REDD+ projects 10
Other readiness initiatives 23
Forest cover High
Deforestation rate Low


REDD in Colombia

The Republic of Colombia is the 4th largest country in South America with 1.14 million km2 (approximately twice the size of France) spread over five principle ecological regions: Pacific, Caribbean, Andean, Amazon and Orinoco. Colombia is one of the world’s megadiverse countries, hosting close to 14% of the planet’s biodiversity. The Andean region is the greatest source of this biodiversity and has the largest number of endemic species (CBD 2013).

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2010 Colombia had 60.49 million hectares of forest, covering 55% of its land area (FAO, 2010).  The Colombian Government reports 58.64m Ha of forest, covering 51.4% of its continental landmass. 

FAO reports a constant rate of deforestation between 1990 and 2010 of 101,000 Ha or 0.17% per year for 1990-2010. This is substantially lower than the figure used by the Government of 310,349 Ha or 0.48% per year, which represents the average annualised figure over the same 20-year period (IDEAM 2011) (see the Statistics section for more details). According to Terra-i and O-Eco’s InfoAmazonia team, deforestation in the department of Caquetá in Colombia increased by 192% in 2012, the biggest percentage increase in the entire Amazon region (Terra-i 2013).

The Colombian Government identifies seven main drivers of deforestation (MADS 2013a): (1) Extension of agricultural and livestock frontier; (2) Illicit crops, particularly coca (used to make cocaine); (3) Settlement / displacement of populations; (4) Infrastructure (including that associated with energy-related activities, roads, etc.); (5) Mining; (6) Removal of timber for sale or personal consumption (including both legal and illegal extraction); and (7) Wildfires.  

The current government’s National Development Plan (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo; PND) 2010-2014 prioritises “Five Locomotives of Development”. It is striking that four of these (agriculture, mining, infrastructure and housing) also figure among the principle drivers of deforestation, creating a potential conflict between the development and conservation agenda.  

Colombia continues to suffer from a nearly five-decade long conflict between government forces and insurgent groups, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The conflict escalated in the 1990s as right-wing paramilitary groups entered areas traditionally controlled by insurgents. Large-scale forced displacement ensued: According to Government figures, 708,000 families or 3,486,000 people were displaced between 1996 and 2010, abandoning 6.55m Ha of land (ACCION SOCIAL 2010a). By 2006 all the paramilitary groups (31,000 combatants) conforming the paramilitary United Self Defence Force of Colombia had demobilized and in late 2012 the government began a new set of peace negotiations with the FARC. Colombia is now beginning a process of returning land to displaced people, a complicated task given the high degree of informal tenure. The effect on the environment of any eventual negotiated end to the conflict is uncertain.

In recent decades, Colombia’s governments have tended to focus on the conflict and the need for economic development; environmental protection has been a relatively low priority. This has begun to change in recent years. Colombia signed up to the “zero deforestation in the Amazon by 2020” pledge at the CBD COP 9 in Bonn in 2008 and began preliminary work on REDD+ in 2009.

President Santos has continued this trend: He returned independence to the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible; MADS) and Colombia has been a key driver of Sustainable Development Goals in the post-2015 agenda. Climate change in particular has crept up the political agenda as Colombia’s regular summer floods have got worse; those in 2010-2011 associated with “La Niña” weather phenomenon were especially bad, causing an estimated US$6bn of damage. The current Government’s PND prioritises both adaptation and mitigation. In mitigation the two key strategies are i) The “Colombian Strategy for Low Carbon Development (ECDBC)” and within that, ii) the “National Strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (ENREDD+)” (MADS 2013a). Nevertheless, overall public spending on the environment remains very low at 0.31% of GDP in 2010 (CONTROLORIA 2011) and Government announced the creation of strategic mining areas covering a large portion of Amazon and Pacific Forests during Rio+20 in 2012.​

Colombia is active in the UNFCCC REDD+ negotiations where it supports market-based mechanisms and has been a vocal proponent of the idea that REDD+ should accommodate a stepped subnational approach, not only to Reference levels and MRV (Government of Colombia 2012) but also in terms of eligibility for phase 3 of REDD+ (results-based payments). This interest in subnational processes is reflected by the fact that Colombia is a member of the advisory committee of the Jurisdictional and Nested Requirements (JNR) working group of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) (VCS 2013). Colombia has ratified the UNFCCC (1995) and the Kyoto Protocol (2005) and has submitted two National Communications to the UNFCCC (in 2001 and 2010) (UNFCCC 2013).  Colombia is a member of the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and became a UN-REDD+ partner country in 2013.

