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Cablegate: Colombia to Be Supportive in Copenhagen; Proposes Forestry

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DE RUEHBO #3489/01 3352310
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADE46447 TOQ4593-695)
R 012310Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1296
INFO RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0014
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0275
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0001
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHGT/AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
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RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003489

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAID ECON ENRG EINV PGOV PREL UN CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA TO BE SUPPORTIVE IN COPENHAGEN; PROPOSES FORESTRY
PRESERVATION AND RESEARCH ANNOUNCEMENT

REF: S/ECC PERSHING 11/23 CONFERENCE CALL

1. (SBU) Summary: Environment Minister Carlos Costa told the
Deputy Chief of Mission that Colombia would support U.S. efforts at
the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The Minister
welcomed the close coordination and openness of U.S. negotiators
and indicated the USG could count on Colombia, particularly
regarding issues of monitoring, verification, and public disclosure
of carbon reduction initiatives. Costa proposed that in Copenhagen
the USG announce a joint U.S.-Colombia tropical forest climate
change project that would preserve Colombia's vast forests. Such
an initiative could develop Reduced Emissions from Deforestation
and Degradation (REDD) projects that would sequester carbon through
avoided deforestation and offer carbon offsets for a future U.S.
carbon market. Costa said the project could be established quickly
by utilizing an existing conditional community cash transfer
program. The Minister noted Norway and France already announced
forest projects in Guyana and Brazil respectively. Costa also
suggested the USG announce joint scientific research of the impact
of climate change on and the potential for carbon sequestration in
Paramo highlands -- a delicate high-altitude Andean ecosystem and a
potentially critical carbon sink. Costa offered that such an
announcement (even if vague) would elevate Colombia's profile and
provide the GOC with political cover to push back on unhelpful
proposals from G-77 members. The DCM cautioned that time is very
short, but he promised to forward the idea to Washington. End
Summary.

Colombia To Be Helpful

--------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Deputy Chief of Mission, accompanied by Economic
Counselor and USAID Environmental Team Leader, called on Minister
of Environment Carlos Costa on December 1 to exchange views on the
upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The DQ
praised Colombia's leadership in promoting a successful outcome in
Copenhagen and highlighted the importance of a coordinated effort
between developed and developing countries. Minister Costa
expressed appreciation for the close ties Colombia has developed
with U.S. climate control negotiators and indicated the USG could
count on Colombia, particularly regarding issues of monitoring,
verification, and public disclosure of carbon reduction
initiatives.

3. (SBU) Minister Costa noted that Colombia forms part of a
sizeable group of middle income developing countries with low
carbon emissions. He urged these countries not be overlooked for
financial support. Costa noted, for example, Colombia would not
support fixed percentage reductions in carbon emissions for less
developed countries. He emphasized it is very costly for a
hydroelectric-dependent Colombia to further lower its carbon
emissions. On the other hand, it is much easier and less costly
for a country like Mexico, which largely operates thermoelectric
plants, to lower its carbon output.

Joint Proposal in Copenhagen

---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Minister suggested that during the conference in
Copenhagen the United States announce a U.S.-Colombia forest
preservation project in one or more Colombian national parks. The
project could help establish a market or supply for businesses
interested in purchasing carbon offsets or participating in future

REDD projects. He noted that Norway and France already announced
forest projects in Guyana and Brazil respectively. The
announcement of such a U.S. project would elevate Colombia's
profile and influence during the negotiations, particularly among
developing countries, Costa argued.

5. (SBU) Costa indicated the pilot project could utilize an
established conditional community cash transfer program --"Programa
Familia Guardabosques" -- or the Family Forest Warden Program.
This program currently rewards families not to grow coca, and it
could be tweaked to award funds to families and communities that
preserve forests. The program currently operates in the Macarena
region of Meta, which had been a booming coca-producing aQ in the
past and is now one of the frontlines in the GOC's National
Consolidation Plan and the USG's Colombia Strategic Development
Initiative (SCDI). He emphasized that the program infrastructure,
which takes years to develop, is already in place. The Minister
indicated that such a conservation-oriented Forest Warden program
would be most effective if expanded to Colombia's Amazon region.

6. (SBU) Minister Costa expressed interest in learning more about
Senator Leahy's publicized letter to Prince Charles regarding $275
million to fund programs to protect biodiversity and tropical
forests, including in the Amazon. The Minister raised concerns
about rising deforestation in Colombia as rural areas become more
accessible and free of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) violence. He also expressed concern about the increased
pressures on available lands related to the switch from an illicit
coca economy to a licit one. For example, rural coca growers that
once depended on 1-3 hectares of illicit coca, now require 10-20
hectares for more land-intensive, licit crops and cattle raising to
maintain the same standard of living. Costa added there are
several opportunities to develop REDD projects in Colombian
forests, many of which are located in national parks and other
protected areas.

Scientific Research of Carbon Storage in Andean Highlands

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
-----------

7. (SBU) Minister Costa offered an additional proposal, and a
possible alternative, if the forest climate change initiative is
unfeasible because of limited funding and time. He advocated the
announcement of joint scientific research on the potential carbon
sequestration in Paramo highlands, a subject on which there is
little scientific information. This ecosystem, known in English as
High Altitude Peatlands, is extremely sensitive to climate change
and is found throughout the northern Andes and in limited parts of
Costa Rica and Guatemala. Colombia's extensive Paramos are the
main source of the country's water supply and are considered to be
a potentially important carbon sink. While there is considerable
scientific interest in the issue, there is virtually no research on
how much and how effectively the Paramo sequesters carbon. He
wondered whether the National Science Foundation, Smithsonian
Institute, and/or NASA would be interested in a regional or
Colombia-specific grant to learn more about the role of carbon
absorption in the Paramo.

Comment: Ideas Worth Mentioning

--------------------------------------------- ---


8. (SBU) Minister Costa, who departs on December 10 for
Copenhagen, is a serious interlocutor and should be a useful ally
in the negotiations. A formal announcement of a forestry
preservation or research initiative seems unlikely at this late
stage. However, a public mention of possible types of cooperation,
or potential REDD activities, could empower Colombia and other
like-minded countries that want to be supportive at the climate
change negotiations.
BROWNFIELD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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