Guatemala's Second National Communication - In Progress

Introduction

The creation of a National Communication offers countries the opportunity to contribute with technically sound studies and information that can be used for designing mitigation and adaptation measures, and project proposals that can and will help increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Activities generally include: V&A assessments, Greenhouse Gas Inventory preparation, Mitigation Analysis or Education, and awareness raising activities. The ultimate goal is the integration of climate change considerations into relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions.

There is currently a very high level of adaptation activity in Guatemala. To date, the focus of adaptation projects has been on capacity building, primarily in the water and agriculture sectors, as well as with respect to enhancing the capacity of the government to respond to climate change impacts. In addition, investments have been made in a coastal zone management, forestry and disaster risk management. Gaps in programming appear to exist with respect to human health, the built environment and gender. Projects have been supported by a wide range of funders and implementers, from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, to high levels of involvement from the government and local non-governmental organizations (usually as implementers).

To view progress on Guatemala's SNC click here.

Project Details

With coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Honduras, the mountainous country of Guatemala covers an area of 108,889 square kilometers and has the largest population in Central America (estimated to be 14.36 million people). With political stability having returned to the country since 1996, its economy has grown. Agriculture accounts for 26 per cent of exports (including traditional products such as sugar, bananas and coffee, as well as new products such as winter vegetables, fruit and cut flowers). Other important economic sectors include tourism and the export of textiles and apparel (USDS, 2011). Despite these gains, Gross Domestic Product per capita remains about half of the average for Latin America and the Caribbean (at US$5,200 in 2010; CIA, 2010).

Like most countries in Latin America, Guatemala has submitted one national communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Land use change and forestry are by far the largest contributors to GHG emissions in the country. The emission reduction potential of the sector is large, but not sufficiently explored. Guatemala counts with 8 CDM projects, one of which is in the agricultural sector.

The Project on Capacity building for Stage II adaptation to climate change (Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama) is funded through the GEF Trust Fund and is implemented by UNDP. Central America, Mexico and Cuba serve as the pilot region for elaborating and applying an Adaptation Policy Framework for preparing adaptation strategies, policies and measures. The application of this framework will demonstrate how policy for adaptation can be integrated into national sustainable development for at least three human systems: water resources, agriculture and human health. This demonstration project builds upon the Stage I vulnerability and adaptation assessments of the Initial National Communications of the eight participating countries of the region and will prepare them to move onto Stage III Adaptation. The outputs of the project, Stage II adaptation strategies may be used for preparing second National Communications.

Adaptation Needs and Priorities

Guatemala’s size and topography mean that there is a wide variation in climate within the country, from hot and dry to cool and humid areas. Current climate hazards include tropical storms and cyclones (with no clearly observed increasing or decreasing trend), droughts (increasing trend) and extreme rainfall events resulting in floods (also no clear trend).

Key climate projections show an increase in mean monthly temperatures of between 0.6° to 3.4°C by 2050, depending on the emission scenario and the season. There is much less clarity about rainfall, with climate models showing both increases and decreases depending on the emissions scenarios. Sea levels are expected to rise, however the extent to which they will do so is uncertain due to other factors, including the movement of tectonic plates (República de Guatemala, 2001).

National adaptation priorities have been identified in a number of key documents. Guatemala’s First National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) focuses its detailed vulnerability assessments on the health, forest, staple foods and water sectors, implying that it is in these sectors where the impacts of climate change will be harshest (República de Guatemala, 2001). Subsequent documents continue to refer to the sectors highlighted in the First National Communication. The more recent “National Climate Change Policy,” developed by the government of President Alvaro Colom and published in 2009, lists as key objectives capacity development, vulnerability reduction and adaptation, along with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (Guatemala, 2009). Within the policy, the following areas are considered relevant to adaptation action: health; agriculture, livestock and food security; forest resources; integrated water resources management; ecosystems conservation and management; and infrastructure.

Based on these policy documents, health, water, agriculture, forests/ecosystems and infrastructure can be considered key sectors for adaptation in Guatemala.