Colombia’s Readiness Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) was accepted by the FCPF in 2008 and US$200,000 disbursed to help Colombia prepare its Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP).  In October 2011, the FCPF Participants Committee and Technical Assessment Panel approved version 5 of its R-PP, authorising a grant of a further US$3.4 million for readiness preparation. This grant was subject to a number of conditions, the most important of which were to ensure community participation in monitoring activities and to protect indigenous and afro-Colombian collective territories from “possible negative impacts associated with early REDD+ activities” (FCPF 2011). At the time of writing (September 2013) these conditions have not all been met and the funds have not yet been disbursed.

Colombia subsequently adapted its R-PP using the harmonised FCPF/UN-REDD framework. Version 7 of the R-PP was open for comments between April and May 2013 before being submitted to UN-REDD for support at the Tenth Programme Policy Board meeting in Lombok, Indonesia in June 2013. The Policy Board approved the submission, praising the degree of consultation that had taken place and authorising a grant of US$4m (UN-REDD+ 2013). The R-PP refers to Colombia’s ENREDD+ but this is not a separate document; it encompasses all work streams relating to REDD+ including the preparation of the R-PP, and its participative construction is reflected in the successive drafts of the R-PP.

Colombia is taking a stepped approach to REDD+ readiness, prioritising the Amazon and Pacific regions of the country, which together account for 75% of Colombia’s forest (IDEAM 2011), both for Strategic Environmental and Social Assessments (SESA) and for the development of regional reference levels. 

MADS is aware of approximately 50 early REDD+ initiatives in Colombia (MADS; 2013a).  The majority of these are in the early stages of planning and include some by presumed “carbon cowboys”. Only one REDD+ project (The Chocó-Darien Conservation Corridor) is so far producing credits (in the voluntary market) and a further seven are in advanced implementation, clustered in the Pacific and Amazon regions. 

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Institutional arrangements

The National Political, Economic and Social Council (Consejo Nacional de Política Económica y Social; CONPES) developed the climate change components of the 2010-2014 National Development Plan into policy in the document CONPES 3700 (subsequently adapted in the successive drafts of Colombia’s REDD+ Readiness Proposal (R-PP)). Together these mandated the establishment of a National Climate Change System (Sistema Nacional de Cambio Climático; SISCLIMA), to be presided over by the Inter-sectorial Commission on Climate Change (Comisión Inter-sectorial de Cambio Climático; COMICC).  

At the time of writing (September 2013), however, a Government decree to create the SISCLIMA has not been issued. The COMICC is therefore not yet operational, nor are the precise competencies of the participating institutions clear. 

When operative, the COMICC will be comprised of the Ministers of the relevant ministries, with the Climate Change Office (Dirección de Cambio Climático) of the Ministry for Environment and Sustainable Development (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible; MADS) acting as technical secretary (MADS 2013a). Within MADS, the Forests, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Office leads on REDD+ in coordination with the Climate Change Office, and International Affairs Office. 

Four committees will report to COMICC, including the Territorial Committee, which incorporates the National REDD+ Interdisciplinary Working Group (Mesa de Trabajo Nacional REDD+; REDD+ IWG).  The REDD+ IWG will be chaired by MADS with one representative from each of the National Planning Department (Departamento Nacional de Planeación; DNP), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Ministerio de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural; MADR), the private sector, indigenous people, afro-Colombian communities, peasants and settlers, academia, NGOs and two representatives from the Regional Climate Change Nodes (Nodos Regionales de Cambio Climático; NRCC). 

At the national level, the REDD+ IWG will take decisions based on the inputs of a number of supporting advisory groups: (i) The technical and scientific advisory group (which will include the four scientific bodies comprising the National Environmental System (Sistema Nacional Ambiental; SINA); and (ii) at least four sub-working groups (one for each of indigenous, afro-Colombian, peasants and NGOs). 

At the regional level each of the nine NRCC will develop a REDD+ strategy or action plan, in coordination with the decentralised environmental authorities, the Autonomous Regional Corporations (Corporaciones Autónomas Regionales; CARs) that conform the NRCC. 

