synergy logo.png

Gustavo Petro's Environmental Policy: Keeping Fossil Fuels Underground - Sarper Göksal


Gustavo Petro, won the Colombian presidential election with 50.5 percent of the vote. Despite getting the most votes in the first round held on May 29, Petro fell short of 50 percent plus one. On June 19, in the second round of the presidential elections, Petro defeated Rodolfo Hernández Suárez and made history as the first left-wing president of Colombia. In addition to making history as Colombia's first left-wing president, Gustavo Petro emerged as a radical politician, different from everyone else with his powerful promises throughout the election process.


Gustavo Petro aroused great interest in both local and global media with his bold promises and campaign platform as soon as he announced his candidacy for the presidency. Petro's election promises included promoting green energy instead of fossil fuels and reducing economic inequality. In 2020, carbon emissions reached the level of 89 million tons. Colombia, can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by implementing the plans to be made within the framework of Gustavo Petro's promise to keep fossil fuels underground.


While Petro promised a green energy transition by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use, it gave a strong message to the whole world, especially the Colombian people, by designating Francia Márquez, an Afro-Colombian human rights, and environmental activist and Goldman Environment Award winner, as her assistant. In 2018, Francia Márquez received much attention across the country, receiving the Goldman Environment Award for her work and organization to stop illegal gold mining in La Toma. Francia Márquez's work to stop mining must have caught the attention of the elected president, Petro, who, during his election campaign, proposed an agrarian reform that would restore productivity to 15 million hectares to end narco-feudalism. With the agrarian reform planned by Petro, it aims to stop oil exploration to free Colombia from its dependence on the mining and fossil fuel industries. Petro's proposals to change the country's economic model have been highly criticized for switching oil and coal investors to clean energy. Critics of Gustavo Petro said that Colombia's effort to shift more of its wealth to the poor has potential to turn the country into Venezuela. Petro also criticized Venezuela's commitment to oil, underlining that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had made a serious mistake by linking his social program to oil revenues. Petro delivered essential messages about the transition to renewable energy, citing "Maduro's Venezuela's commitment to non-renewable energy and the "authoritarian drift" of both governments.


Thirty-six percent of Colombia's exports in 2020 are crude oil and coal briquettes. In addition, Colombia earned a total revenue of 11.59 billion dollars from the non-renewable fossils it exports. Petro has been criticized for its intent to keep oil underground and phase out the oil sale in Colombia, which depends heavily on oil exports. By expanding the construction of hydroelectric dams, which are a potential source of green power, Gustavo Petro signals that revenue from the oil can come from clean and renewable energy sources in the long run, if not the short term. In addition, Petro's environmental policies are strongly advocated by the International Energy Agency. It says all new fossil fuel exploration projects must be stopped immediately in 2021 for the world to have a chance to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.


As a result, the election of Gustavo Petro as Colombia's new president could make Colombia the most significant producer to ban fossil fuel production. Gustavo Petro's nomination of renowned environmentalist Francia Márquez as his aide is a testament to the growing commitment to environmental issues in his plans. One of Márquez's campaign slogans against mining activities, the motto "We are a part of nature, we do not own it," has been a hope for the future of the Colombian people and the planet, and this hope is expected to become a reality with the election of Gustavo. Progressive solutions for the energy transition can be achieved by taking risks, and the whole world needs to have a significant share. Therefore, the fearless attitude of Gustavo Petro can play a leading role in the energy transition of the whole world.