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Cablegate: Conservation International Speaker Highlights

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #7171/01 2771532
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041532Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9272
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7776
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9375
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5455
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0681
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 6055

UNCLAS BOGOTA 007171

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR EEB/ESC:MMCMANUS; IIP/S; WHA/EPSC:FCORNEILLE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG ECON KPAO OIIP SENV CO
SUBJECT: CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL SPEAKER HIGHLIGHTS
COLOMBIA'S POTENTIAL FOR SUSTAINABLE BIOFUELS DEVELOPMENT

REF: BOGOTA 5657

1. SUMMARY: With funding from the Bureau of Economic, Energy
and Business Affairs (EEB), Embassy Bogota hosted the visit
of Conservation International Senior Research Scientist
Timothy J. Killeen to Colombia September 26-28 to speak about
the sustainable development of biofuels. As part of the
three-day visit, Dr. Killeen met with environmental
activists, biofuels producers, and government officials as
well as visited an ethanol production facility in Cali and an

African palm farm and biodiesel plant under development in
Meta Department. Dr. Killeen capped the visit with a public
presentation to approximately 150 students, faculty, local
media and business leaders at the Universidad Autonoma de
Occidente in Cali. Throughout his visit, Dr. Killeen
expressed optimism about Colombia' potential to sustainably
develop its biofuels sector without harming the environment.
He urged the public and private sectors to work closely on
preparing a comprehensive land management strategy for
biofuels as well as pursuing international certifications for
biofuels produced in Colombia. Dr. Killeen's remarks were
carried in both the national daily El Tiempo and the leading
financial newspaper Portafolio. END SUMMARY.

Meetings with Environmental, Producer and Government Officials
--------------------------------------------- -----------------

2, On September 26, Dr. Killeen attended three separate
roundtables with environmental, producer and GOC officials,
respectively, to discuss the potential for sustainable
development of biofuels in Colombia. Representatives from
the Nature Conservancy, the Humboldt Center, the World
Wildlife Fund, and the local office of Conservation
International outlined their efforts to coordinate with
African palm and sugar producers on establishing
environmental principles for biodiesel and ethanol
production. Although some environmental representatives
expressed concern that displacement of cattle grazing or
other agricultural crops to environmentally sensitive areas
might occur as production of feedstocks for biofuels
increased, they acknowledged the GOC's strong public
commitment to limit biofuels production to areas already in
agricultural use or on degraded lands. Dr. Killeen
encouraged the environmental community to seek out areas of
cooperation with biofuels producers on land management and
shared principles rather than focus efforts on seeking
legislative prescriptions that would be difficult to enforce
and could hamper the positive impact of biofuels to generate
rural employment and reduce carbon emissions.

3, In discussions with the Federation of Palm Producers
(FEDEPALMA) and the Association of Sugar Producers (ASOCANA),
Dr. Killeen stressed the positive benefits of seeking
international certifications of compliance with
environmental, labor, and quality standards. He noted that
if negative biofuels production practices, or even a
perception of such practices, took root they could doom the
industry to endless struggles with the environmental
community. He therefore strongly encouraged producers to
continue efforts to develop agreed production practices with
the environmental community that addressed budding concerns
about preventing deforestation, protecting biodiversity and
promoting sound land management. In his follow-on meeting
with the Vice Minister of Environment Claudia Martinez,
National Biofuels Coordinator Arturo Infante and technical
representatives of the Ministries of Energy, Agriculture and
Planning, Dr. Killeen urged the GOC to incorporate input from
the environmental community and private sector as it develops
a national biofuels strategy.

Presentation
------------

4. On September 27, Dr. Killeen underscored the same themes
in his address to approximately 150 students, faculty,
ethanol producers, and members of the local media at the
Universidad Autonoma de Occidente (Autonomous University of
the West) in Cali. Following the speech, audience members
asked questions about the alleged threat biofuels production
posed to food supplies, the potential for biofuels to cause
deforestation, and the prospects for second-generation
cellulosic biofuels. Dr. Killeen reiterated that existing
scientific data refutes the premise that biofuels threatens
the world's food supply, though demand for certain feedstocks
could lead to higher consumer prices for particular foods.
He also said that sound land management policy, developed

through consultation with civil society and the environmental
community, could mitigate dangers of deforestation. Finally,
he described cellulosic biofuels as a quickly approaching
reality which will unlock the full potential of biofuels to
serve as major source of energy. He urged Colombian biofuels
producers to begin preparing for cellulosic biofuels
production. His commentary on biofuels was carried in October
2 editions of both El Tiempo and Portafolio.

Site Visits
-----------

5. In addition to the public diplomacy program, Post
organized site visits for Dr. Killeen to a sugar-based
ethanol plant outside of Cali and an African palm-based plant
under development in San Juan de Guaroa in Meta Department.
Dr. Killeen toured both facilities and the surrounding
agricultural cultivation areas as part of his assessment of
the potential for Colombia's biofuels sector to develop in a
sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.

Comment
-------

6. Dr. Killeen's assessment that the GOC can develop an
economically viable biofuels sector while holding to its
commitment to confine production to degraded lands or areas
already in agricultural production is important in
ascertaining Colombia's long-term potential to sustainably
generate rural employment, reduce carbon emissions, and
diversify its energy supply through biofuels. His messages
on pursuing international certifications, promoting
public-private cooperation, and preparing the Colombian
biofuels industry for second-generation cellulosic biofuels
also resonated with audiences. Finally, his presentations
aided in disabusing misperceptions about biofuels, including
concerns about food security and land management.
Brownfield

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