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María Susana Muhamad González

COLOMBIA - Green Economy

María Susana Muhamad González

Minister, Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Bio

María Susana Muhamad González is a politician and environmentalist from the political party Colombia Humana. Formerly the secretary of the environment and secretary general of the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá, she was appointed Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development in 2022. She was elected councilor of Bogotá in 2019, a position she held until the first half of 2022. Muhamad González holds a degree in political science from Universidad de los Andes and a master’s degree in sustainable development management and planning from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. She was a sustainable development consultant for Shell Global Solutions International in The Hague. In 2021, she was elected as the first vice president of the national coordination board of the Colombia Humana party.

"The main source of greenhouse gas emissions in Colombia is the change of land use, which has to do with the expansion of the agricultural frontier and carbon processes."
The Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development is focused on consolidating Colombia’s position as a global power in the fight against climate change and protecting precious ecosystems and biodiversity.
What are the ministry’s major priorities, and how is it developing the idea of a social ecological transition across the country?

The main source of greenhouse gas emissions in Colombia is the change of land use, which has to do with the expansion of the agricultural frontier and carbon processes. It also has to do with illicit economies and the main critical ecosystems of Colombia that sustain everything that we can do as a society. The current environment degradation in the country at its root is due to the lack of state presence in these areas due to the armed conflict that took place there. A key objective of the socio-ecological transition is to stop deforestation. The deforestation of 1ha of land produces greenhouse emissions and also eliminates the country’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The key thrust of the socio-ecological transition is reducing greenhouse gases by consolidating the critical ecosystems whilst including the communities in those areas. This can only happen if we are able to consolidate the peace process. Otherwise, illicit economies will take over and result in ecological devastation, more greenhouse gas emissions, less biodiversity, and less capacity for adaption of our nature, which underpins key economic sectors including land reform, agro-industrial development, and especially ecotourism. Our work is mostly based on these regions, though our challenge is communicating this work to the cities, where 75% of the population lives. These activities are part of the change of the whole Colombian society, being able to appreciate our natural resources, what that means for the 21st century, and how urban areas help create markets and opportunities. We have to create a consciousness of the environmental reality.

How would you characterize the role of Colombia on the global stage when it comes to championing the more radical ideas for sustainability?

We are in a special position because of the political change. Colombia is perhaps the only country in the world that depends on exports of coal and oil and has declared it needs to make a transition in a timely manner. The transition is not only about the energy matrix but also an economic transition so that the country does not have to depend on oil and coal exports. We want to instead think about how we can replace that fiscal income and improve the balance of trade. We are working on two fronts. First, we are looking at how we can become an exporter of green energy and grow tourism in a responsible way. This is why security of the ecosystems and working with those communities is extremely important. At the same time, we need international economic partners to help with the transition. We have to come close to reducing 50% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, so we are seven years away, and one option to achieving this is through loans.

How can the ministry work to incentivize businesses to invest in the renewable sector?

We have two main obstacles. In certain areas where there is greater potential, like La Guajira, we must broker a social agreement with indigenous communities, or else it will be difficult to develop the renewable industry there. Second, we need to create the investment conditions for that and require a stronger state that creates the key conditions that make it more attractive for businesses to come to the country. We also need partners to co-invest with. For example, Germany needs to replace its gas dependence on Russia, so we need to demonstrate how it can invest in that industry here so we can export green hydrogen and supply Germany’s strategic needs. It is about creating partnerships between governments that allows for a new sector of the economy to flourish.

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