Some of these instances of the SISCLIMA are already meeting, even though it has not yet been formally created. For example the NGO REDD+ sub-working group (which was set up independently by NGOs as the NGO REDD+ Roundtable (Mesa REDD+ ONG)) meets regularly, as do the NRCCs for the Coffee Area (Eje Cafetero), Andes and Orinoco. 

The Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales; IDEAM) is the national institution responsible for measurements of forest cover. It is also responsible for establishing the REDD+ reference level and national MRV system (MADS 2013b). 

MADS began work on a draft register of REDD+ projects in 2013 but decided to delay making it public until REDD+ regulations are in force to avoid giving de facto recognition to early initiatives that might not comply with these regulations. 

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Stakeholder engagement and participation

The government of Colombia began early dialogue and information sessions on REDD+ in June 2010, supported by the NGOs WWF Colombia, Fondo Patrimonio Natural (funded by the Dutch Government) and Fondo Acción. It carried out a total of 37 sessions (MADS 2013a) across five regions: Amazon, Pacific, Andes, Orinoco/Amazon and Caribbean.

The purpose of these was to give information on REDD+ and to feed into the formulation of the National REDD+ Strategy (Estrategia Nacional de REDD+; ENREDD+) and of the R-PP. At the time of writing (September 2013), the last large stakeholder consultation took place in May 2013, with the support of Fondo Acción to receive feedback on draft 7.1 of the R-PP before submitting it to UN-REDD. Both the FCPF and UN-REDD (UN-REDD 2013) have praised the degree of stakeholder participation in the preparation of Colombia’s R-PP.  

Government decrees have established three fora for consultation between indigenous people and Government. At the national level, decree 1397 of 1994 created: (i) the National Commission for Indigenous Reserves (which deals with issues on territory), and (ii) the Permanent Working Group for Consultation with Indigenous People and Organizations (which deals with other policy issues). In the Amazon, decree 3012 of 2005 created the (iii) Roundtable for Colombian Amazon Indigenous People, which performs a similar function but at the regional level. 

In 2012 the Roundtable for Colombian Amazon Indigenous People established a working group, the Amazon Indigenous Roundtable on Environment and Climate Change (Mesa Indígena Amazónica Ambiental y de Cambio Climático; MIAACC). This was the result of a joint process between the Amazon Indigenous Peoples Organization (OPIAC), the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible; MADS) and the NGOs Fondo Patrimonio Natural and WWF. 

At the time of writing (September 2013), extensive consultations have taken place with both the Permanent Working Group for Consultation and the MIAACC. Given that the indigenous REDD+ sub-working group (which will feed into the National REDD+ IWG) has not yet been established and that the Amazon accounts for the majority of Colombia’s forest, the MIAACC in particular has been a forum of national significance for discussions on REDD+ between indigenous peoples and MADS. 

The main national-level indigenous organisation, the Colombian National Indigenous Organisation (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia; ONIC) had been opposed to REDD+ since the start, on the basis that it could negatively impact indigenous communities’ autonomy and territory. Nevertheless, progress at the regional level contributed to change its position to one of cautious engagement in early 2013. 

Afro-Colombian communities have been very active in REDD+ consultations, led by the Process of Black Communities (Proceso de Comunidades Negras; PCN), a second-level organisation of afro-Colombian community councils. For example, concerns put forward by the PCN around early REDD+ initiatives and carbon cowboys were picked up on by the FCPF when it approved version 5 of Colombia’s R-PP and were incorporated into the grant conditions. 

The NGO REDD+ Roundtable also meets regularly, chaired by ONF Andina, and has been active since 2009, predating its inclusion in the National REDD+ Strategy (ENREDD+). The principle role of the NGO REDD+ Roundtable has been that of building the capacity of communities on REDD+ and helping facilitate dialogue on the R-PP and ENREDD+. It also feeds into those processes directly. 

Legislation to establish the National Climate Change System (Sistema Nacional de Cambio Climático; SISCLIMA) has not yet been passed. From the perspective of participation this is important for two reasons: (i) When the REDD+ Interdisciplinary Working Group (Mesa de Trabajo REDD+; REDD+ IWG) is set up, each stakeholder group will have representation on it and will be able to feed in positions agreed in the sectorial sub-working groups; and (ii) both the REDD+ IWG and the Inter-sectorial Commission on Climate Change (Comisión Inter-sectorial de Cambio Climático; COMICC) that presides over the SISCLIMA will include representation from other ministries including Agriculture and Rural Development (Ministerio de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural; MADR) and Mining and Energy (Ministerio de Minas y Energía; MINMINAS). Cross-ministry and private sector participation has been limited so far and will be vital to address drivers and deliver emissions reductions on a subnational and national scale.

