Empowering Colombian Cities: Pioneers in Climate Action and Energy Resilience

By |2024-05-30T10:58:20+02:00May 28th 2024|Allgemein|

Colombian cities face a stark paradox – emitting just a fraction of global greenhouse gases, yet disproportionately vulnerable to climate impacts like extreme weather and energy insecurity, explains Carolina Hernández. Despite minimal contributions, they bear the brunt.

Diverse Cities, Common Goals

Imagine Claudia, a single mother living in Barranquilla, grappling with daily power outages due to the city’s strained energy grid. As Claudia prepares dinner for her two young children each evening, the lights flicker and then go out, plunging the small house into darkness. Without power, the refrigerator ceases to work, putting the family’s perishable food at risk of spoiling. Homework time becomes a challenge as her children struggle to read by candlelight. The power cuts are not just random events; they are a regular consequence of the region’s struggling electrical infrastructure and the inability of many residents to afford the exorbitant tariffs. These high costs affect everyone from local entrepreneurs to informal workers. These high costs are exacerbated by the decreasing levels of reservoirs, and increasing energy prices.  The story of Claudia serves as a poignant reminder of the risks that many Colombians face in the absence of proactive measures. The reality that Claudia and many other Colombians face daily underscores the urgent need for sustainable urban strategies.

One key vulnerability stems from Colombia’s heavy reliance on hydroelectric power, which leaves its cities exposed to exacerbating effects of phenomena like El Niño. Prolonged droughts can deplete reservoirs, jeopardising urban energy security. However, this challenge also presents an opportunity –  Coastal cities, that have historically grappled with energy supply issues can harness their abundant solar potential to achieve greater energy autonomy. Making this crucial shift towards renewable sources like solar power is critical in mitigating the climate risks facing Colombian cities and enhancing their resilience to climate impacts like the power outages that plague daily life on the Colombian Caribbean coast.

Leading by Example: Public Buildings as Catalysts

Local authorities now have the unique opportunity to spearhead energy autonomy by focusing on public buildings. The Colombian government has underscored this strategy through its National Energy Plan and the Indicative Action Plan for the Rational Use of Energy Programme (PAI-PROURE). By implementing energy audits and adopting energy-saving measures in public buildings, local governments can significantly reduce consumption and set a precedent for other sectors.

This approach also contributes to the overarching national development plan, which mandates that Colombian cities save 15 per cent of their energy consumption. The PAI-PROURE plan, spanning from 2022 to 2030, is designed to revolutionise Colombia’s energy landscape.

Its far-reaching goals include saving a staggering 1,688 petajoules of energy annually – roughly equivalent to the country’s total energy consumption for an entire year. Moreover, it aims to deliver substantial cost savings between $6.6 billion and USD 11 billion each year by significantly lowering energy expenses. Crucially, the plan also targets avoiding the emission of 85 million tonnes of CO2, thereby reducing Colombia’s projected emissions by an impressive 22 per cent by 2030.

Partnership Power: The Climate Alliance

The Colombia-Germany Climate Alliance, established in June 2023, offers a promising platform for collaboration. This alliance not only provides additional avenues for technical cooperation but also facilitates financial support for strengthening banking institutions. These enhancements ease access to resources for implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, notably solar power. Leveraging this alliance can amplify Colombia’s capacity to tackle climate challenges and future energy crises.

Action Steps: Empowering Urban Centres

To effectively combat climate change, Colombian cities must adopt a multifaceted approach:

Energy Audits and Implementations: Regular audits and implementation of energy-saving measures in public buildings.

Investment in Renewables: Increased investment in renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind power.

Public Awareness Campaigns: Comprehensive campaigns to educate citizens on energy conservation and renewable benefits.

Policy Incentives: Stronger policies and incentives to encourage the adoption of energy-efficient practices.

International Collaboration: Utilising partnerships like the Colombia-Germany Climate Alliance to share knowledge and best practices.

Overcoming Challenges in Medium-Sized Cities

While large cities like Bogotá and Medellín are making strides, smaller and medium-sized cities face distinct challenges. These include a lack of technical knowledge, insufficient funding models, and unclear administrative responsibilities. Many municipalities are unaware of the cost-saving potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, resulting in low prioritisation. Structural issues within municipal administrations, such as insufficient technical capacity and long-term financing difficulties, further complicate efforts.

The existing climate policy framework in Colombia provides a solid foundation for addressing these challenges. However, targeted support and gradual improvements are needed to enable municipalities to implement national climate policies effectively.  The recently elected administrations from the 2023 municipal elections are perceived as a pivotal opportunity to ensure political and administrative continuity, nurturing a stable environment for these initiatives to flourish throughout 2024 and beyond.

Building Resilience and Sustainability

From Bogotá’s highlands to cities in the Pacific and Caribbean coast, Colombian cities are spearheading climate action. By prioritising energy efficiency, investing in renewables, and bolstering resilience, urban centres can lead the charge towards sustainability. The synergy between urban planning and sustainable energy not only enhances energy security but also fosters long-term climate resilience and community well-being.

Colombian cities stand at a critical juncture in the fight against climate change. By embracing energy efficiency, renewable energy, and resilience-building measures, urban centres can set a powerful precedent. Collaboration, innovative policies, and unwavering commitment are essential for a sustainable future. Colombia-Germany Climate and Just Energy Transition Alliance serves as a beacon of hope, offering substantial support to propel Colombian cities into global leaders in climate action and energy resilience.

Carolina Hernández G.
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