivation of the country's economy?
The environment is a strategic component of Colombia and needs to be protected. However, it is also a productive asset if it is managed under sustainable criteria through the implementation of programs such as the payment for environmental services, green businesses, and preservation agreements, which is a policy that shows our vision to enable citizens in territories to become owners. We are committed to the recovery and the economic sustainability of the energy and transportation sectors; we understand their importance for employment generation. This, once again, evidences the principle of “producing while preserving, preserving while producing."
What measures is Colombia implementing to be prepared to respond to natural disasters?
Colombia has different policies, studies, and planning mechanisms in this area. One of them is Tercera Comunicación Nacional de Cambio Climático, which analyzes the vulnerability and risks that climate change poses to the country. Decree 298 of 2016 establishes the organization and functioning of the national system of climate change. Among other mechanisms, we want to stress the comprehensive plans to manage climate change, which identify, evaluate, prioritize, and define measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and the adaptation for climate change.
What is the government strategy to protect Colombian environmental activists and prevent the invasion of indigenous lands by illegal loggers?
This is extremely important to us. We support the work of those who are helping all Colombians protect and restore natural resources. To better protect environmentalists, we have Decree 600 of April 2018, which includes legislation to create and regulate the comprehensive program for the security and protection of the communities and organizations in the territories. The national government, through the Ministry of Interior, launched a public policy in 2019 that created a framework to protect community leaders, journalists, and advocates for human rights. The goal of this policy is to generate an adequate climate for the protection of human rights. On the invasion of indigenous land by illegal logging, the ministry developed the national strategy called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), which includes measures to strengthen the sociocultural management of forests, including aspects to promote the governorship of the organizations of indigenous peoples. Of the country's total 60 million ha of national forests, indigenous people live in around 27 million. However, there are other measures that also protect activists and indigenous peoples. The national government has a legal framework that has established a roadmap to exert that defense. We will proceed according to the law, but we also listen to the communities.
To what degree is international cooperation a capstone of Colombian environmental policy?
Due to the excellent results obtained by our government, international cooperation is on the rise and has become an important source of financing. This ministry has developed some programs to cooperate with the international community to consolidate strategic alliances that enable us to address the most relevant environmental of the country. This will help to guarantee the recovery, preservation, protection, management, and use of the natural renewable resources of the country.