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Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights

Colombia is divided into 32 departments or states (departamentos), subdivided in turn into a total of 1,119 municipalities (municipios). These are directed by elected officials (governors and mayors respectively).

Rural land ownership in Colombia is highly concentrated, more than 50% of all registered land holdings by area belong to just 1% of landholders (ACCION SOCIAL 2010b). It is also largely informal, demonstrated by the fact that just 46% of forcibly displaced Colombians had titles for the land they left behind (ACCION SOCIAL 2o10c) – between 1995 and 2010 more than 6.55m Ha were abandoned (ACCION SOCIAL 2010a). 

Struggle over land and its increasing concentration over time are key drivers of the long-running internal armed conflict in the country and forced displacement has been most intense in areas with the highest informality of landholding. This also drives the expansion of the agricultural frontier and of deforestation as colonists move ever deeper into forests to find land they can call their own (USAID 2010).  

A significant proportion of Colombia’s land mass is subject to often overlapping layers of protection. Forest reserves cover 44.7% of the country, indigenous reserves 25.2%, protected areas 11%, and afro-Colombian collective territories just under 5% (UNDP 2011). Since most indigenous and afro-Colombian territories are forested they have an even higher share of Colombia’s forest (44.5% and 7.2% respectively) (IDEAM 2007). 

The magnitude of indigenous landholding also contributes to the high proportion of private forest ownership as measured by the FAO. 67% of Colombia’s forest is in private (including indigenous and afro-Colombian) ownership with only 22% being publically owned (FAO 2010 (2005 figures)). 

The right of indigenous peoples to collective territories was recognised by the Constitution of 1991 and extended to Afro-Colombian communities by Law 70 of 1993. These territories cannot be subdivided or transferred in whole or in part (Constitution Art. 63; Law 70 Art. 7). The Colombian Government officially recognises 102 different indigenous peoples in Colombia and collectively they have titles to 710 indigenous reserves. Over 2oo of these are in the Amazon covering a total area of approximately 26m Ha; 59 overlap with national parks, covering approximately 9m Ha.

Under the Constitution, Colombia’s indigenous reserves (resguardos) are territorial entities like departments and municipalities (Art. 286). They have a high degree of political autonomy (Art. 330), which in practice is severely undermined by a lack of fiscal autonomy (SAMPER 2006). Legislation to allow indigenous reserves to function as territorial entities in their own right has never been passed, meaning that their funding is given to the relevant municipality to pass through.  Reserves with high indigenous populations in small municipalities are happy with the current system since they receive resources by virtue both of being a reserve and controlling the municipality. Sparsely populated reserves (like those in the Amazonian departments of Amazonas, Vaupés y Guainía), however, are desperately short of resources. They are therefore in favour of reform and are in a hurry for REDD+ to begin delivering financial benefits; in the absence of other sources of income some are embracing mining. 

The Cábildo rules in accordance with its traditions and customs to the extent that these are compatible with the Constitution. Article 330 also enshrines the right of indigenous communities to participate in decisions taken on natural resource exploitation within their territories. In light of Colombia’s ratification of ILO Convention 169 by Law 21 of 1991, the Constitutional Court made it clear that this right is to free, prior and informed consent (Sentence T-129 of 2011).

Afro-Colombian communal territories are located in the West and North-West of Colombia, along the Pacific coast and in the Chocó Darien, which borders with Panama. Under Law 70, each afro-Colombian territory is led by a Community Council (Consejo Comunitario), the only entity that can apply for communal lands (Art. 5)

Afro-Colombian communal territories must be used in ways consistent with the conservation and protection of natural resources (Art. 14) and traditional sustainable use of renewable resources does not need to be licensed (Art. 19). Article 24 obliges the State to agree a sustainable usage policy with the community and gives the community the right to enter into association with public or private entities to commercialise “forest products”. This article gives afro-Colombian communities a more explicit legal basis for carbon ownership than that of indigenous communities. 

