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Why the President of Colombia believes it’s time to reduce, reuse, and recycle

Colombia's President Ivan Duque speaks during an interview with Reuters, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota, Colombia June 26, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez - RC27HH9UBSME

In 2018, Ivan Duque Márquez became the youngest-ever president of Colombia. Image: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Sean Fleming
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit
  • 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.

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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.

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

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.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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