New Colombian president pledges to protect rainforest

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first elected leftist president, will take office in August with bold proposals to halt the record-high charges of deforestation within the Amazon rainforest. Petro has promised to restrict agribusiness growth into the forest, and create reserves the place Indigenous communities and others are allowed to harvest rubber, acai and different non-timber forest merchandise. He has additionally pledged revenue from carbon credit to finance replanting.

“From Colombia, we will give humanity a reward, a remedy, a solution: not to burn the Amazon rainforest anymore, to recover it to its natural frontier, to give humanity the possibility of life on this planet,” Petro, sporting an Indigenous headdress, mentioned to a crowd within the Amazon metropolis of Leticia throughout his marketing campaign.

But to do this he first wants to set up reign over massive, lawless areas.

The process of stopping deforestation appears more difficult than ever. In 2021, the Colombian Amazon lost 98000 hectares (greater than 240,000 acres) of pristine forest to deforestation and one other 9,000 hectares (22,000 acres) to hearth. Both have been down from what that they had been in 2020, however 2021 was nonetheless the fourth worst year on document in accordance to Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), an initiative of the nonprofit Amazon Conservation Association.

More than 40% of Colombia is within the Amazon, an space roughly the scale of Spain. The nation has the world’s largest hen biodiversity, primarily as a result of it consists of transition zones between the Andes mountains and the Amazon lowlands. Fifteen p.c of the Colombian Amazon has already been deforested, in accordance to Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development, or FCDS.

Destruction of the forest has been on the rise since 2016, the year Colombia signed a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, that ended many years of a bloody armed battle.

“The peace process allowed people to return to formerly conflict-ridden rural areas. As the returning population increasingly used the natural resources, it contributed to deforestation and increases in forest fires, especially in the Amazon and the Andes-Amazon transition regions,” in accordance to a new paper within the journal “Environmental Science and Policy.”

The presence of the State is barely felt in Colombia’s Amazon. “Once the armed groups were demobilized, they left the forest free for cattle ranching, illegal mining and drug trafficking,” mentioned Ruth Consuelo Chaparro, director of the Roads to Identity Foundation, in a phone interview. “The State has not filled the gaps.”

The important driver of deforestation has been the growth of cattle ranching. Since 2016, the variety of cattle within the Amazon has doubled to 2.2 million. In the identical interval, about 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of forest have been lost, in accordance to FCDS, primarily based on official information.

This cattle growth goes hand in hand with illegally-seized land, mentioned FCDS director Rodrigo Botero. “The big business deal is the land. The cows are just a way to get hold of these territories,” he advised the AP in a telephone interview.

Experts affirm that illegally-seized lands are sometimes resold to ranchers, who then run their cattle freed from land use restrictions, such because the propriety’s measurement.

Most of the destruction happens in an “arc of deforestation” within the northwestern Colombian Amazon, the place even protected areas haven’t been spared. Chiribiquete, the world’s largest nationwide park defending a tropical rainforest, has lost round 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) since 2018, in accordance to MAAP.

During the marketing campaign, Botero took Petro and different presidential candidates on separate one-day journeys to the Amazon. They flew over cattle ranching areas, nationwide parks and Indigenous territories.

“A very interesting thing Petro and other candidates said was that they never imagined the magnitude of the destruction.” The feeling of ungovernability made a deep impression on every of them, Botero mentioned.

Almost 60% of Colombia’s greenhouse gasoline emissions come from agriculture, deforestation and different land use, in accordance to the World Resources Institute. In 2020, beneath the Paris Agreement, Colombian President Ivan Duque’s authorities dedicated to a 51% discount in emissions by 2030. To do this, it pledged to attain net-zero deforestation by 2030.

The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and an infinite carbon sink. There is widespread concern that its destruction won’t solely launch large quantities of carbon into the ambiance, additional complicating hopes of arresting local weather change, but additionally push it previous a tipping level after which a lot of the forest will start an irreversible means of degradation into tropical savannah.

Although it holds virtually half of the nation’s territory, the Amazon is the least populated a part of Colombia, so traditionally it’s uncared for throughout presidential campaigns.

This year’s marketing campaign was not an entire departure from that. But this year, for the primary time, there was a TV presidential debate devoted solely to environmental points earlier than the primary spherical within the election. Petro, who was main the polls then, refused to take part.

In his authorities program, Petro additional guarantees to prioritize collective land titles, comparable to Indigenous reservations and zones for landless farmers. He additionally guarantees to management migration into the Amazon, combat unlawful actions, comparable to land seizures, drug trafficking and money laundering by way of land purchases.

Petro’s press supervisor didn’t reply to requests for remark.

“Petro has studied and understands deforestation,” mentioned Consuelo Chaparro, whose group works with Indigenous tribes within the Amazon. But the president alone can do nothing, she mentioned. Her hope is that he’ll pay attention and transfer issues ahead. ”We don’t count on him to be a Messiah.”


Associated Press local weather and environmental protection receives help from a number of non-public foundations. See extra about AP’s local weather initiative here. The AP is solely answerable for all content material.

Back to top button