To have legal title, indigenous reserves and afro-Colombian communal lands must be registered with the Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform (Instituto Colombiano de Desarrollo Rural; INCODER) and backed up with a numbered resolution (resolución) from that institution demarcating the territory. INCODER is also charged with issuing titles to recognise occupiers of un-owned lands (tierras baldías). 

Six Peasant Reserves (Reservas Campesinas) were created between 1997 and 2002 as a way of facilitating land access for the rural poor. Titles in Peasant Reserves are not collective, though the community is required to take joint decisions on management. The creation of further Peasant Reserves has been mentioned explicitly in first outcome document of the ongoing (September 2013) peace negotiations in Havana (MESA DE CONVERSACIÓN 2013). 

Law 2 of 1959 created seven large forest reserves (Zonas de Reserva Forestal; ZRF) covering 62.5m Ha, the first form of forest protection on a national scale in Colombia. These have had areas legally removed from them over time (sustracciones) so that they cover 51.4m Ha today. The enforcement of ZRF has been weak and their limits haven’t kept up to date with the developments of the country: Even after the reductions in size they have over 2.9m inhabitants (ACCION SOCIAL 2009) and contain over 6m Ha of deforested areas including urban areas (MADS 2013a). 

Private property is allowed inside the ZRF but they are subject to restrictions on use depending on the way that they are zoned (at a 1:100,000 scale) by MADS or by the decentralised environmental authorities, the Autonomous Regional Corporations (Corporaciones Autónomas Regionales; CARs) at the regional level. Land planning and zoning of the ZRF has been slow, and areas of ZRF with unclear regulations are among the worst affected by deforestation. REDD+ projects including ZRF areas (e.g. the “Early REDD+ Initiative in the Colombian Amazon”) will often require the project area to be zoned first. 

Whereas the ZRF cover large swaths of territory and can be zoned for different uses, the 57 National Protected Areas conforming the National Natural Park System (Sistema Nacional de Parques Nacionales Naturales; SPNN) must be conserved and are more narrowly delimited, covering a total area of 12.8m Ha (11.2% of Colombia’s continental landmass). From a biodiversity standpoint a shortfall of the SPNN is the lack of connectivity between areas. This is one of the main drivers of the Government’s Heart of the Amazon Initiative, centred on Chiribiquete National Park in Caquetá department (which has been expanded from 1.3 to 2.8m Ha, covering the fifth part of the Colombian Amazon forest), as well as on the three REDD+ pilots to the North of it, which seek to maintain connectivity between the Amazon and the Andes. 

Ownership of carbon rights is not currently covered by Colombian legislation. In 2012, the Colombian Government wrote a letter to potential REDD+ investors explicitly saying that it has not resolved the issue of carbon tenure (FCMC 2013) and reminding them that under Art. 332 of the Constitution the State retains all sub-soil mineral rights. Colombia’s March FCPF Progress Report says that the MADS is working on draft guidelines (Government of Colombia 2013). 

Nevertheless, in practice developers are acting on the basis that carbon rights will link to land ownership. This position has been made by commentators based on the Constitution of 1991 and Law 70 of 1993 in respect of indigenous and afro-Colombian communal territories (See SANCLEMENTE 2011) and for individual land owners based on the Colombian Civil Code (Código Civil) of 1887 (see RESTREPO et al. 2012).

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Forest management

The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible (MADS) has national responsibility for  naturally-occurring forests while the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development (Ministerio de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural; MADR) regulates plantation forests.

At the regional level, the Regional Autonomous Corporations (Corporaciones Autonomas Regionales; CAR) - Colombia's decentralised environmental authorities - are the main authority, though the territorial entities also have a role. The CAR are responsible for all environmental management within their jurisdiction, including managing forests and granting and enforcing environmental licenses. CAR's territorial jurisdictions were initially based on watersheds but later began to reflect administrative boundaries (there are now 30 CARs and 33 administrative departments (departamentos) (BLACKMAN et al. 2005). 

Several attempts have been made to reform the system of CAR but have not made it through Congress. The Government is currently (September 2013) consulting indigenous and afro-Colombian communities on a new proposal for reform, which will centralise some of their functions in an attempt to improve environmental protection and reduce corruption (El Tiempo 2013a).

