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Ambition gap

What is Colombiaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

1.5°C compatible pathways

In its updated NDC from December 2020, Colombia pledges unconditionally to reach an emissions level of 167 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030 or 51% emissions reduction in 2030 compared to their BAU scenario, including LULUCF. When excluding LULUCF, this translates to an absolute emissions level range between 156-188 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030, equivalent to 2% below to 18% above 2015 levels.

In order to be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway, Colombia’s emissions, excluding LULUCF, would need to reach between 77-108 MtCO₂e by 2030 , equivalent to a 32 -51% reduction compared to 2015 levels. To fully achieve this Colombia would need a significant level of international support.

Colombia’s NDC is not conditional on international support. However, Colombia’s fair share lies above its domestic emissions pathway, indicating that it requires international support to close the gap between its fair share level and its 1.5°C domestic emissions pathway.

Long term pathway

Colombia has announced its intention to achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2050,17 and has also aligned the development of its updated NDC target with developing a carbon neutrality plan.5 Carbon neutrality is most often understood as achieving net zero CO₂ emissions rather than the full scope of GHGs, and including LULUCF.

Given the alignment of Colombia’s carbon neutrality target with the strong LULUCF mitigation focus present in its updated NDC, it can be assumed that Colombia has not in fact yet addressed its trajectory toward net zero GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in its current policies.

To be 1.5°C compatible, Colombia GHG emissions should be reduced by 89% below 2015 levels by around 2050 or reach levels not higher than 17 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050.20 On the road to net zero, the country will need to balance its remaining emissions through the development of land-based sinks. This means that stringent policies will be needed to reduce LULUCF emissions, currently a source of emissions accounting for close to a third of total GHG emissions in 2014, to become net negative in the future. CO₂ emissions would need to be at zero by 2050 and in some scenarios, by 2040.

Rapid upscaling of renewable energy will help to achieve zero CO₂ emissions earlier and reduce the need for carbon dioxide removal approaches.

1 Statista Research Department. Distribution of exports in Colombia in 2019, by sectors. Statista (2021).

2 Gobierno de Colombia- IDEAM. Segundo Reporte Bienal de Actualización- Informed de Inventario Nacional de GEI de Colombia. 180 (2019).

3 Editor. Colombian coal exports. The Coal Hub (2021).

4 U.S. Energy Information Administration. Colombia. U.S. Energy Information Administration (2019).

5 Gobierno de Colombia. Contribución Prevista Determinada a Nivel Nacional de la República de Colombia. (2020).

6 International Energy Agency (IEA). Colombia Country Profile: Total energy supply (TES) by source, 1990-2018. (2018)..

7 IRENA. Scaling Up Renewable Energy Investment in Colombia. (2020).

8 Groot, K. de, Vega, C. B.- & Juarez-Lucas, A. Turning the Tide: Improving Water Security for Recovery and Sustainable Growth in Colombia. World Bank 36 (2020).

9 Climate Action Tracker. Climate Target Update Tracker: Colombia. Climate Action Tracker (2021).

10 Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible Colombia. ‘Colombia Carbono Neutral’, una estrategia para combatir el cambio climático. Noticias: Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarollo (Colombia) (2021).

11 MinEnergía Colombia. Antes de 2050 el sector eléctrico colombiano será carbono neutral. (2020).

12 MinMinas & Gobierno de Colombia. Plan Integral de Gestión del Cambio Climático / Sector Minero Energético. (2018).

13 Gobierno de Colombia- MinAmbiente. Estrategia Nacional de Movilidad Eléctrica. (2019).

14 Ministerio de Vivienda Colombia. Resolución 0549 del 10 Julio de 2015. 1–10 (2015).

15 Ministerio de Vivienda Colombia. PLAN INTEGRAL DE GESTIÓN DEL CAMBIO CLIMÁTICO SECTORIAL: Sectora de Vivienda, Ciudad y Territorio. (2020).


17 NDC Partnership. Colombia and Panama Eye Carbon Neutrality by 2050.

18 Sánchez Molina, P. Colombia ratifica su intención de alcanzar 1.500 MW renovables instalados en 2022. PV Magazine Latin America (2019)..

19 Volcovici, V. Latin America pledges 70% renewable energy, surpassing EU: Colombia minister. Reuters (2019).

20 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

21 The re-expressed emissions excluding LULUCF below selected baseline used the 2015 emissions from PRIMAP (161 MtCO₂e), also shown in the figures, for its calculation. When possible, the needed emissions reduction be updated to be re-expressed relative to the latest historical year for the country. A range was used in the calculation of the unconditional NDC excluding LULUCF to reflect different possibilities depending on the extent to which LULUCF is used in mitigation actions.

22 In some of the analysed pathways, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).


Colombiaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
Net zero GHG excl. LULUCF*
Reference year
1.5°C emissions level
NDC (unconditional)
Ambition gap
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
NDC (unconditional)
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2015

Energy system transformation

Under Colombia’s updated NDC, a sectoral mitigation target of 11.2 MtCO₂e is set for the energy sector, contributing to its overall target of 51% emissions reduction by 2030 below BAU.5

However, current policies in Colombia’s energy sector are not in line with a 1.5°C warming limit. Fossil fuels still account for 77% of Colombia’s total primary energy supply (TPES), of which 12% is coal.16 Colombia’s updated NDC and current sectoral mitigation strategies for the energy sector make no mention of phasing out fossil fuels anytime soon, with no stated coal phase-out date, and most of energy sector mitigation is planned to be met through improvements in energy efficiency within industry and the buildings sector.

Rapid and decisive investment in renewable energy infrastructure and jobs is needed to both reduce energy sector emissions and economic dependence on fossil fuel sales. A minimum of 88% renewable power and 34-58% of the TPES from renewables by 2030 would be needed to decarbonise the energy mix in line with pathways leading to 1.5°C.

Lower proportions of renewables in the TPES by 2030 would require higher levels of negative emissions to counteract remaining emissions, which are not available at scale and would require high up-front investment costs.


Colombiaʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 0003 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020502 0003 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020502 0003 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 0003 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Colombiaʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for Colombia. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Reference year
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
86 to 113
47 to 66
−1 to 51
Relative to reference year in %
−46 to −29%
−70 to −59%
−100 to −68%
Total CO₂
34 to 56
−5 to 23
−42 to 2
2039 to 2057
Relative to reference year in %
−57 to −29%
−106 to −71%
−153 to −98%