Climate Change and SustainabilityINERCO Colombia

INERCO analyses challenges and progress of business and institutional management in Colombia with respect to the Paris agreement

On 14 September, INERCO Colombia held the sixth edition of the HSEC technical conference 2016, with the participation of important representatives of national and international public and private bodies.

The event, divided into three blocks, presented the “Challenges and progress for business and institutional management in Colombia in relation to the Paris agreement”. The first block revolved around the environment, with discussion of the country’s strategies to meet its climate change adaptation and mitigation commitments. There was also analysis of State institutions’ response capacity to offer guidelines for companies and territories and contribute to compliance with Colombia’s proposed targets under the agreement.

Subsequently, the second block explored the productive sectors’ and Colombian governmental institutions’ actions with communities with respect to climate variability and change, for the benefit of the country at this juncture.

Finally, the third segment examined the impacts of climate change on the environment and on society, followed by an analysis of its health effects, both in terms of public health and the impact on workers, and the challenges of these health impacts for companies and government bodies.


Block 1: the country’s response capacity to implement climate change adaptation and mitigation measures

The block began with a presentation from INERCO Group president Vicente Cortés Galeano, who gave a summary of the objective and the economic and financial instruments and measures of the Paris Agreement. He also discussed the actions implemented to date by Colombia, planned according to these measures and instruments, given the huge opportunity the Paris Agreement represents for Colombia and the consequent need for effective management. Cortés concluded that mitigation, adaptation and increased resilience are a priority for national security. Colombia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are ambitious and work will be required to implement them.

In other words, we have a small, immediate head start to achieve a more innovative, more productive and more competitive economy. It is evident that Colombia has potential to be a net beneficiary of the agreement; however, this requires a presence in the areas where these resources are to be allocated. In conclusion, there is a need to take decisive action to transform these plans into specific, financeable, structured programmes and projects and to obtain funding.

Following the same line as Cortés’ presentation, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development director for climate change, Rodrigo Suárez Castaño, affirmed that one of the main messages of the agreement is to implement the proposed commitments nationally and regionally and at the levels of the private sector, communities and research, academic and technology centres, as the commitment of the national government alone is not sufficient.

With respect to this, the Ministry has drawn up a national climate change policy, with two objectives: on the one hand, to establish the national contribution, which includes both the forecast 20% of emissions by 2030 and means of implementation related to the technology and innovation centre to develop new technology and capacities, education and financing; and on the other hand, for territories and economic sectors to adapt to climate change, which the work of the Ministry’s adaptation plans, as a strategy to improve competitiveness and sustainability by reducing unexpected future costs. These policies are linked to national government strategies, such as the Colombian strategy for low-carbon development, the National adaptation plan and the Strategy for the reduction of forest degradation.

Next, the sub-director for sustainability and environmental business of National Natural Parks of Colombia, Carlos Mario Tamayo Saldarriaga, stated that the effective management of protected areas not only contributes to reducing greenhouse gases, but also guarantees ecosystem services for all productive sectors. Protected areas that are inadequately managed and protected will have a large impact on the various productive activities, and therefore on the country’s social and economic development. For this reason, it is necessary for these to areas to be included in the national climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and strategies.

Similarly, and from the perspective of employers and industry, the National Business Association of Colombia (ANDI) vice-president for sustainable development Carlos Herrera Santos ratified his organisation’s support for the creation of an international agreement and companies’ contributions as part of the solution. He explained, however, that it is essential to consider competitiveness and social development in the planning and implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures; otherwise, goals to reduce the effects of climate change will not be viable. In summary, climate change should be a collective, equitable responsibility to generate opportunities and green proposals to increase the country’s productivity.

Later in the day, Juan Daniel Ávila, manager of the Integrated Management System for the Empresa de Energía de Bogotá’s (EEB) Sustainable Development department, explained the reasons for which his company aimed to have greater participation in promoting energy efficiency in all productive sectors through unconventional renewable energy and more efficient energy management. An additional premise is the sustainable development of the company and its areas of operation, from working collaboratively with the authorities and with communities to convert these into a driver of development, the achievement of goals, and quality of life, continuing down the path of climate change mitigation and sustainability objectives.

César Augusto Buitrago Gómez, climate change leader at Ecopetrol S.A., gave the last talk in the block, speaking about his company’s strategy, focusing on four main thrusts: mitigation, vulnerability and adaptation, technology and research and participation in drafting policy documents, the main objectives of which are to maintain low-carbon operations and to reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure to climate variability and change.


Block 2: the role of communities and companies in the country’s climate change agenda

The second block opened with a presentation from INERCO Consultoría Colombia project manager Roberto Cárdenas Grajales, who examined the role of humans as the origin, cause and solution to climate change. It is therefore considered fundamental for the social context to be the first and last considerations in addressing climate change.