Key Vulnerabilities: 

  • Agriculture/Food Security
  • Water Resources
  • Public Health
  • Land Resources

In terms of priority action, the First National Communication focuses solely on mitigation action and not adaptation priorities (República de Guatemala, 2001). Similarly, the “National Climate Change Policy” does not identify specific adaptation priorities either, but does propose the following guidelines which would strengthen adaptation: promote traditional and ancestral practices for natural resource use and management; take preventive measures; adopt integrated water resources management and prioritize protection of water bodies; and include climate variables in development planning (Guatemala, 2009). Additional studies conducted in two watersheds in the context of a regional adaptation program identified adaptation measures for water and food security. For water, the report proposes action on sanitation, demand management, irrigation, water storage, forest protection and reforestation, flood protection and early warning systems. For food security, recommendations include organizational, commercial, technological, financial, normative and territorial measures to vitalize the food production chain (MARN, 2007a, 2007b). Finally, in a study conducted on two watersheds, the construction of flood barriers, water treatment plants and improvements in irrigation efficiency are proposed as important adaptation measures (Guatemala, 2008).

National Level Policies and Strategic Documents

The “National Climate Change Policy” (Guatemala, 2009) is Guatemala’s core policy document on climate change. It lays out the basis, objectives, entry points, guidelines and legal basis for national climate change adaptation and mitigation. Key objectives include capacity development, vulnerability reduction and adaptation, as well as climate change mitigation. The document specifies key sectors for adaptation action, but does not indicate any specific actions or priorities.

Following on from this effort, the country is expected to publish its Second National Communication to the UNFCCC soon. Guatemala’s Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) is the UNFCCC focal point and is leading all work related to climate change for the government, including the drafting of the Second National Communication. The first Communication, dating from 2001, presented the results of vulnerability assessments for various sectors, but did not indicate a way forward for adaptation.

Also within the policy space, in its current strategic plan, the Secretariat for Planning and Programming of Guatemala’s National Planning Unit (SEGEPLAN) only mentions adaptation to climate change once in the context of territorial planning and risk management (SEGEPLAN, 2010). A large IADB-funded capacity building project, to be launched in the near future, aims to strengthen climate change institutions in the country through better interagency collaboration and the inclusion of climate change into a new “National Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction”.

Guatemala is a member of the Central American Integration System (SICA), the institutional framework for the integration of Central American states, and of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD), a committee which brings together the environmental ministries of the SICA member states. Under the auspices of SICA and CCAD, a regional climate change strategy has recently been developed (CCAD and SICA, 2010). The strategy summarizes climate information and sectoral vulnerabilities, and proposes six strategic areas for action, including “Vulnerability and adaptation to climate variability and change, and risk management.” Under this theme, nine strategic objectives (with over 150 measures) are listed: disaster risk reduction, agriculture and food security, forest ecosystems and biodiversity, water, health, coastal-marine systems, tourism, indigenous people and public infrastructure. The strategy’s other focal areas are: mitigation; capacity building; education, awareness raising, communication and participation; technology transfer; and international negotiations and management.

Current Adaptation Action

There is currently a very high level of adaptation activity in Guatemala. To date, the focus of adaptation projects has been on capacity building, primarily in the water and agriculture sectors, as well as with respect to enhancing the capacity of the government to respond to climate change impacts. In addition, investments have been made in a coastal zone management, forestry and disaster risk management. Gaps in programming appear to exist with respect to human health, the built environment and gender. Projects have been supported by a wide range of funders and implementers, from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, to high levels of involvement from the government and local non-governmental organizations (usually as implementers).

Proposed Adaptation Action

Beyond current adaptation action, several large projects have been proposed for implementation in Guatemala. These include two food security programs and a coastal zone management project, with potential funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Another large project on increasing climate resilience in agriculture is waiting for approval from the Adaptation Fund.

