Unlocking Colombia's climate potential - Long-term collaborations and transformative climate actions

This piece was contributed to the Partnership in Action report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It describes efforts to scale transformative climate action in the agricultural sector in Colombia.


Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time, requiring concerted global efforts to mitigate and adapt to its effects. In Colombia, a nation celebrated for its natural beauty and biodiversity, climate change poses significant challenges, particularly in the agricultural sector.

The importance of agriculture in Colombia cannot be overstated. This sector is vital for managing land and creating jobs, making up about 8.3% of the country’s total economic output in 2022 and involving 31.8% of adults who identify as peasants. Given the critical importance of addressing these challenges, collaboration between the multiple actors is essential to ensure continuity and strengthen capacity at the different levels of implementation. What has Colombia done to increase climate action?

Colombia’s climate change context

Colombia, like other nations under the Paris Agreement, aligns its efforts to combat climate change by defining and regularly updating its nationally determined contributions (NDCs). These NDCs aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and effectively adapt to climate change.

According to the Third Biennial Update Report submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Colombia’s greenhouse gas emissions, largely from agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU), account for 59% of its total emissions.

Not only does agriculture account for 22% of emissions between 1990 and 2014, but it also absorbs 23% of all damage and losses. The Third National Communication on Climate Change highlights concerns, revealing that 72% of Colombian municipalities have limited adaptive capacities in the agricultural sector, making them susceptible to climate-related disruptions.

In addition, challenges such as limited access to credit, low participation in groups and limited technical assistance hinder sustainable agriculture. Failing to adapt could lead to a maximum decline of 0.13% of the GDP in 2030.

Colombia’s updated climate change commitments

In 2022, Colombia committed to ambitious climate targets, aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 51% by 2030 and work toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 through an updated NDC.

Colombia’s NDC also focuses on adaptation strategies in critical areas such as planning, water resources, ecosystems, infrastructure, health, agriculture and risk management. The country is also committed to protecting natural areas and conserving and restoring ecosystem services. Nature-based solutions, bio-economy initiatives, sustainable infrastructure and climate-smart agriculture are identified as strategic resilience measures.

To achieve these goals, Colombia is actively working on designing and implementing financial instruments to reduce climate risks in the agricultural sector. Innovative methods, such as agroclimatic zoning, are being developed to identify vulnerable areas and implement targeted solutions. Early warning systems and agro-climatic roundtables are also part of Colombia’s strategy to strengthen the adaptative capacities of its agricultural sector.

While progress is being made, structural inequalities persist, particularly concerning women’s access to land, resources and rural areas. Colombia acknowledges that implementing management and financial instruments is essential to transform the situation of rural women and promote gender equality in climate action.

Long-term collaborations for climate action in the agricultural sectors

Colombia’s journey toward climate resilience and sustainability has been supported by the NDC Partnership’s Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP) initiative, launched in 2019. CAEP has significantly improved the quality and ambition of Colombia’s NDC, with collaboration from organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and local stakeholders.

Under CAEP, and with FAO’s technical support, significant progress has been made in the country. The agricultural sector, including priority value chains, has benefited from strategies to meet NDC commitments. These initiatives have also led to the development of financial, market and agricultural risk management tools.

The CAEP project introduced and developed cost-benefit analyses (CBA) to assess the feasibility of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures for six agricultural subsectors: beef, dairy, rice, sugar cane, maize and commercial plantations. These analyses identified key actions and measures that the subsectors have implemented as well as potential measures for future implementation.

The initiative has helped subsectors improve their conditions in terms of adaptation, mitigation and co-benefit synergies. It focused on areas such as efficient use of water resources, soil conservation, climate information management, landscape management tools, agricultural extension services and cross-cutting proposals. These actions provided a flexible strategy that subsectors could adapt to their specific needs and potentialities.

This approach has enabled subsectors to prioritize actions in financial and economic terms, strengthening local capacities and providing practical tools, such as the CBA financial calculator, for modelling responses to climate change impacts. As a lesson learned, CAEP proposed a system of voluntary agreements to guide decision making and align private-sector commitments with comprehensive actions to reduce Colombia’s vulnerability to climate change.

The SCALA program: Building collaborative pathways for transformative climate action

Building on the results and lessons learned from CAEP, the Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture Through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans (SCALA) programme, supported by FAO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is expanding and sustaining Colombia’s long-term climate commitment and transformative actions.

The development of the SCALA programme in Colombia strengthens the implementation of the Comprehensive Management Plan for Climate Change in the Agricultural Sector (PIGCC-Ag), which was formulated as a follow-up of the programme on Integrating Agriculture into National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag), jointly developed by FAO and UNDP with funding from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection through the International Climate Initiative.

The PIGCC-Ag aims to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and make it more resilient to climate change. It also aims to increase agricultural productivity and contribute to food security, the well-being of rural communities and environmental protection, all in line with Colombia’s climate change goals.

The SCALA programme provides technical assistance through FAO and UNDP. Collaborating with technical networks and partners, it supports Colombia’s transition toward climate-friendly agriculture. This includes discussions with government, non-government organizations and the private sector to develop specific adoption plans, building upon CAEP’s cost-benefit analyses and proposed voluntary agreements.

SCALA seeks to increase private-sector participation in climate-related initiatives in the agriculture and land-use sectors. Integrated actions are underway to design strategies that strengthen instruments, mechanisms and incentives for climate finance within the private agricultural sector. Additionally, a conceptual and governance framework for the implementation of voluntary agreements in priority subsectors within the PIGCC-Ag is being developed in continuity with CAEP’s work and proposed lessons learned in the country.

Colombia’s experience with CAEP and SCALA illustrates the strength of collaboration between government, private sector and international organizations in addressing climate change challenges.

Colombia’s journey towards achieving its NDC targets in agriculture is an inspiring example of concrete steps taken to combat climate change. Despite challenges, the results of CAEP and SCALA demonstrate the potential of collaboration in addressing climate issues.

As Colombia advances its NDC climate commitments, SCALA and CAEP have become critical vehicles in strengthening climate action for sustainable agri-food systems. These collaborations leverage CAEP’s strengths and reinforce SCALA’s efforts, bridging gaps in NDC implementation and driving transformative change in Colombia.