Honduras' Second National Communication - In Progress
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.
Honduras is considered to be highly vulnerable to a range of current and future climatic risks. The Central American country is already experiencing rising temperatures and increasing variability in rainfall. There have been prolonged and more intense droughts in southern and eastern regions, as well as more intense rainfall events in northern areas. Cyclonic activity over the Atlantic has increased and sea levels are rising. Most of these tendencies, and several others, are expected to worsen with ongoing climate change.
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One of the poorest countries in Central America, economic and social development in Honduras was significantly set back by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Although slowly recovering from this event, above 65 per cent of the country’s 8.1 million people live in poverty (USDS, 2010). In recent years, Honduras has diversified its economy away from a historical dependence on the export of bananas and coffee; industry now forms more than a quarter of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). About 30 per cent of the country’s GDP comes from exports to the United States (CIA, 2011). The country’s largest source of foreign income is remittances, primarily from Hondurans living in the United States (USDS, 2010).
Honduras has submitted only one National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1997, laying out the actions that the governments has already taken and the analytical basis for its policy response to climate change and the commitment to take future actions within an official international framework. The Communication established the First National GHG Inventory with 1995 as its base year, it described the strategy to reduce GHG in Honduras, including for the agricultural and forestry sector and it included the results of vulnerability studies to climate change for the water sector.
A Second National Communication is in the works and scheduled to be completed in the near future. It aims to propose specific mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change for the various sectors of the economy through a Program of Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change. It will also include the Second National GHG Inventory with 2000 as its base year.
As a product of the Second National Communication, a National Climate Change Strategy is being prepared as well as set of policies aimed at generating mitigation and adaptation options at the national and local level for three priority sectors: energy (transportation), land use change and forestry (LUCF) and water resources.
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
Honduras is considered to be highly vulnerable to a range of current and future climatic risks. The Central American country is already experiencing rising temperatures and increasing variability in rainfall. There have been prolonged and more intense droughts in southern and eastern regions, as well as more intense rainfall events in northern areas. Cyclonic activity over the Atlantic has increased and sea levels are rising. Most of these tendencies are expected to worsen with ongoing climate change (UNDP, 2008).
The “National Climate Change Strategy” proposes lines of action for adaptation in priority sectors (SERNA, 2011):
- Freshwater – Reduce drought impacts and strengthen groundwater recharge; mitigate climate-induced changes in river flows; and prevent and avoid reductions in water quality.
- Agriculture, soils and food security – Help farmers adapt to climate change by improving crop and pasture resilience and through prevention and reduction of climate change-induced plagues and diseases; avoid soil erosion, productivity losses and possible desertification of soils; and preserve and improve nutrition; and contribute to food security under climate change conditions.
- Forests and biodiversity – Preserve the function, structure and composition of ecosystems in the long run, with a view to improving their adaptive capacity; prevent forest loss from forest fires and plagues; and implement adequate forest management for protection and production.
- Marine and coastal systems – Preserve the structure and dynamics of marine and coastal ecosystems in the context of climate change, particularly sea level rise as well as increases in sea and air temperatures.
- Human health – Reduce the incidence and geographic distribution of human diseases caused by climate change effects.
- Risk management system – Reduce risks and impacts associated with the occurrence of extreme hydro-meteorological events that climate change renders more frequent, intense and long; encourage climate-proof infrastructure; and strengthen the civil security and governance of the country to prevent, reduce and address temporal and permanent displacements of human populations.
- Hydropower – Facilitate adaptation of hydroelectric power plants.
These priorities will also be reflected in Honduras’ Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is expected to be published soon. The First National Communication focused on similar areas (SERNA 2000). Proposed adaptation measures range from awareness raising, improved science and monitoring to structural measures such as improved water storage or life barriers. However, no prioritization of adaptation measures has been conducted to date.
