On Tuesday April 10th, Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos announced an intention to expand their climate and forest cooperation for five more years. Simultaneously President Santos announced a historic ruling to give autonomy for indigenous peoples, impacting large parts of the Amazon rainforest. Colombia will also freeze all agricultural expansion into forests.
The two leaders launched this through a joint statement in the Amazon during Prime Minister Erna Solberg's official Visit to Colombia, 9-11 April.
–I am very pleased that Colombian-Norwegian climate and forest cooperation will be extended. During President Santos' rule, Colombia has been vigorous in its efforts to reduce deforestation – even through these critical stages of the country's transition to peace, Solberg said during her first visit to the Colombian Amazon. – Through today's joint declaration Norway pledges to continue our support to Colombia in its efforts to preserve its invaluable forests – beyond the end of President Santos' term.
Support from UK and Germany
The statement builds on the partnership created by the Joint Declaration of Intent by Colombia, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom during the climate summit in Paris in 2015. Today’s statement extends the partnership beyond 2020. Norway stands ready to pay up to 50 million USD annually for verified emission reductions through 2025, and to consider a further extension until 2030 with good results.
The United Kingdom's Ambassador to Colombia Mr Peter Tibber highlighted UK's support for the partnership:
– From the United Kingdom, and under our Joint Declaration of Intent with the governments of Norway and Germany, we congratulate the significant effort of Norway to furtherance their cooperation in supporting Colombia to tackle deforestation and sustainably manage its natural capital. We reiterate the importance for the Colombian government to maintain and increase its ambition to reduce deforestation and adequately implement their sustainable agenda across their territory. Through our contributions, where we have provided around £80 million in programs such as Vision Amazonia, BioCarbon Fund, Sustainable Cattle-Ranching Programs and our new initiative Partnerships for Forests; we will continue to support Colombia in the development of a sustainable and transformative future.
Similarly, the German ambassador Michael Bock underlined the close partnership with the Colombian government to pursue a forest- and climate-friendly development.
– Together with our Norwegian and British partners, we are proud to support Colombia in building a prosperous and sustainable future that will safeguard its natural treasures. Besides our joint engagement in the Amazon, we partner to preserve the vast savannahs and wetlands of the Orinoquia that are of global significance for biodiversity and climate protection. Germany has provided a 20 million USD grant for the Orinoquia Sustainable Integrated Landscape Program under the World Bank´s BioCarbon Fund. We applaud Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos for showing the highest level of political support for this endeavor and urge the Colombian government to continue their fight against the rising deforestation and illegal appropriation of land, especially in the Amazon region.
New Colombian initiatives
On Tuesday, President Santos announced further action on behalf of the Colombian government. Santos announced a new decree strengthening self-governance of indigenous territories, which cover half of the Colombian Amazon. This is a historic move, which indigenous peoples have been awaiting for decades. Indigenous peoples are also critical in reducing deforestation, and have historically been the forests’ best guardians.
The other major announcement by President Santos was the forthcoming formal resolution to stop all agricultual expansion into the forests, as stipulated in the 2016 Peace Agreement. No area deforested after 2010 can be used for agriculture. Instead, these areas should be restored and reforested. Given that expansion of cattle ranching and land speculation are the biggest threats to Colombia’s forests, this decision is groundbreaking.
– Our most valuable treasures are not petroleum or gold. It is in biodiversity, in the water sources and in our tropical forests, and today we are making a big step in protecting this grand richness, says President Santos during today’s visit to the Colombian Amazon.
Halting deforestation is essential to the world
Stopping deforestation is essential to reach both the Paris Agreement climate change goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.
–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.
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.
–Without stopping deforestation and introducing large-scale forest restoration, we cannot reach the goals of the Paris climate agreement. 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.