This was followed by an intervention from Interconexión S.A. (ISA) corporate sustainability director Martha Ruby Falla González, who agreed with the previous speakers, stating that climate change is both a risk and an opportunity for companies. She also spoke of the company’s focus on sustainability, which takes the form of a climate strategy based around asset management; the optimisation of the environmental, social and real estate process; and regulatory management and innovation. She finally expressed the need for a highly active political sector that does not “punish” discerning companies.

The next speaker, Henry Martínez, HSEQ engineer under the Vice-President for Environmental and Technical Affairs of the Colombian Oil Association (ACP), discussed the ACP’s role and commitment to promoting good practices, bridge-building and the creation of spaces where industry, government, academia and communities can work together. The combined labour of national, regional and local government and industry in general, with the involvement of communities and with each actor working in its own role and area of authority, is an advantage and a guarantee of objectivity and credibility.

This was followed by a presentation of the National Natural Parks of Colombia ecotourism plan, from the organisation’s sub-director for sustainability and environmental business, Carlos Mario Tamayo Saldarriaga. The aim of the initiative is for communities to protect their local areas, thereby improving their socio-economic circumstances through strategic partnerships to generate employment and to become owners of their territory. However, the company still has several outstanding challenges in this area, such as: strengthening value chains in the nature tourism sector, boosting the official registration of tourism operators and improving public–private partnerships and infrastructure at destinations, as communities are essential to the conservation of protected areas.

As a guiding principle connecting the different blocks, María del Pilar Restrepo, advisor to the Financial Management Committee of the National Planning Department’s National Climate Change System (a United Nations Development Programme), demonstrated the Committee’s work through its lines of action and financial innovation pilot projects. These pilots aim to broaden green growth, public–private partnerships, the understanding of priorities in public policy and the exploitation of business and investment opportunities.

There was also a presentation from Roberto Saavedra, director of the Environmental Management Unit of the Colombian central bank, on the work to strengthen the organisation’s environmental awareness and concept of biodiversity in order to contribute to the welfare of Colombians. The bank’s mission and corporate objectives, developed internally and later transmitted outward, disseminate the importance of water and biodiversity. In conclusion, for the Bank of the Republic, the reinforcement of environmental culture is a project to be carried out in the long term, convincing opinion formers and economic actors of the importance of Colombia’s environmental heritage and controlling CO2 emissions to achieve a sustainable economy.

Finally, Roberto Cárdenas Grajales closed the block, concluding that awareness of climate change has spread through society, being promoted at the individual level, and transcending this to generate daily habits and behaviour to create the capacity for local and global impact. He also demonstrated the presence of gender in climate change and the way in which strategies could focus on different social groups, such as young people, to create a dynamic, participative process.


Block 2: the role of communities and companies in the country’s climate change agenda

Francisco Javier Hoces-Moral López, general manage of INERCO Consultoría Colombia, led discussions in the third and final block, analysing the impact of climate resilience on day-to-day affairs and on workplace health and safety planning and design.

The first expert, South 32 (Cerro Matoso S.A.) superintendent for health Juan Carlos Pérez Gamboa, joined the debate with a presentation on “Challenges in the occupational assessment of high temperatures in the context of climate change”, asking four questions that arise from legal loopholes: At what point is there decreased expectation of a healthy life? When is an activity permanent? What is the correct model of assessment? and What is the legal risk? These questions and their answers attempt to paint a more detailed picture of the impact of climate change on workers’ health.

Lina Marcela Guerrero Sánchez, a specialised professional from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection Sub-Directorate for Environmental Health, was the second speaker in the block, revealing that her office had created an adaptation plan policy strategy, with the objective of establishing technical guidelines to prepare and implement climate change adaptation plans in the regions from an environmental health perspective. She also stressed the importance of indicators for the proper management of these types of strategy and the inclusion of resources in territorial agencies’ plans.

Thirdly, María del Carmen Bladé, director of INERCO Consultoría Colombia’s Workplace Health and Safety department, gave an overview of environmental health, occupational health and climate change; these are not isolated factors and can not be thought of as independent elements. In other words, environmental health and occupational health are linked by common threat sources, necessitating a revision of new and existing work stations, adaptation to the new reality all the way from the design phase to proper management during operation, and finally the design of systems that are more robust against potential increases in human error.

Finally, Patricio Navarro Blázquez, the INERCO Group’s director of business development, presented his conclusion, affirming that it is necessary in the face of climate change to integrate risk management into the management of an activity, starting at the initial conception of a project; additionally, resilient systems and infrastructure must be developed, with projects adopted with an integrated perspective.

At the end of the event, INERCO Consultoría Colombia founding member and technical manager Gabriel Medina Moncayo planned the revision of the process by which conferences are planned, citing the need to analyse what these conferences have been over the past six years and to return to a cycle of review of subjects first addressed and developed years ago.

Similarly, Vicente Cortés Galeano concluded the conference with the statement that “the change in climate that derives from the Paris Agreement is an opportunity for Colombia,” and that as a result of this, there is a need to work tirelessly to obtain resources to realise the plans and strategies targeting mitigation and adaptation.


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Francisco Hoces-Moral López

Francisco Hoces-Moral López

Director de Consultoría Grupo INERCO

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