Colombia sharply raises reforestation target to more than 1.8 million acres

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FILE PHOTO: Colombia’s Environment Minister Susana Muhamad speaks during an interview with Reuters at the COP27 climate summit in Red Sea resort at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 12, 2022. REUTERS/Emilie Madi

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s government has sharply raised its reforestation target to 750,000 hectares (1.85 million acres) by 2026, the environment ministry said, as part of the leftist government’s plans to tackle climate change.

The government of President Gustavo Petro, who took power last August, has vowed to implement an ambitious green agenda built around reduced deforestation, a transition away from fossil fuels and increased protection of water resources.

Now it has increased the country’s reforestation target during its tenure by nearly six times what was targeted by the previous conservative government.

“We are going to go from the last government’s goal of 120,000 hectares restored in four years, to a goal of 750,000 hectares during these four years,” Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said in an interview last week.

The previous government’s reforestation targets, last updated in 2020, aimed to restore some 64,000 hectares (158,600 acres) of land per year through 2030.

The ministry’s new targets would see the government aim to restore 187,500 hectares (463,300 acres) per year for four years.

The ministry said it could not provide details of where reforestation efforts would take place and how much they may cost until after the government’s proposed $250 billion national development plan, which details spending for a wide array of social and environmental projects, was backed by Congress.

Voting on the plan is expected to begin on Tuesday.

Petro’s government has also announced a revised plan to limit deforestation to 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) a year by the end of its tenure.

That deforestation reduction target is less ambitious than a reduction to 100,000 hectares per year by 2025 the country had previously agreed with Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom in 2019.

Muhamad said she “accepts the criticism” of the adjusted deforestation reduction target, saying it is “a little conservative.”

“We changed the methodology because the previous government had been working with the deforestation trend. We are setting a goal of 20% real reduction in deforestation, not (a reduction) of the trend,” she said.

The government of former President Ivan Duque targeted a 30% reduction in deforestation growth trends in its own development plan.

“We are going to expand it, there is still time and I would really like to be able to say that we are going to have a (de)forestation goal that reaches 100,000 or less,” Muhamad said.

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