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Major UK funding backs Columbian sustainable forest use

A £64 million support package from the UK for Columbia is aimed at improving forest governance and increasing uptake of sustainable forest management and agriculture. The grant finance has been awarded under the UK’s International Climate Finance programme (ICF). It comes a year after the UK and Columbia concluded a ‘Partnership for Sustainable Growth’, which focuses on ‘supporting the fight against deforestation and environmental crime and creation of sustainable economic livelihoods’.

The money will be spent on bolstering efforts to combat illegal logging and other environmental crimes in conflict-affected deforestation hotspots and on updating  Columbia’s ‘cadastre’ register of land ownership. “Better land registry records make property ownership clearer and help authorities make more informed decisions about which land to protect,” said Colombia Environment Vice Minister Roberto Mario Esmeral. “It can be a source of information to conserve forests and plan sustainable use of the land.”  

Mr Sharma said that UK support will ‘strengthen Colombia’s land rights and criminal justice system, controlling deforestation, while building a fairer, greener and more resilient rural economy’.

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) described Columbia as a ‘leading South American voice’ on environment issues, but said it had recently seen a spike in forest fires and deforestation in the wake of conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Under the support programme, the ‘cadastre’ work will be conducted through the World Bank, and measures to combat environmental crime through the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, plus local partners working with communities to establish sustainable farming and forestry approaches and businesses.

In February, Colombia announced the creation of a special military unit, derived from the police and armed forces, to protect national parks and step up operations against armed groups involved in illegal logging and setting forest fires. Last year the government said  

90 military operations were carried out in defence of the environment. Illegal timber was seized and 200 people arrested. 

Under its 2016-2020 ICF programme, the UK committed to spend £5.8 billion to tackle global climate change.  A fifth of this is going to forest and land use interventions and related carbon emission reduction. Columbian Minister for the Environment, Ricardo Lozano, said the UK funding was the biggest bilateral grant for environmental purposes awarded under the current Colombian administration.

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