Colombia’s updated NDC, submitted in December 2020, is more ambitious than the previous one, improving on both the strength and architecture of the target. The updated NDC is 6-22% stronger than the first NDC, but it relies heavily on reductions in LULUCF, with inadequate policies in place to tackle emissions from the energy and transport sectors as high users of fossil fuels - nor a phase-out of coal, which is particularly important for the world’s fifth largest coal exporter. Colombia has improved the type of target - from a reduction compared to BAU - to setting an absolute cap on emissions in 2030.
The CAT does not currently rate Colombia’s NDC, but will start doing so when we launch our new rating system later this year.
CAT Analysis of NDC submission
The updated NDC sets an absolute emissions limit of 169Mt CO2e (using AR5 GWP values), equivalent to a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to the BAU scenario. It will develop a carbon budget for the decade to 2030 by 2023 and intends to peak emissions between 2027-2030.
We estimate the emissions limit to be 156-188MtCO2e, once converted to AR4 GWP values and excluding LULUCF emissions. The update is 6-22% stronger than the first NDC’s unconditional target of 20% below BAU in 2030. The range of 6-22% represents differing assumptions of the degree to which reported LULUCF measures will be used in Colombia’s mitigation portfolio.
Colombia intends to achieve much of its NDC through the land sector. While the update does not list all mitigation measures needed to meet the country’s emissions limit, LULUCF-based mitigation measures account for almost 70% of the announced sectoral mitigation measures. The focus on LULUCF mitigation is explained by the proportion of LULUCF in total emissions (almost 30% in 2014, the last official GHG inventory year for Colombia).
One of the mitigation measures with the highest estimated potential in the updated NDC is reducing the deforestation rate to 50,000 ha/year by 2030, corresponding to mitigation of almost 60 Mt CO2 in 2030. This target is not aligned with current national plans that indicate increasing deforestation in the coming years. To be compatible with the Paris Agreement, Colombia should aim for net zero deforestation by 2030.
The heavy emphasis on LULUCF mitigation measures weakens Colombia’s effective emissions reduction while ignoring more aggressive mitigation options in other carbon-heavy sectors of the Colombian economy, such as energy supply and transport.
The energy and transport sectors, with estimated sectoral mitigation of approximately 11 and 6 Mt CO2e by 2030, respectively, represent particularly low ambition given that energy, including transport, accounted for almost 40% of total emissions including LULUCF in 2014.
While Colombia’s updated NDC sets additional targets for renewable electrification, including ramping up the use of wind, solar and other renewables in the power sector (1500 MW of installed non-conventional renewable capacity by 2022) and the use of electric vehicles in the transport sector (600,000 electric vehicles in use nationally by 2030), it has not set explicit targets for reducing the quantity of fossil fuels used or produced, including no coal-phase out date nor any date for ending sales of fossil fuel vehicles.
Given that Colombia still uses 77% fossil fuels in the total energy mix and nearly 4% of its GDP comes from oil rents, further action on fossil fuel phase-out is needed. Colombia is in the top ten for largest coal exporter. The global trend of phasing out coal should push Colombia to change its reliance on this fossil fuel.
The government has adopted a 2050 carbon neutrality target. While an initial roadmap was released for the Colombian Long-Term Strategy (LTS) to reach “carbon neutrality”, the country still lacks concrete mitigation measures and sectoral targets through 2050. The updated NDC was developed in parallel with the development of Colombia’s 2050 strategy for carbon neutrality.
Achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 globally is aligned with the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C; however, all greenhouse gases must reach net zero by 2070 in order to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
Colombia’s 2020 NDC update includes a target to reduce black carbon emissions, which has substantial co-benefits for human health.
Colombia aims to reduce black carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, compared to 2014 levels. However, reductions in black carbon are generally not additional to those leading to reductions in CO2, because large fractions of black carbon emissions stem from the same emission sources as CO2. Emission reduction policies therefore often reduce CO2 and black carbon simultaneously, and this is already included in calculations of the emissions reductions required to hold warming well below 2°C globally, like the “emissions gap” and “fair share” reductions.
In its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the IPCC does not provide calculations of Global Warming Potential for black carbon comparable to those provided for greenhouse gases, merely noting the inherent difficulties in doing so and limiting itself to displaying estimates from the pre-AR5 literature.
Global Warming Potential (GWP) values
In order to facilitate comparability of emissions reduction targets among the countries of the CAT, all emissions quantities reported here are given using Global Warming Potential (GWP) values according to the methodology of the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report (AR4), unless otherwise stated.
Emissions communicated in the Colombia’s first NDC (2018) and most recent GHG Inventory (2018) were converted from GWP values listed in the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (SAR) to AR4 values. Similarly, emissions and targets reported in Colombia’s updated NDC (2020) were converted from the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5) GWP values to AR4 GWP values for consistency and comparability. In both cases, we used a conversional factor based on a gas-by-gas breakdown of 2014 emissions.
CAT methodology excludes both LULUCF emissions and LULUCF removals from calculations.
In its updated NDC, Colombia provided a sectoral breakdown for its BAU projections, including disaggregating its net AFOLU emissions by IPCC category. We have assumed net LULUCF emissions for Colombia’s BAU projections are equivalent to IPCC category 3B. While there are some net emissions in 3C, historically, these have been negligible (around 1Mt in 2014).
We estimate the extent to which Colombia will use reduction in net LULUCF emissions based on the estimates provided in Annex M1 of its NDC update and the accompanying mitigation annex. The listed measures are not enough to achieve Colombia’s emissions limit, based on its BAU projections. To account for the uncertainty of future mitigation measures that may be announced by Colombia, we have provided a range of net LULUCF emissions. The lower bound is based on the LULUCF measures currently listed. For the upper end of the range, we apply that the relative ratio of LULUCF mitigation measures to other mitigation measures as currently contained in the Annex and apply that to the needed reductions to achieve the emission limit.
For the first NDC, we subtracted the LULUCF projections contained in supporting calculations from the BAU provided in the NDC to obtain a BAU excluding LULUCF, interpolating between the intervening years.
Colombia did not provide information on the extent to which it would use LULUCF to meet its unconditional or conditional targets in its first NDC. In its Third National Communication, it provided an estimate of emission reductions necessary to meet its unconditional target, broken down by the Ministry responsible for those emissions (see Tables 11 & 12 in Section 3) as well as a separate estimate for emission reductions from reducing deforestation. We used the reduction in emission from reducing deforestation for our estimate of LULUCF emissions. This approach likely underestimates the extent to which Colombia will use LULUCF to met its target, as measures taken by the Agriculture and Environment Ministries will also likely have an impact on LULUCF emissions. While Colombia did provide some information on the types of measures each Ministry would take, no quantitative emission estimates were provided.
The Third National Communication also provided a breakdown, by Ministry, of priority emission reduction activities. The level of emission reductions that would be achieved by these measures was greater than the unconditional target, but not sufficient to meet its conditional target. To estimate the extent of LULUCF to be used to meet the conditional target, we took the ratio of emissions associated with reducing deforestation from the priority activities and applied that to the extent of reductions needed to achieve the conditional target. The conditional target of the first NDC submissions is therefore higher than the corresponding unconditional target as greater emphasis is placed on reducing emissions from deforestation under the priority measures compared to the unconditional target. The updated NDC did not include a conditional target.