Colombia proposes an ambitious plan that would establish the world’s largest ‘ecological corridor’, protecting vast swathes of Amazon rainforest stretching from the Andes to the Atlantic coast, with the help of Brazil and Venezuela.
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Colombia has announced plans to lead a project that would see the creation of the world’s largest ‘ecological corridor’ across northern South America as part of the region’s contribution to the global fight against climate change. The reserve, which was proposed last week by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, would cover some 135 million hectares (1.35m km²), linking the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean via the northern Amazon Rainforest. It would become the largest protected area in the world, a title currently held by the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which covers 1.27m km².
The initiative would have several purposes, according to Santos, including the preservation of biodiversity in the area and a “great contribution to the fight of all humanity to preserve our environment”. The protected area would be located predominantly in Brazilian and Colombian territory, with 62% of the reserve in Brazil and 34% in Colombia, as well as 4% in southern Venezuela. It has been dubbed the “Triple-A corridor”, due to the fact that its proposed path would take in significant portions of the Andean, Amazonian and Atlantic regions of northern South America.
Santos said that he hoped to present the outline of this programme to the governments of Brazil and Venezuela, including those countries’ respective presidents Dilma Rousseff and Nicolás Maduro. Two high-ranking officials in the Colombian government, the Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín and the Environment Minister Gabriel Vallejo, were due to initiate talks with their counterparts in the two other participating countries this week. The initiative comes at a time when Brazil is in the grips of a historic and potentially catastrophic drought, for which mismanagement of the Amazon rainforest may be partly to blame.
If all goes well, Santos has said he hopes to be able to formally present the Triple-A initiative to the rest of the world at the upcoming COP21 climate summit, which will be held in Paris this November and December and is set to be the most important attempt yet by the world’s governments to reach a global deal on tackling climate change.
At the previous summit in Lima, Peru, at the end of 2014, Colombia was one of many tropical countries to commit to reducing net deforestation to zero, and the Triple-A initiative is seen as a key part of attempts to implement such a strategy. Deforestation in Colombia has reached rates of more than 2,000 km² per year, and studies have shown that the extreme degradation of forests in the southern state of Caquetá has reached such alarming levels that the ecological and biological links between Andean and Amazonian ecosystems could be permanently lost. Brazil, meanwhile, has also remained in the spotlight over its efforts to contain Amazonian deforestation, and in September was particularly criticised for failing to join Colombia (and numerous other countries) in signing a UN Declaration on Forests that pledged to halve global deforestation rates by 2020 and eliminate it completely by 2030.
The idea for a Triple-A corridor has been around for some time, with one of the main proponents being Martín von Hildebrand, the director of the Amazon branch of the global environmental NGO Gaia Foundation. Von Hildebrand was also Director of Indigenous Affairs throughout the government of former Colombian President Virgilio Barco from 1986 to 1990, during which time he oversaw the legal recognition of more than 20m hectares of indigenous territory in Colombia.
President Santos described the initiative as a “concrete, realistic proposal that conveys to the world the enormous contribution the corridor would make towards preserving humanity and mitigating climate change”. He also underlined the national significance that such a project would hold for Colombia, claiming “as Colombians we need to go all out in order to stop climate change, because we will be among the first to suffer the consequences given our rich biodiversity”, referring to the country’s status as one of the most biodiverse in the world.