If life on our planet is to survive climate change, we must drastically and urgently slash greenhouse gas emissions and conserve forests. Colombia’s next president will face many pressing challenges, not the least of which is implementation of the FARC peace accord, but he or she must also take decisive action on Colombia’s role in combatting climate change.
Though a small country, Colombia has a responsibility to take the lead on forest conservation efforts — it is home to about 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity and to 10 percent of the Amazon rain forest. It is also one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. Unfortunately, the government has yet to assume responsibility for this. According to one report, deforestation shot up 44 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, and much of it was in the Amazon.
The best way to conserve forests is to protect the land rights and lives of indigenous and other traditional peoples who steward those forests. Colombia has a long way to go to ensure such rights, as the murder of at least 37 land and environment defenders in 2016 proves. The new president can demonstrate global leadership by implementing real solutions to this crisis.
Birss is the media and communications manager at Amazon Watch.