The National Parks Authority (Parques Naturales Nacionales de Colombia; PNNC) is responsible for managing forests within the National Protected Areas that conform the National Natural Park System (Sistema Nacional de Parques Nacionales Naturales; SPNN). Indigenous peoples and afro-Colombian communities are responsible for managing forests within their territories (in accordance with the law). Where communal areas overlap with national parks, the community authority should jointly administer the area with PNNC under a negotiated Special Management Regime (Régimen Especial de Manejo; REM) (MADS 2013a).

Law 99 allows MADS to license projects that affect national parks (Art. 53). This has become highly controversial because of sizeable projects that have been licensed within national parks. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court rejected a claim made by the Attorney General (Procuradoría General) that it is unconstitutional.

There is no Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) between Colombia and the European Union but the EU is supporting national activities to improve forest governance and timber tracking under The Positioning of Forest Governance in Colombia – FLEGT project. This gave rise in 2009 to the Intersectorial Agreement for Legal Timber in Colombia (Pacto Intersectorial por la Madera Legal en Colombia; PIMLC), which was extended to August 2015 with broader cross-sector and Government support. 

Since 1994 commercial forestry has been incentivised by the Forest Incentive Certificate (Certificado de Incentivo Forestal; CIF). Plantations of between 1 and 1,000 Ha are eligible and the level of subsidy is fixed annually by decree (for 2013 at 50% of the cost of installing and maintaining the plantation over a period of five years, paid annually). It has subsidised over 230,000 Ha of plantations between 1995 and 2012. 

From 1997, Colombia also has regulation in place for a Conservation Forest Incentive Certificate aimed at promoting reforestation. This mechanism is administered by MADS but has never been financed so is not operational. 

In 2012, MADS passed Resolution 1517 of 2012, establishing a system of biodiversity offsets based on the principles of no net loss, equivalency of ecosystems and a variable offset ratio of between 1:4 and 1:10. This will be mandatory in applications for environmental licenses. 

Article 184 of the most recent Reform to the Tax Code (Law 1607 of 2012), which came into force in December 2012, gave the government six months to carry out a study into the use of fiscal mechanisms for environmental protection, explicitly including on greenhouse gases.  At the time of writing (September 2013) this had not yet been carried out. 

Decree 953 from May 2013 established the first scheme for payment for environmental services (PES) in Colombia – for the protection of water sources.  At the time of writing (September 2013) this was not yet in operation. 

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Reference levels

As per the National REDD+ Strategy (Estrategia Nacional REDD+; ENREDD+), the institution in charge of developing the reference level for Colombia is the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Instituto de Hidrología, Meterología y Estudios Ambientales; IDEAM). 

Colombia is characterised by its markedly different regions. Since these affect both forest cover and drivers of deforestation, Colombia has decided to develop subnational reference levels first, building MRV capacity at the subnational level at the same time. Colombia will then use a nested approach to put together a national reference level. Colombia is a member of the advisory committee of the Jurisdictional and Nested Requirements (JNR) working group of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) (VCS 2013). 

Colombia has identified nine subnational regions for reference levels, which are based around the nine Regional Climate Change Nodes (Nodos Regionales de Cambio Climatico; NRCC) identified in ENREDD+. Work is ongoing to try to align the subnational reference areas with the exact borders of the NRCC, using the jurisdictions of the regional environmental management institutions - the Autonomous Regional Corporations (Corporaciones Autónomas Regionales; CARs). 

The Gordon and Betty Moore foundation has worked with IDEAM and the Carnegie Institute in Washington since 2008 to help develop a forest and carbon monitoring system for Colombia.  In June 2013, IDEAM completed the implementation phase of a 7m Ha pilot in the Northern Amazon to test methodologies to develop subnational reference areas employing the VCS JNR standard. In July 2013 IDEAM was in the process of evaluating the best methodology to use but will develop a historically adjusted baseline because of the lack in granularity in its historical data. 

There are two further current reference level projects in the Pacific region. In the Northern Pacific region, the USAID-funded BIOREDD+ is working with Nasa’s Dr. Susan Saatchi to develop a regional reference level using a world-first combination of LIDAR (laser) and GEOSAR (radar) data, which are unaffected by the region’s notorious persistent cloud cover. The project aims to produce 90% reliable estimates of changes in carbon stocks (including from degradation) using remote sensors calibrated with field data. The GEOSAR dataset, classified by the US Government and IDEAM, is in discussions with the US Government to see if they can obtain it for the rest of the country. 