Assessment

As with most of its neighbors, Guatemala has to date only submitted one National Communication. However, as the IADB noted when announcing its large capacity building and governance loan to the Guatemalan government, there is currently a lot of momentum in the country on climate change policy. The government has developed a “National Climate Change Policy” and funding has been approved for adaptation, though no specific government plans relating to adaptation have yet been made available. And while sectors have not explicitly been prioritized, key documents largely overlap in identifying health, agriculture, water, forests, ecosystems and infrastructure as key areas. Programmatically, there have been quite a number of important adaptation project implemented and, significant, larger projects have recently been approved or are pending approval. To date activities have focused on governance and capacity building (mostly for government institutions), as well as more local-level issues related to water and agriculture. Projects relating to forests tend to focus on mitigation rather than adaptation. Despite being a significant concern, there are no current or proposed activities associated with the health sector.

References:

  • Keller, Echeverría, Parry (2011) “Review of Current and Planned Adaptation Action: Central America and Mexico.” Adaptation Partnership / International Institute for Sustainable Development.
  • Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] (2011). Guatemala. The World Factbook. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gt.html.
  • Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo [CCAD] and Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana [SICA] (2010). Estrategia Regional de Cambio Climático. Documento Ejecutivo.
  • Guatemala (2009). Política Nacional de Cambio Climático.
  • Guatemala (2008). Evaluación y Planificación del Recurso Hídrico a través de WEAP.
  • Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales [MARN] (2007a). Análisis de Vulnerabilidad Futura de los Granos Básicos al Cambio Climático. Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales.
  • Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales [MARN] (2007b). Análisis de Vulnerabilidad Futura de los Recursos Hídricos al Cambio Climático. Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales.
  • República de Guatemala (2001). Primera Comunicación Nacional sobre Cambio Climático. Retrieved fromhttp://unfccc.int/essential_background/library/items/3599.php?rec=j&priref=3434#beg
  • Sectretaría de Planificación y Programación [SEGEPLAN] (2010). Plan estratégico SEGEPLAN 2008-2012.
Climate-Related Hazards Addressed: 
Level of Intervention: 
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Through improved identification of national circumstances, government agencies and other actors will increase their abilities to insulate at risk urban and rural populations from the adverse effects of climate change.
Implementing Agencies & Partnering Organizations: 
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), Government of Guatemala
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Project Status: 
Under Implementation
Location: 
Urban
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
420,000
Co-Financing Total: 
410,000

Key Results and Outputs

  • Sustainable development and the integration of climate change concerns into medium- and long-term planning
  • Inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases
  • Measures contributing to addressing climate change
  • Research and systematic observation
  • Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and response strategies
  • Education, training and public awareness

Potential Adaptation Measures:

 

Energy Sector

  • Energy Demand
  • Analyze High Consumption Scenario
  • Analyze Moderate Consumption Scenario

Energy Reduction Options

  • Up date Technology
  • Fuel Switching
  • Energy Efficiency (lighting, transportation)
  • Demand and Supply Side Management

Forestry Sector

  • Forest Conservation and Management
  • Protection and Conservation
  • Improve Forest Management
  • Increasing Carbon Reserve
  • Increase Forest covering

Environmental Services

  • Bioenergy Activities
  • Actions to improve uses of forest products as fuel

Monitoring and Evaluation

In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.

Parties to the Convention must submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The required contents of national communications and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I and non-Annex I Parties. This is in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the Convention.

The core elements of the national communications for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties are information on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and details of the activities a Party has undertaken to implement the Convention. National communications usually contain information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness.

Since 1994, governments have invested significant time and resources in the preparation, collection and validation of data on GHG emissions, and the COP has made determined efforts to improve the quality and consistency of the data, which are ensured by established guidelines for reporting. Non-Annex I Parties receive financial and technical assistance in preparing their national communications, facilitated by the UNFCCC secretariat.

Contacts

UNDP
Yamil Bonduki
Coordinator, National Communications Support Programme (NCSP)
UNDP
Flor Bolaños
Country Officer
Government of Guatemala
Ing. Carlos Mansilla
Project Coordinator