Led by reformer Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s new leftist government, the first in its long history, aims to both reduce its dependence on fossil fuel exports and achieve 100% clean electricity by 2032 while creating peace and creating economic prosperity. But to ensure these aims can justly be reached, Petro’s administration will need assistance, particularly from Germany. Its fifth largest trading partner and biggest in the EU, new treaty obligations to protect indigenous rights and control supply chains may force Germany to re-evaluate its still extractivist behavior. In the final piece in the series, Lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum reviews several of the necessary changes required of the German companies still profiting off the mining and burning of Colombian blood coal.
It was unthinkable that a leftist government could ever take office in Colombia – and then this summer it happened. Historically power has been held by the nation’s upper classes who used state violence to terrorize unions, minorities, indigenous groups and social reformers. But running on a platform promising a government dedicated towards waging civil peace and ensuring social and environmental justice, in June the progressive former senator and Bogotá mayor, Gustavo Petro and his running mate, the Afro-Colombian environmentalist, Francia Márquez, prevailed. As lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum writes in this part of the Colombian Conundrum series, immediately topping Pedro’s agenda is re-writing regulations so the whole population can benefit from fossil fuel industry profits.
After a year serving in Germany’s Bundestag, the climate-champion and Green MEP Kathrin Henneberger now finds herself struggling to defend the progress made by her predecessors. In response to Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz personally calling Colombia’s then president, Iván Duque to increase coal exports, despite well-known human rights violations associated with mining there, Henneberger traveled to the Latin American nation to tour its fossil fuel producing regions. Once there she immediately began forging ties with Colombia’s incoming leftist government, the first in its history, with the intent on forming a new climate alliance aimed at jointly phasing out coal production and burning in both nations. But back home, she remains committed to reducing coal dependency and preventing the destruction of villages around the edges of Germany’s still expanding mines.
What follows is the second part of an edited interview between her and lead blogger, Michael Buchsbaum. Listeners can enjoy a longer version in a companion podcast.
Elected to Germany’s Bundestag a year ago, Kathrin Henneberger entered Parliament on a clear mandate from Green Party voters to accelerate coal’s domestic phase out and speed up the energy transition. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the narrative. When word leaked that, despite well-known human rights violations in Colombia, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz had personally called then-president, Iván Duque, to ask if the Latin American country could increase coal exports to Europe and replace sanctioned Russian supplies, Henneberger was outraged. This summer she traveled to Colombia’s coal and oil producing regions, visited front line communities and met with impacted residents. She also took this opportunity to meet members of Colombia’s incoming leftist government, the first in its history, with the goal of forging a new climate alliance. What follows is part one of an edited excerpt of an interview she gave with lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum.
Note: listeners can enjoy a longer version in an upcoming podcast.
Battered by decades of bloody civil war, energy and resource development remain major flash points. But record fossil fuel market prices present a difficult choice for Colombia’s new environmental and social-justice oriented president, Gustavo Petro. Increasing production risks the nation’s fragile peace. But not taking advantage of the revenue, they risk economic collapse. Enjoying excellent wind and solar potential, new internationally funded projects are under construction nationwide. But often sited within the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples, development is happening in ways far too similar to how coal companies have long exploited these same regions. In the third part of a series focusing on Colombia, lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, reviews the dilemma facing Petro’s government as they take office.
Aftershocks from Russia’s war against Ukraine continue rippling around the world, including to the deserts and jungles of Colombia. Producing increasing volumes of oil and fossil gas, this Andean country is also one of the world’s largest coal exporters.
Long rocked by violence, civil war as well as government and industry-linked terrorism, prior to Russia’s invasion European buyers had been curtailing fossil fuel and “blood coal” imports from Colombia due to linkages with human rights violations. But faced with its own energy crisis, following a personal call in April from German chancellor Olaf Scholz to Colombia’s then President Ivan Duque, more coal than ever is sailing from Latin America to European ports.
But then two months later, voters elected the nation’s first ever left-green government into power. Campaigning on a platform to accelerate their clean energy transition, ban fracking, and restrict coal mining, the economist and former Bogotá mayor and former guerilla fighter Gustavo Pedro has now assumed power.
To help us unpack how we got here and what to expect next from both Colombia, Germany and the European Union, in this episode, podcast host and lead blogger, Michael Buchsbaum, interviews Latin American expert and Deutsche Welle reporter and correspondent, Judit Alonso.
Click here for background information on links between Colombia’s civil war and coal and fossil fuel extraction.
Click here to read more about Scholz’ phone call to Duque.
Click here to read stories and see images of how mining and development is impacting Colombia’s Wayuu indigenous people.
Audio from the podcast was mixed and edited by audio expert Christian Kreymborg.
The recent publication “Gender-Responsive Climate Policy – a Case Study of the Colombian Coal Sector” showed that climate policies must take gender into account not only to limit the destructiveness of the current climate crisis but also to achieve a just transformation of the Colombian coal sector. Kathrin Meyer explains the advantages of this approach and its international relevance.
For climate activists, the coronavirus pandemic has held some positive news with regards to its short term effects. As a result of the economic standstill in large parts of the world, global carbon emissions decreased by 20 percent by the end of March compared to the previous year. But as pressure is building up to get the economies going again, they must also fear that once this global health crisis has waned political and economic activity will return to business as usual, with the global climate agenda losing out against the urgency of rebuilding growth with the help of old industries. Rebecca Bertram takes a look at the possible sustainable future.
In the run up to the Madrid-based COP25 international climate talks set to begin in early December, former Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Energy and Environment program, Rebecca Bertram, conducted a series of interviews with Latin American officials and activists. In Part 4 of the series, Rebecca has a conversation with Angelica Beltran, researcher on climate policy at the Association for Environment and Society (Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad).
While in North America and Europe more hydropower plants are being dismantled than built, many countries in Latin America continue to invest in the controversial renewable energy source. In Colombia, two hydropower plants are to be installed in the Amazon region. Social-ecological and cultural costs of the project are not taken into account. Kathrin Meyer reports about the serious impacts that hydropower could have on the zone.