In the Southern Pacific region, Climate Focus and Winrock International have begun to work on a two-year project funded by the German Environmental Ministry’s International Climate Initiative to pilot nested REDD+ accounting in Colombia. This does not involve the production of new imagery but rather will help the national and local authorities develop and test jurisdictional reference levels (RLs), and support the policy and legal framework for REDD+. 

As of July 2013, IDEAM aimed to complete the regional reference level for the Amazon region by end 2013, for the Pacific region by end 2014 and for the rest of the country (including the national reference level) by end 2015.

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The national authority for forest measurement is the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Instituto de Hidrología, Meterología y Estudios Ambientales; IDEAM). Until 2010, Colombia only measured its forest cover every 5 years, however at the time of writing (September 2013), IDEAM is in the process of finalising the figures for 2012 and will produce wall-to-wall measurements every two years. 

Colombia does not yet have a forest inventory in place. IDEAM is in talks with Silva Carbon to see if an existing forest inventory project can be adapted to work for REDD+.  At the same time, FAO will support the development of a forest inventory and of a system to track degradation as part of the UN-REDD+ package that was approved in June 2013. 

A Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant “Enabling the implementation of REDD projects in Colombia” helped IDEAM develop the capacity for forest measurement at the coarse scale (250m resolution using MODIS) and fine scale (30m primarily using LANDSAT). Phase II of the project began in June 2012 and runs to Q1 2014. It will build IDEAM’s capacity to: (i) issue early warnings of deforestation hotspots (using MODIS every six months); (ii) measure deforestation using LANDSAT every two years; and (iii) estimate carbon stocks.

The Amazonian Institute of Scientific Studies (Instituto Amazónico de Investigaciones Científicas; SINCHI) has a series of plots throughout the Amazon and is working with IDEAM on MRV for the three REDD+ pilots in the Northern Amazon. IDEAM has worked on developing forest inventories in the past but using larger plot sizes (250m x250m) than those needed for REDD+ Monitoring Reporting and Verifying (MRV). IDEAM is now planning a new forest inventory exercise, matching the subnational jurisdictions of the Regional Climate Change Nodes (Nodos Regionales de Cambio Climático; NRCC). This will be supported by a project in the pipeline with the USAID-funded Silva Carbon and by the FAO under UN-REDD.

The National Bureau of Statistics (Departamento Nacional de Estadística; DANE) will be responsible for MRV on socio-economic co-benefits while the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for the Study of Biological Resources (Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander Von Humboldt) will monitor environmental and biodiversity-related co-benefits. These elements are not yet in place. 

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The current Colombian Constitution of 1991 is highly progressive in its guarantees of indigenous rights (DELANY 2008). It prohibits discrimination and obliges the State to proactively provide equal treatment (Art. 13) and ensure respect for indigenous cultures (Art. 68). It recognises indigenous reserves as autonomous; free to apply traditional justice (Art. 246) and govern according to their own norms and customs (Art. 330) (to the extent these comply with the rest of Constitution).  Furthermore, Art. 93 of the Constitution gives automatic constitutional rank to all the protections enshrined in human rights treaties ratified by Colombia.

Law 70 of 1993 brought into force similar protections for afro-Colombian communities while also expressly authorising the traditional sustainable use of natural resources without requiring environmental licenses. 

The communal territories of both indigenous and afro-Colombian communities are inalienable (inajenable), protected from seizure (inembargable), and exempt from statutes of limitations (imprescriptible) (Constitution Art. 63; Law 70 Art. 7) 

Law 21 of 1991 enacted ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. This guarantees communities’ right to consultation on the issues that affect them (Art. 6) and to decide on their own priorities for development (Art. 7). In light of Colombia’s endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2009, the Constitutional Court made it clear that this right is to free, prior and informed consent (Sentence T-129 of 2011). It has since tenaciously defended this right, overturning major pieces of legislation to reform the forestry (Law 1021 of 2006), rural development (Law 1152 of 2007) and mining (Law 1382 of 2010) because of the lack of effective consultation. 

