Colombia and Norway strengthens cooperation to protect the Amazon

Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos Tuesday April 10. announced an intention to expand their climate and forest cooperation for seven more years. Norway will contribute up to 50 million USD annually until 2025 if Colombia manages to verifiably and significantly reduce deforestation.

The two government officials launched this through a joint call in the Amazon during Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s official Visit to Colombia, 9-11 April - writes

–I am very pleased that Colombian-Norwegian climate and forest cooperation will be extended. Under President Santos, Colombia has taken a series of powerful measures to reduce deforestation in the country – at a critical point in the peace process. With today’s joint declaration, we wish to support further efforts to preserve Colombia’s precious rainforest, also after the Santos administration, Prime Minister Erna Solberg says.

With this declaration Norway supports Colombia’s objective of halting the loss of natural forests by 2030. Norway intends to pay up to 400 million NOK annually until 2025 for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. This partnership could be extended to 2030. One prerequisite for the payments to be made is that Colombia can obtain independent verification of significantly reduced deforestation and emission reductions.

Halting deforestation is essential to the world

Stopping deforestation is essential both to reach the Paris Agreement climate change goals and the sustainable development goals. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos points at Norway as an important ally in the fight against deforestation.

–The protection of our forests in Colombia is in our national interest and can be combined with a more socially equal and sustainable development path. Deforestation stops us from reaching these goals. This is why we have a forceful and targeted fight against deforestation. We have decided to implement a series of immediate measures in the most vulnerable areas, as well as taking long-term measures to halt the expansion of agricultural borders. We will protect the environmental benefits of the peace process, says President Santos.

The details of the agreement will be negotiated after a new Colombian administration is in place in August.

Challenges arising

The statement builds on the climate and forest partnership that was signed between Colombia, Norway, United Kingdom and Germany during the climate summit in Paris in 2015. The partnership is extended on a critical time where the pressure on the forest increases in many of the former conflict areas. Criminal groups have taken over areas that used to be controlled by the FARC guerilla and contribute to large-scale deforestation and forest fires.

–The increased deforestation is very worrying and must be met with powerful means. This has been a key theme during the visit. Santos’ administration takes the situation very seriously and has already implemented many important measures in the most vulnerable regions, Solberg claims.

Colombian environmental authorities, police and defense forces have for instance started a major offensive both nationally and in the most vulnerable regions against deforestation.

New Colombian Initiatives

During the visit to the Amazon, President Santos launched a decree that will provide stronger autonomy in traditional indigenous areas. This ends a more than 20 years struggle from the indigenous people. More than half of Colombian Amazon lies in the indigenous people’s territory. To help indigenous peoples achieve more influence and to respect their land is one of the best ways to protect the Amazon rainforest.

The Colombian Minister of Agriculture has also announced a resolution to stop agriculture from extending further into the rainforest. This means that areas deforested after 2010 cannot legally be used for agricultural purposes.

Closing the agricultural frontier is a key pillar of the government’s strategy for halting deforestation.

Important cooperation

Norway’s Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen participated in the official visit to Colombia, which is one of Norway’s main partner countries for the protection of tropical rainforest. Colombia’s forests cover over 600,000 square kilometers – or almost twice the size of mainland Norway. More than half of Colombia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and agriculture.

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen. Credit: KLD

–Without stopping deforestation and introducing large-scale forest planting, we cannot reach the goals of the Paris agreement on climate. Today’s declaration with Colombia sends an important signal that forest protection is decisive to reach the climate targets.

–In addition, Colombian forests are especially rich in biodiversity, making it even more urgent to protect the Amazon,says Elvestuen.
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