• Colombia is taking steps to reduce its CO2 emissions by transitioning to renewables.
  • The country’s wind and solar capacity have increased six-fold since 2018, says President Ivan Duque.
  • He believes cities are instrumental in helping to protect biodiversity.

In 2018, Ivan Duque Márquez became the youngest-ever president of Colombia, a country of more than 50 million people in the northernmost part of South America.

It is a country that has to balance its growing cities with the careful maintenance of natural habitats.

As part of the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, President Duque discusses how Colombia is managing the transition to clean energy and why cities are key to protecting biodiversity.

How is Colombia approaching the issue of biodiversity?

Sometimes I think it’s too easy to think about biodiversity as a matter of what happens in the jungle or what happens in the savannas or what happens in the national parks. But we have to acknowledge that the protection of biodiversity begins with the issue of daily human habits. And those take place in cities.

So we need to think about sustainability in cities as an important part of protecting biodiversity. And that has to do with how a city manages its waste. How it manages energy, water and sanitation. How a city manages transportation and how a city manages the quality of its air.

Also how a city can create sustainable consumption habits. I think it's important that citizens in the cities are conscious of their responsibilities – not only in the way they reduce, reuse, recycle and the way they consume energy, but also in the way their actions can contribute to protecting biodiversity.

Colombian President Ivan Duque: “In the past two years, we have been able to reduce the rate of deforestation by 19%.”
Colombian President Ivan Duque: “In the past two years, we have been able to reduce the rate of deforestation by 19%.”
Image: World Economic Forum / Flickr

What steps is Colombia taking toward energy transition?

Although Colombia represents only around 0.4% of global CO2 emissions, we must adapt and contribute to international efforts to reduce the effects of climate change. An important part of that is our energy transition strategy.

When our administration began, solar and wind generation was only something close to 0.5% of the Colombian energy matrix. In the past two years, we have expanded that to reach more than 10%. We have multiplied the installed capacity of wind and solar by six times and we have an additional agenda to get to 20% before 2030.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

How are you working to protect the natural world?

Our strategy for fighting deforestation is a combination of carrot and stick. We're fighting against illegal activities that destroy the tropical jungle. At the same time, we're building up nature-based solutions. In the past two years, we have been able to reduce the rate of deforestation by 19%.

Am I satisfied with that? No, because we have to do much more. And that's why we're also connecting that agenda with the One Trillion Trees initiative from the World Economic Forum. Colombia's contribution will be to plant 180 million trees by August 2022. So far, we're above 30 million and we're going to reach 50 million by the end of this year.

Around 35% of our country is Amazon territory and more than 50% is tropical jungle. But we also have cities that have a close relationship with nature. We want that relationship to be sustainable, to have a positive impact and to involve our urban citizens in protecting biodiversity.