The nation of Colombia is not a major contributor to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But as one of the nations most at risk from the impacts of climate change, it is an example of the injustice inherent in the climate crisis.
Realizing the need for action on the homefront, activists created The Road to Carbon Neutral as a coalition to foster decarbonization quickly and as a way to educate and change behavior. While the focus is on real change in the transportation and energy sectors, along the way new narratives are being created.
Organizer Luis Camargo explains the challenge and opportunity:
“After so many decades of conflict in Colombia, it is difficult to think of building a new cultural identity that unites us. Generating new narratives to achieve decarbonization and put the concept of regeneration on the table is an immense challenge, but one we can overcome if we focus our message on positive change and work on leaving despair behind and finding common visions, direction to act.”
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In Their Own Words
What problem did you see?
We identified that Colombia had to accelerate the conversation to decarbonization to reach the goal of zero net emissions by 2050. Our work is inspired by living systems and the human capacity to be a regenerative actor activated by hope and love for the natural and cultural diversity that surrounds us. We work hand-in-hand with public and private entities, journalists, and members of civil society to promote decarbonization projects with the goal of the regeneration of nature.
What was your idea/insight to solve it and the end result/vision you wanted to achieve?
The objective is to achieve decarbonization in the departments that generate the most carbon emissions in the country, specifically in the energy and transportation sectors in Antioquia, Atlántico, Boyacá, Cundinamarca and Valle del Cauca. To get there, we are working through financing and implementation tools to consolidate decarbonization projects in the municipalities in these regions and that seek to make the transition towards sustainable mobility and a clean energy matrix. Informed decision making by local governments is promoted and leadership and multisectoral alliances for climate action are strengthened.
Why is this solution important to your country and community?
Colombia represents 0.6% of greenhouse gas emissions, however, it is one of the 20 countries most threatened by climate change. This inequality puts our population at risk of losing food security and physical displacement. In addition, there is the opportunity for a positive upside to decarbonization: understanding the great potential we have thanks to the biodiversity of our territory, we hope to change our way of living to reestablish a positive relationship with nature.
What were the biggest challenges you faced/ran into?
After so many decades of conflict in Colombia, it is difficult to think of building a new cultural identity that unites us. Generating new narratives to achieve decarbonization and put the concept of regeneration on the table is an immense challenge, but one we can overcome if we focus our message on positive change and work on leaving despair behind. Finding mechanisms to serve as bridges for the transition from a development and relationship model toward new opportunities that bring well-being to people and nature.
How did you mobilize people to take action?
From OpEPA and Road to Carbon Neutral we use pedagogy as a fundamental tool to influence behavior change. The goal is that decision-makers in public and private entities, journalists, members of civil society, and citizens, in general, understand how climate change directly affects them and how their efforts have a positive impact to mitigate it. In this way, we get people to internalize the measures they must take.
Who were the key stakeholders/partners that worked with you?
The Road to Carbon Neutral project is financed by UK Pact Colombia and is directed by the leading organizations in environmental education and climate change OpEPA, which has been working for more than 20 years to reconnect young people with the Earth to accelerate the transition towards sustainable and regenerative cultures. Climate Reality Latin America is our national branch of the global movement of more than 42,000 climate leaders in 190 countries and territories.
What insight, ideas, or suggestions would you offer someone looking to take action in a similar way?
The most important thing to know is that every effort, big or small, has a wide impact if it is done in the right direction. It is essential to give yourself the opportunity to reconnect with the natural world and life systems. From Road to Carbon Neutral we have created a large amount of material that you can find on our website where we talk about actions on a large and small scale that all people can do. We also have inputs to present new narratives that allow for active hope and activate the capacity for regenerative climate action.
How did this project you created promote equity or justice in your community?
The fight to mitigate the effects of climate change allows us to reduce inequality gaps in our country. We support decarbonization projects in Antioquia, Atlántico, Boyacá, Cundinamarca, and Valle del Cauca from a gender and social inclusion approach with the aim that in the decarbonization of the transport and energy sectors no one is left behind through participation and dialogue of local actors. We seek to build a fair, equitable, sustainable, and carbon neutral future.