“Colombian Emerging Environmental Markets” is a diagnosis done by Fondo Acción, Fundepúblico, World Conservation Society, and financed by the MacArthur Foundation. It is the first of its class done in a Latin American country. According to the diagnosis between 1993 and 2015 over 127 million dollars have been invested in the acquisition of conservation areas, equivalent to 270,000 hectares around the country.
“Environmental markets are mechanisms that promote the management of environmental goods and services through economic incentives,” reads the report. They’re important because they promote the wellbeing of the environment in a certain area and protect the environmental services it provides. More so, they represent new income opportunities, mainly for rural areas.
In Colombia, two of the main markets associated with water invest 1% of their costs to protect the environment. All projects that take this resource from natural sources and basins need to invest this percentage in the conservation of the basin. Also, all municipalities and departments need to invest 1% of their budget in this.
Meta and Casanare are the two regions with the highest demand in this market because there are many energetic exploration and exploitation projects in the area. Also Cesar, Santander and Antioquia offer opportunities in this market. Along with this sector all infrastructure projects are the ones that require the most resources.
Nonetheless the biggest challenge in environmental markets is the lack of information. The regions don’t keep a record of the areas that could receive the investment benefits. One of the companies in the study said this unawareness may cause conservation plan to fail.
Similarly, Luisa Fernanda Lema, one of the authors said, “We saw many of the funds that should have been invested remain in hold. In interviews previous to the publication of the diagnosis, some companies told us they hold the funds because they don’t know where to invest them and the local authorities don’t give them any other pathways to take.”
She remarks that all the projected capital could boost great change in the country if local authorities took a closer look in the matter. According to a 2014 Environmental Management Report the 1% investment corresponded to 54.2 million dollars from which only 2.6 million had been actually invested during the year.
Oscar Mejía, former director of Environmental Information and Management of Antioquia proposes the government should enlarge the frontiers of its National natural parks to cope with the lack of information and legal loopholes in the acquisition of land for conservation. This way they could avoid the problems of changing governments and their land management and actually boost conservation. Also, this could go hand-by-hand with the green strategy the country is currently implementing.
Carlos Mario Tamayo, Sustainability and Environmental Business Subdirector from the Colombian National Parks, told Mongabay, “we’re trying to value and record the eco-systemic services provided by our parks.” The institution seeks business ideas that promote a sustainable development of resources like ecotourism.
Meanwhile, the environmental markets related to water keeps a great potential because so far it has been underused and they could provide valuable options of sustainable development. We need to enhance the information available and the access and ownership of the land, concluded Lema.
María Andrea Márquez