National Level Policies and Strategic Documents
Honduras’ development plan and vision for 2010 to 2038 identifies climate change adaptation and mitigation as one of 11 strategic themes (Honduras 2010). On adaptation, the strategy mentions the development of monitoring and measurement systems, early warning systems, new forms of soil use and agricultural production, construction codes, local risk management, preventative land-use planning, water storage and watershed conservation as key measures. In the longer run, it is recognized that climate change should be mainstreamed into sectoral planning and into all public and private investment decisions. Climate change is also mentioned as a cross-cutting issue under other strategic themes such as “Regional Development, Natural Resources and Environment.” Furthermore, the plan contains a set of strategic objectives, of which one is to reduce climate risk as measured by the Global Climate Risk Index. According to this index, Honduras is currently the third most vulnerable country globally. The government wants the country to drop to number 50 in this ranking. The “National Climate Change Strategy” translates these broader goals into strategic lines of action for adaptation and mitigation (see above).
The national authority in charge of climate change issues is the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment (SERNA). SERNA is responsible for the implementation of international treaties (such as the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol). As such, SERNA leads the elaboration of National Communications and of the “National Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.” The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has provided crucial support to SERNA in the elaboration of these documents.
Honduras is a member of 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 environmental ministries of SICA member states. Under the auspices of the 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, of which one is themed “Vulnerability and adaptation to climate variability and change, and risk management”. Nine strategic objectives with over 150 measures relating to disaster risk reduction, agriculture and food security, forest ecosystems and biodiversity, water, health, coastal-marine systems, tourism, indigenous people and public infrastructure are mentioned under this theme. Other strategic areas are: mitigation; capacity building; education, awareness raising, communication and participation; technology transfer; and international negotiations and management.
Current Adaptation Action
Relative to other Central American countries, there are a high number of projects being implemented in Honduras. Most of these projects have so far mainly focused on research, and are being implemented as part of larger, multi-country regional or global initiatives. One larger project involving concrete adaptation action, called “Encouraging Climate Change Adaptation in High-Risk Municipalities and Communities in Honduras,” is currently being implemented. Honduras will also host one of the first projects financed by the Adaptation Fund. Both projects are run by UNDP in collaboration with SERNA, probably the two most important actors on adaptation in Honduras. It is likely that some non-governmental organizations undertake certain adaptation actions on the community-level but these have not been identified through this review.
Proposed Adaptation Action
In the future it is expected that Honduras will participate in two regional projects supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one focused on food security and the second on coastal zone management.
Honduras is considered highly vulnerable to climate risks. A good number of adaptation activities are already taking place to counter these risks, though most of them have focused on research and capacity building. The country’s adaptation needs have been identified to some extent but not prioritized, and the institutional capacity to undertake action seems relatively week. However, a new development plan and vision presented by the government in 2010 highlights climate change as a major concern. Furthermore, the government is soon expected to finalize its “National Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation” as well as its Second National Communication. These documents, along with a range of vulnerability research projects, will form a sounder basis for designing specific adaptation measures. The project “Addressing Climate Change Risks on Water Resources in Honduras: Increased Systemic Resilience and Reduced Vulnerability of the Urban Poor” recently approved by the Adaptation Fund Board draws explicitly on the governments development plan and vision, and on the research projects and on preliminary results of the Second National Communication, indicating thereby how this foundation might turn into action in the future.
- 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). Honduras. The World Factbook. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ho.html.
- Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo [CCAD] and Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana [SICA] (2010). Estrategia Regional de Cambio Climático. Documento Ejecutivo.
- República de Honduras (2010). Visión de País 2010–2038 y Plan de Nación 2010–2022.
- Secretaría de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente [SERNA] (2000). Primera Comunicación de Honduras a la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre Cambio Climático. Retrieved from http://unfccc.int/essential_background/library/items/3599.php?rec=j&priref=2753#beg
- Secretaría de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente [SERNA] (2011). Estrategia Nacional de Cambio Climático Honduras (ENCC).
- United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] (2008). El cambio climático en Honduras: una realidad del presente.
- United States Department for State [USDS] (2010). Background Note: Honduras. Last updated 18 August 2010. Retrieved fromhttp://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1922.htm.
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:
Agriculture and Food Security
- Educational & outreach activities to change management practices to those suited to climate change
- Switch to different cultivars
- Enhance irrigation efficiency and/or expand irrigation
- Agricultural research and transfer of technology
- Improve or develop water management
Coastal Zones and Marine Ecosystems
- Develop Integrated Coastal Zone Management
- Develop planning/new investment requirements
- Protect, including building sea walls, and beach nourishment
- Research/monitor the coastal ecosystem
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.