On Friday, the lower house of the Colombian Congress, with a 92-0 vote, ratified the nation’s pledge to abide by the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This vote marks one of the final steps in formalizing the nation’s participation in a global accord that has taken on larger global significance since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a deal that has represented one of the biggest steps in unifying nations across the world in taking against to combat climate change.
The Paris Agreement, which was first adopted in the French capital in December 2015 and signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in April 2016, commits Colombia to reducing its emissions by 20% by 2030. Because the nation already generates around two-thirds of its energy through hydroelectric power, the required cut should be less daunting for Colombia than many other countries.
Per capita, Colombia emitted just 1.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, according to the most recent data from the U.S.-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This is less than half the amount produced by Argentina (4.5 metric tons per person), Chile (4.7), and Mexico (3.9)
Many large economies — led by the United States (16.4), Australia (16.3), Canada (13.5), and Russia (12.5) — dwarf those figures, while nations including Japan (9.8), Germany (9.4), Israel (8.8), and the United Kingdom (7.1) produce three to five times as much carbon dioxide as Colombia per person. In terms of overall carbon emissions, Colombia’s advantage is even more pronounced in many cases.
Colombia’s push to cut emissions should also benefit from the country’s largely untapped alternative energy potential. Many analysts have pointed towards the Caribbean peninsula of Guajira as a potential windfarm bonanza, the nation’s three Andean mountain ranges offer many geothermal opportunities, and its location near the equator naturally creates an opportunity for solar generation.
President Santos celebrated the news and boasted of the accord’s ability to help not just the globe at large but also Colombia, which is home to more different species of plant and animal life than every nation on earth aside from Brazil. The nation also has a large percentage of a rare ecosystem known as páramo that exists in the high Andes and, in addition to supplying drinking water for millions in Bogotá, has become a rallying cause for conservation efforts in Colombia in recent years.
Santos hopes the momentum of this and other environmental pledges will also spur more innovation and development of Colombia as a biotechnology producer and adopter. “If we continue to preserve and take advantage of biodiversity, it will become a reality,” said Santos. “We have 50% of the world’s páramos, and we will protect them as our biggest water asset.”
The ratification comes at an opportune time for Santos, who will visit new French President Emmanuel Macron during a European trip this week. Though the president cancelled a planned stop in Portugal after an explosion in a central Bogotá shopping mall killed three women, including one French national, Santos still plans to meet with Macron in the city where the climate change accord was devised.
“Next week I hope to present to Emmanuel Macron the ratification of the Paris Agreement,” said Santos on Twitter on Friday. “We will lower carbon emissions by 20% by 2030.”