By Oliver Griffin
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia must base its conservation targets on international agreements that push for annual deforestation of 100,000 hectares or less by 2025, incoming Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said on Wednesday.
Her sector needs new sources of permanent funding, including carbon taxes, said Muhamad, who takes up her post on Sunday when President-elect Gustavo Petro is inaugurated.
Deforestation in the Andean country rose 1.5% to 174,103 hectares (430,218 acres) in 2021, pushed higher by destruction of the Amazon rainforest, according to figures released last month by the government.
Preservation of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, is considered vital to curbing catastrophic climate change because of the vast amount of greenhouse gas it absorbs.
Colombia in 2019 agreed the target of 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) or less of deforestation by 2025 with Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany, which Muhamad, an environmental activist, said the country should live up to.
“I believe that based on that commitment we should plan how to get there,” she said in an interview with Reuters.
Muhamad said she is confident Colombia can be a regional leader for fighting deforestation and said all Amazonian countries must work together on the issue.
Neighboring Brazil has pledged to cut illegal deforestation to zero by 2028.
“The Amazon won’t be saved by just one country,” she said.
Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla member, has pledged to fully implement a 2016 peace deal with the FARC guerrillas.
Muhamad said facets of the deal like rural reform and substitution of drug crops like coca are crucial for halting deforestation and protecting the environment.
The country also must find new financing for environmental protection, she said.
“We have to look for permanent additional sources (of financing) … which, for example, could mean issues around carbon taxes,” as well as better management of resources, Muhamad said.
The Petro government is set to propose an initial tax reform to raise some $5.8 billion for social programs in Congress on Monday.
Petro, who opposes fracking and new oil contracts, has yet to name a new energy minister, but Muhamad said Colombia must move toward renewable energy as quickly as possible.
“If we don’t want to end up depending on imports, of either gas, oil or fuels, we’re going to have to migrate quickly to another type of energy,” she said.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Leslie Adler)