Colombia has managed to transition to supply 80 percent of its power needs using renewable sources, mainly hydropower, in just a few short years.
Located at the tip of South America, the nation of Colombia is the 23rd-largest producer of crude oil and the 11th-largest producer of coal. But the country’s recently elected first leftist President Gustavo Petro wants to change that. Petro has been vocal about the idea of banning new exploration, production and exploitation of fossil fuels. Though it’s not transitioning to clean energy for its own production which might be a stopping block, it may be the fact that fossil fuel constitutes about 40 percent of the country’s export.
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“What is more poisonous for humanity: cocaine, coal or oil?” Gustavo Petro had asked leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly back in September. “Surmounting the climate crisis means leaving behind the consumption of oil and coal,” he had recently added in the COP27 global climate summit occurring in El Sheikh, Egypt.
While the nation had been using cheap fossil fuels for power generation, with around 70 percent of the country’s power generation coming from fossil fuel sources in 2018, today the situation is different. Colombia has managed to transition to supply 80 percent of its power needs using renewable sources, mainly hydropower, in just a few short years.
But the economic reliance on fossil fuel exports is much harder to change. Petro’s campaign had promised to create an Energy Transition Fund that would be funded with taxes and royalties imposed on the fossil fuel industry. The fund would then help finance innovations in sectors like agriculture and clean energy technologies in order to bring newer sources of revenue. But there’s no clear idea about what products would be able to replace the huge chunk of export revenue that fossil fuels are able to bring into the country. Much more importantly other details like how much endowments the funds would receive, its investment criteria or if the fund will even be created now remain unclear and opaque. The question of providing new jobs to about 109,000 workers that work in the fossil fuel industry will also need to be answered.
But if Petro and Colombia are successful despite all the challenges, then Colombia will become the first major fossil fuel producer to take concrete action to cut down the production of fossil fuels. With the spectre of climate change still hovering over the world, nations backtracking on climate promises, and constant greenwashing of minimal contributions towards the fight against climate change, it’s for the best if Petro and Colombia succeed.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)
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