Just two weeks before COP28 in Dubai, which will focus on phasing-out fossil fuel production, more than 100 scientific and civil society leaders – including Bill McKibben, Julia Steinberger, Naomi Klein, Dr Mabel Bianco, Kate Raworth, Ayisha Siddiqa, ReV James Bhagwan – signed an open letter calling on Colombia to confirm its climate leadership by adopting two concrete measures:
- Banning fracking and unconventional extraction
- Supporting the call for a Fossil Fuels Treaty
The signatories highlight Colombia’s pioneering spirit and courage: despite being the largest coal exporter in Latin America, and one of the main oil producer in the region, the country has committed to undertake an energy transition away from fossil fuels, described as “unstoppable” in the recent World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2023 from the International Energy Agency. Leaving most oil, coal and gas in the ground is not only the only effective way to stay within the 1.5°C limit agreed in the Paris Agreement, but an economic hedge against the impending decline in demand for fossil fuels that is looming at the end of the decade.
Julia Steinberger, Professor of Ecological Economics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, said: “Despite being directly linked to fossil fuel production, Colombia is showing courage and leadership by making the only policy decisions compatible with the future of humanity. UNEP’s Production Gap Report 2023 confirms that, unfortunately, the general trend is the opposite: despite their climate commitments, governments are still planning to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
“Due to both the physical realities of our planet and emerging global economic energy trends, Colombia is forging the way forward. Decision-makers, businesses and other key players who will be present at COP28 have both the responsibility and the interest to follow that same path.”
However, the country now faces a major political crossroads over the future of the bill banning fracking and unconventional extraction.
Amarilys Llanos, Alianza Colombia Libre de Fracking, member of the Permanent Council for a Just Transition in Colombia, said: “The bill against fracking and unconventional extraction, which civil society organisations and grassroots movements have been defending for years, is currently stalled in the House of Representatives due to the political resistance of the traditional parties to the idea that the country should move away from fossil fuels and the source of income it represents. What they are doing is putting the country at risk by seeking to keep us dependent on what we do not have, and in a historical context such as the current one. Moreover, oil and coal have brought everything but development, peace, or justice.
“If Congress does not pass the bill to prevent fracking and unconventional extraction from destroying more communities and territories, it will be the first failure of the Government to fulfill its commitment to launch a transition with a community perspective, sustainable and just for Colombians. The just energy transition is a global process and Colombia cannot do it alone: the international community must echo and support these first steps, which will become the global path.”
No country can make its energy transition on its own, which is why the signatories of the open letter also urge Colombia to lead the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a new legal mechanism already supported by eight countries who, like Colombia, seek to end the fossil fuel era in a progressive but firm and just manner.
Alex Rafalowizc, Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said: “It is clear that for Colombia and all countries highly dependent on fossil fuel production, international cooperation will be fundamental. Reforms such as the anti-fracking law imply a change in the energy, economic and cultural matrix of the country.
“They require a mechanism to accompany such a change through financial and technical support that allows for economic diversification. And this is what the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty proposal promotes: that Global North countries, historically responsible for the climate crisis, provide that support. It is not only necessary but also fair.
“The Fossil Fuel Treaty is already supported by a bloc of 8 Pacific, Caribbean and South Asian countries, as well as by the World Health Organisation, the European Parliament and nearly 100 cities and sub-national governments. Therefore, at COP 28, where all attention will be focused on the exit of fossil fuels, Colombia will have the opportunity to be recognised as part of a group of pioneering nations that promote a diplomacy of international cooperation based on equity to address the root cause of the climate crisis.”
Mitzi Jonelle Tan, climate justice activist from Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) and Fridays For Future Philippines, said: “As a young person witnessing climate change every day and concerned about the future that awaits us, the Colombian government’s policy proposals give me hope. Instead of turning a deaf ear to scientific warnings, Colombia is acting as a responsible and pioneering country. The country must stand firm and pass this law to avoid falling into the fracking trap. Colombia should also support the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to promote the international cooperation needed to make its transition as just as possible. Abandoning fossil fuels is the only coherent option to avoid further climate disasters and economic insecurity. Colombia is forging the path that will allow humanity to live, not just survive.”
Alirio Cáceres Aguirre, permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Bogotá and member of the Laudato Sí Movement, said: ”By passing the anti-fracking and YNC bill and supporting the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, Colombia could confirm and expand its climate leadership. It would become the first Latin American country to defend bold policy proposals that are the only ones compatible with life and peace.
“Colombia is not alone, there are many voices demanding an end to the fossil fuel era. Even the Pope, in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Laudate Deum. Our country has the opportunity to take advantage of COP28 to build the climate leadership that the world needs to prevent human beings, especially the most vulnerable, from continuing to suffer the growing impacts of the global climate crisis.”