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Environmental Activist Elected as First Black Vice President of Colombia

by Olivia Lai Americas Jun 21st 20222 mins
Environmental Activist Elected as First Black Vice President of Colombia

Colombia’s first leftist president-elect will be joined by notable environmental activist Francia Marquez, promising plans to ban new fossil fuel production.

Award-winning environmental activist Francia Marquez is set to become Colombia’s first Black and second female vice president, bringing new focus on climate change for the country. 

Hailing from a remote village La Toma, Marquez first rose to prominence for her successful efforts to remove gold miners from the collectively owned Afro-Colombian lands around her village. She continued to be an unwavering environmental campaigner despite numerous death threats, and has since emerged as a powerful spokeswoman for Black Colombians and other marginalised communities.

In 2018, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, also known as the Green Nobel Prize, for her environmental work as well as advocacy for gender and racial equality. 

Marquez went on to join the ticket with Gustavo Petro, who will be Colombia’s first leftist leader in a traditionally conservative country after they were both voted in on June 19. The environmentalist’s win is also significant as the Afro Colombian population has been historically marginalised.

The duo ran on a platform to ramp up efforts to shift away from fossil fuels. As written in Petro’s manifesto, he is committed to “undertake a gradual de-escalation of economic dependence on oil and coal”. This includes ending new oil exploration licences and to halt all pilot fracking projects and the development of offshore fossil fuels. The president-elect also mentioned plans to repurpose the coal hub of La Guajira, a desert region on the northernmost tip of South America, for solar energy projects.

As vice president, Marquez will also play a prominent role in executing strategies and policies for a green economy, along with wealth redistribution. “This is the government of the people with calloused hands,” Marquez said in her acceptance speech in Bogota.“We women are going to eradicate this country’s patriarchy. We’re going to fight for the rights of our Mother Earth.”

The International Energy Agency warned that new investments in fossil fuel production are incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5C. Currently, Colombia produces around 1% of the world’s coal, oil and gas. Fossil fuel exports also represent the country’s largest source of foreign currency. Should Petro’s new administration formalise his commitments to phase down fossil fuel production, Colombia could become the largest fossil fuel producer to do so.

But it will not be an easy road ahead. The is considerable political pressure to maintain fossil fuel exports as coal mining in regions such as La Guajira and Cesar still represents about a third of the gross domestic product and provides many jobs.

You might also like: New Chile President to Put Climate Change First Amid Green Wave in Latin America

Featured image by: Wikimedia Commons


About the Author

Olivia Lai

Olivia is a journalist and editor based in Hong Kong with previous experience covering politics, art and culture. She is passionate about wildlife and ocean conservation, with a keen interest in climate diplomacy. She’s also a graduate of University of Edinburgh in International Relations with a Master’s degree from The University of Hong Kong in Journalism. Olivia was the former Managing Editor at Earth.Org.

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