Title: Environmental policy and sustainable management of natural resources in Colombia (PROMAC)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Agencia Presidencial de Cooperación Internacional de Colombia (APC-Colombia)
Overall term: 2012 to 2017
Colombia has an enormously rich biodiversity. The country has more than 300 different ecosystems, ranging from the dry forests of the Caribbean to the dense Amazon rainforests. These unique landscapes are home to innumerable species of flora and fauna, some of which are threatened with extinction.
Biodiversity is one of Colombia’s most vital natural resources. The ecosystems provide the population with clean water, food and the raw materials used to produce medicines. For the most part, these natural resources are not being used sustainably, which is jeopardising the functional capacity of the ecosystems. Biodiversity is further threatened by armed conflicts, drug cultivation and the relevant countermeasures, large-scale growing of agricultural produce and insufficient regulation of mining.
The key players in the environmental sector also find it difficult to coordinate, push through and implement their policies and strategies. Good governance and transparent structures are lacking, and there is a need both for the people to be more involved in decision-making processes and for the state to show a greater presence in individual parts of the country.
The key players in the environmental sector are able to efficiently implement agreed sector policies and strategies, thereby ensuring long-term conservation and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources.
The national environmental information system SIAC collates data from a number of sources, including the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, research institutes and the departmental and municipal authorities that are responsible for environmental policy. The project team is bringing all the key players together around one table and working with them to devise a strategy that will safeguard the financial sustainability of SIAC. They are also determining standard indicators, which represent a key component of SIAC and form the basis for the reports that Colombia is required to produce to meet its international obligations.
The project is helping the Ministry and the municipalities to develop environmental spatial planning processes that take account of the impacts of climate change. In the department of Norte de Santander, spatial planning in the buffer zones of two conservation areas has been geared towards their preservation. This maintains biodiversity while at the same time respecting the interests of the local population, for instance with regard to land development planning and agriculture.
Together with the Ministry, the project team is devising economic incentives that will make it more attractive for businesses and citizens to conserve biodiversity. For example, a scheme has been developed that obliges companies to compensate for any damage to the environment caused by their operations. By the same token, businesses and citizens are able to enjoy economic benefits if they protect the country’s biodiversity.
The consulting firm GOPA is assisting with the implementation of the project.
With the project’s support, the institutions in the environmental sector have incorporated environmentally sustainable growth as one of the cross-cutting issues in the 2014-2018 National Development Plan.
Colombia is seeking to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The project team has advised the relevant officials in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development on meeting the OECD’s accession requirements in the environmental sector. This included the development of policies and action plans on waste management and risk management for chemical substances. In February 2017, the OECD’s Environmental Policy Committee certified that Colombia fulfils the conditions for accession in terms of its environmental performance.
The internet-based platform SIAC provides information on the state of the country’s natural resources. It facilitates access to official information and aids decision-making and civil participation in planning processes.
Representatives from local communities have learned how to take account of environmental issues in spatial planning. The project has already helped five communities and indigenous territories to develop land-use plans that protect environmentally sensitive areas. In Tolima and the Caribbean region, implementation of measures for ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change has been continued in areas particularly affected by drought.
Colombia’s compensation regulations in the case of loss of biodiversity have been put in place for the first time in the department of Atlántico on the Caribbean coast. If any operations carried out by businesses or institutions lead to a loss of biodiversity, a compensation portfolio clearly defines how and where they must compensate for such losses.
The Páramo de Santurbán is an ecosystem located above the treeline in the Andes supplying drinking water for around two million people. In the department of Norte de Santander, public and private stakeholders (such as the municipal administration of the department’s capital Cucuta, a beer brewery, the local chamber of commerce and the departmental government) have joined forces to preserve this vital ecosystem by planting new trees, restoring upland areas (páramo) and introducing more sustainable forms of agriculture.