To save the Amazon, Iván Duque defends unity and an end to stigmatization

President of Colombia also highlighted the role of rich nations in strengthening local communities

Closing the international lectures of The Amazon and New Economies International Conference, Iván Duque, president of Colombia between 2018 and 2022, opened his participation with two provocative questions: how can the Amazon save the world? How can we save the Amazon?

Although there are no simple solutions to both questions, Duque was emphatic in defending the importance of the Amazon forest for solving the climate crisis. “We can do everything very well, but if we don’t protect the Amazon we won’t achieve any of the climate goals.” He highlighted that the forest is the world’s main biodiversity treasure, bringing together more than 20% of the planet’s flora species. “It is the natural regulator of the hemisphere’s ecosystems.”

The Colombian president recalled that the size of the biome makes it difficult to control actions in the region, as does the number of nations that host the forest in their territory. In this scenario, the speaker highlighted the role of Brazil: “With more than 5 million km2, 60% of the biome is in the country. Brazil is crucial for stabilizing the climate and facing the biggest climate crisis humanity has ever experienced.”

Alluding to the polarized scenarios in several countries, Iván Duque highlighted the need to think comprehensively, leaving ideologized debates aside. “Conserving the Amazon is not for the left, nor for the right, nor for the center, it is a moral duty and it is necessary to seek effective solutions that also respond to economic and social issues.” He concluded by saying that protecting the Amazon needs to be connected to reducing inequality, putting an end to what he called the “absurd dilemma” between income generation and preservation.

In a speech more directed to the mineral sector, the keynote speaker also criticized the stigmatization of some sectors of the economy. “These are activities that contribute economically and need to be part of the solution, such as mining and fossil fuels. Moreover, this call for reflection is based on the fact that countries cannot abandon their main sources of income because the transition has many costs. Just for Brazil to develop a new economy for the Amazon, investments could exceed 1.5% of GDP per year over the next two decades.”

This requires, according to him, that we have a single and unambiguous mentality across all sectors, such as the circular economy based on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). “If the private sector assumes its role, we will take the necessary step for the Amazon to reach the zero carbon target.”

Duque also harshly criticized the exercise of illegal activities in the region, both in areas such as the illegal exploration of minerals and the illegal expansion of the agricultural frontier. “It is necessary to unite all sectors of the legal economy to accelerate and be effective in the transition”.

The president of Colombia also spoke about the importance of the biome in guaranteeing fresh water in regions such as Bogotá, the Colombian capital; the need to achieve the goal of zero deforestation in the Amazon; boosting the circular economy and the carbon market; energy transition; transition financing; clean mobility; and green taxonomy.

Furthermore, following the line of what has been widely defended by developing nations, Iván Duque was firm in advocating that developed countries rethink their positions and contribute to developing countries. “It is necessary to make a call for the countries that contributed most to the climate crisis to facilitate conditions for Amazon products to access their markets, generating an added value chain for local communities. There will be no change in communities without these countries facilitating the arrival of these products in their markets.”

About Ivan Duque

During his time as president of Colombia (between 2018 and 2022), Iván Duque sought to promote international cooperation to protect the Amazon. With the discourse that protecting the forest is a moral duty of the countries that shelter it, his government focused on initiatives such as the development of sustainable production chains and the promotion of ecotourism in the region.

About the Conference

The Amazon and New Economies International Conference is promoted by the Brazilian Mining Institute (IBRAM), a non-profit organization that brings together more than 130 companies and institutions that work in the Mineral sector and are committed to protecting the Amazon. IBRAM and its members are committed to innovations in the sector and to disseminating the best business and environmental practices.

The event brings together representatives of the peoples of the forest, civil society, academia, the public and private sectors in the capital of Pará to address issues involving the environment, the economy and sustainable development.

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