Nicaragua's Second National Communication - June 2011


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.

Nicaragua's Second National Communication presents future climate change scenarios for Nicaragua for the 21st century. It includes vulnerability and adaptation studies to climate change for the water sector and it presents mitigation options in protected areas of the country, forestry and agriculture as well as a description of the National Climate Change Action Plan. It is predicted that climate change will result in an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, most notably hurricaines, rainfall variability, and rising sea levels, all of which will have significant impacts on the progress of development.

Project details

The Republic of Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, with an area of 129,494 square kilometers (USDS, 2011).149 Home to most of the Central American Volcanic Arc, the geographical variation in the country—from the Pacific Lowlands to the Amerrique Mountains and the Mosquito Coast along the Atlantic Lowlands—has contributed to Nicaragua’s status as a biodiversity hotspot. Nicaragua is extremely susceptible to hurricanes. Other natural hazards include destructive earthquakes, threat of volcanic eruption, and landslides. It is predicted that climate change will result in an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters. Therefore Nicaragua is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The country’s abundant resources support most of its economy, about one-third of which is derived from agriculture, timber and fishing (USDS, 2011). Manufacturing (particularly textiles and apparel), services (retail, hotels and restaurants) and remittances also form a significant portion of the country’s economy (CIA, 2011; USDS, 2011). Social and economic conditions have improved in Nicaragua since 1991 (when the Sandinistas government ended), with its ranking on the UN Human Development Index rising by 25 per cent between 1990 and 2010. Still, Nicaragua remains one of the poorest countries in Central America, with a per capita Gross Domestic Product in 2010 estimated to be US$2,900, and economic gains are uneven within the population (USDS, 2011).

Nicaragua's Second National Communication presents future climate change scenarios for Nicaragua for the 21st century, it includes vulnerability and adaptation studies to climate change for the water sector and it presents mitigation options in protected areas of the country, forestry and agriculture as well as a description of the National Climate Change Action Plan.

In December 2007, Nicaragua formulated its National Climate Change Action Plan (PANCC, Spanish acronym) based on a series of studies on vulnerability, mitigation options and climate change impact, whose objective is to develop adaptation measures for the most vulnerable sectors of the economy, such as agriculture and water resources and to contribute to the mitigation of GHG gases, particularly in the forestry sector.

Nicaragua is in the process of publishing their first National Climate Change Strategy. The Strategy was conceived with the help of UNDP and the Embassy of Denmark and the main vulnerabilities taken into account for Nicaragua and the main actions proposed are focused on extreme weather events, leaving aside the analysis of gradual climatic changes.

Adaptation Needs and Priorities

Nicaragua experiences a range of climate hazards including tropical cyclones, droughts, extreme rainfall events (via tropical storms) and floods. While no clear trend has emerged as of yet with respect to the occurrence of tropical cyclones, drought events often occur in relation to El Niño, particularly on the Pacific side of the country. The frequency of these events appears to be increasing (UNDP, 2010).

Temperature projections indicate that country’s the mean annual temperature will rise by 1.2o to 4.5oC by 2090, and that there will be more rapid warming in the northeast of the country. Rainfall projections show no consistent direction of change, but are mostly negative, with the strongest decreasing signal occurring for rainfall during the period of June to August, the wettest season of the year. Extreme rainfall events are not projected to increase, although such a trend is currently observed (UNDP, 2010).

In Nicaragua’s First National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the government identifies agriculture and livestock, energy, ecosystems, human health and water as priority sectors (República de Nicaragua, 2001). It identified priority actions in the water sector as being: water conservation; watershed management; infrastructure for water deviation; avoidance of deforestation; land planning measures; solid and liquid waste management; improving the country’s legal framework; implementation of water action plan; and decentralization and promotion of integrated use of watersheds.

In addition, Nicaragua developed a “National Action Plan on Climate Change” in 2003 (MARENA, 2003) that looks at land use, forestry, agriculture, energy and water; adaptation is addressed only in the context of agriculture and water. Similarly, a general governmental document on climate change discusses water, agriculture, forests, energy and coastal and marine resources as affected sectors (MARENA 2008a). Priorities identified in this document are, among other issues: integrated watershed management, conservation of protected areas, biodiversity conservation, reduction of environmental contamination, reforestation (with specified national targets), integrated marine and coastal ecosystems management, sustainable land use and citizen participation as key actions that help to adapt to a changing climate.