The Government agency responsible for guaranteeing the process of prior consultation on projects is the Prior Consultations Office (Dirección de Consulta Previa) within the Ministry of Interior. When communities need to be consulted on draft legislation (such as draft REDD+ regulation), the process is led by the Indigenous, Minorities and Rom Affairs Office (Dirección de Asuntos Indígenas, Minorías y Rom) for indigenous communities and by the Black Community, afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero Affairs Office (Dirección de Asuntos para Comunidades Negras, Afrocolombianas, Raizales y Palenqueras) for afro-Colombian communities. 

In relation to REDD+ Civil society organisations, notably Fondo Patrimonio Natural and WWF Colombia have been working to facilitate these dialogues and build community capacities on REDD+ safeguards since 2010. They have done so both in support of the Government process and separate to it when they have felt like Government progress was too slow. 

The United States Agency for International Development’s Forest Carbon Markets and Communities Project (USAID-FCMC) is funding WWF Colombia to support the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible; MADS) by preparing baselines on the national and international schemes of safeguards; (ii) establishing a National Advisory Committee on Safeguards; and (iii) preparing a proposal on national safeguards. 

Government began work on the Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) in November 2011 with a National Preparatory Workshop. Participating communities felt like that was too fast, causing government to begin a phased bottom-up approach to SESA, working with different social groups at the regional level first. 

In common with its REDD+ preparation in general, MADS prioritised the Pacific and Amazon regions, which together contain 75% of Colombia’s forest (IDEAM 2011). In mid-September 2013 MADS led a multi-stakeholder pre-SESA workshop which identified the key drivers of deforestation in the Pacific, developed a timeline showing how deforestation has evolved and analysed the risks and benefits of different strategies to reduce deforestation. 

With funding from the German Government and accompaniment by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), it hopes to complete SESA in the Pacific region by the end of October 2013 and the Amazon by the end of 2013. The SESA in the Pacific region in particular is of vital importance since it is a condition for the signature of the grant agreement for the US$3.4m that was approved by the FCPF in 2011. It will follow these with SESA workshops in the Caribbean, Andes and Orinoco, which will feed into a national SESA meeting to prepare the Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF).

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Gender Equality

Colombia’s revised R-PP of 2013 puts a strong emphasis on gender issues (Section 1.b.1.8). The R-PP recognises that increased female participation in forest decision-making improves [forest] governance and sustainability of [forest] resources. However, the document also acknowledges that despite women’s increased economic dependence on forests, in practice, women have limited access to the regulation of forest use and management. Emphasis is placed on promoting the participation of Black, Afro-Descendant and indigenous women in planning for REDD+, as evidenced by dedicated national and regional workshops (2012). Some of the agenda items agreed during these workshops will be used to inform the way in which consultations with forest communities are conducted (1.b.4.4, 2.d.1.7 and Annex 1b (3)). There are also plans for capacity-building sessions that specifically target women (1.a.6, Tables 1.c.3, 5b-1 & 3 and Output 1.2). Several women’s organisations are identified as having been involved in early dialogues in preparation for REDD+ including la Red Juvenil de Mujeres de Chocó, la Ruta Pacifica de Mujeres and Afro-Colombian women’s organisations.

Colombia has a number of laws and policies in place which aim to ensure gender equality. Law 1413 (2010) aims to ensure that women’s unpaid household work is included in the national accounts. Laws 1475 and 1434 (2011) respectively designate funding to women in politics, and promote women’s participation in legislative and political matters via the creation of a Legal Commission for Gender Equality.

The National Policy for the Integral Management of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Política Nacional para la Gestión Integral de la Biodiversidad y sus Servicios Ecosistémicos, PNGIBSE) recognises that women and men use, preserve, and impact landscapes differently and aims take into account the needs of women when restoring and safeguarding ecosystem services (Target 14). Gender issues are discussed and lobbied for by the Political Advocacy Roundtable of Rural Women. However, in practice, women are still largely marginalized, particularly indigenous and Afro-descendant women.

There are currently no laws in place that recognise the links between gender and forest activities. For example, Colombia adopted a variety of policies relevant to REDD+ development and implementation, such as the Intersectoral Agreement for Legal Timber (2011-2015), the Colombian Low Carbon Development Strategy (2012) and the National Forestry Development Plan (2000), but none of them make commitments to tackle gender-related issues.


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Content researched and written by Joe Kuper
GCP Consultant
Elizabeth Valenzuela Camacho
Fondo Accion
Arturo Restrepo
Tangmar Marmon