In 2010, the government elaborated the “National Strategy and Action Plan on Environment and Climate Change” for the years 2010 to 2015. It proposes actions related to climate information, as well as the water, agriculture, forestry and health sectors (República de Nicaragua, 2010). Specific priority adaptation actions noted in this plan are:

  • Water – Building water wells and aqueducts; water capture and storage; and watershed adaptation, including riverbank protection.
  • Agriculture – Resistant seeds, agricultural diversification, new crops and new economic activities.
  • Climate information – Strengthening monitoring and information collection, and early warning systems and response capacity.

Further government documents include: guidelines for the development of an adaptation strategy for forest ecosystems (CAHALAC, 2009); a vulnerability assessment for the Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte (RAAN; North Atlantic Autonomous Region) that discusses impacts on water, agriculture, fisheries, natural resources and biodiversity, human systems, coasts and health (Milan Perez and Martinez Ortiz, 2010); and a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-led capacity building initiative that involved vulnerability assessments for water, health and coasts (described below). Recently, the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) states that biodiversity (including forests), water (in particular related to agriculture), health and coasts are priority sectors in regards to adaptation. This statement suggests an extension of the strong emphasis on adaptation in the agriculture and water sectors that has been witnessed in the past.

National Level Policies and Strategic Documents

As noted above, Nicaragua has developed various polices and strategies that address needs in sectors vulnerable to climate change. First, in Nicaragua’s “National Plan of Human Development,” adaptation to climate change is mentioned under three of eight strategic programs: Productive and Commercial Strategy; Environmental Sustainability and Forest Development; and Disaster Risk Management. It does not take center stage in any of these programs, but it is mentioned as a factor to be taken into account in the development and execution of strategies and policies related to agriculture, environment, forestry and disaster management (República de Nicaragua 2009).

Second, the 2003 “National Action Plan on Climate Change” (MARENA, 2003), which does not appear to have been implemented, gives attention to adaptation, particularly with respect to agriculture and water. Third, the “National Strategy and Action Plan on Environment and Climate Change” (República de Nicaragua, 2010) describes key environmental challenges and sets out an agenda of actions for the period of 2010 to 2015 in the following areas: environmental education; defense and protection of the environment and natural resources; conservation, recovery and use of water sources; prevention and mitigation of and adaptation to climate change; and sustainable land use. In adaptation, measures relating to water, agriculture, climate information and disaster risk reduction are proposed. Lastly, an adaptation strategy was elaborated for a specific watershed, with a view to also informing policy decisions in other regions (MARENA 2008b). It identifies water and agriculture as key sectors (MARENA, 2008b). This prioritization is relevant for the national level as the watershed was selected with a view to matching sectors that are of country-wide importance.

The Climate Change Directorate of the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) is Nicaragua’s UNFCCC focal point, and all climate change related work of the government appears to be concentrated in a relatively small team within MARENA. Along with its various national strategies, Nicaragua has finalized one National Communication in conjunction with MARENA (República de Nicaragua, 2001). The Second National Communication contains, among other things, an adaptation strategy for coffee production in two regions (UNDP 2010).

At a regional level, Nicaragua 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 environmental ministries of SICA member states. Under the auspices of SICA and CCAD, a regional climate change strategy was developed in 2010 (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

Nicaragua has a very high level of adaptation project activity ongoing relative to other Central American countries. This programming has so far largely focused on capacity building at the national and sub-national levels, as well as research, mainly on water and agriculture—the country’s implicit priority sectors. However, two important projects involving more specific measures, including infrastructure investments, have been approved recently. They are financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Adaptation Fund and will be implemented over the next five years. As with previous initiatives, they tend to focus on agriculture and water. Other organizations, like Oxfam, are involved in community-level initiatives that are helping to build adaptive capacity.

Proposed Adaptation Action

The “National Strategy and Action Plan on Environment and Climate Change” proposes a number of adaptation projects, along with responsible ministries and organizations, as well as funders (República de Nicaragua, 2010). It is unclear to what extent these projects are in the process of being developed. Outside of these projects, Nicaragua is proposed to be part of a global initiative called “Up-scaling and Replicating Successful Approaches to Adaptation at the Local Level.” Funding for this project has been requested from the Special Climate Change Fund.


Agriculture and water are Nicaragua’s implicit priority areas for adaptation, reflecting its current climate risks and the location of its vulnerable populations. Adaptation projects have so far concentrated mostly on research and capacity building, but two larger infrastructure and capacity building initiatives have recently started. Current adaptation programming addresses needs in a number of different sectors, including agriculture and water, but also disaster risk management, coastal zone management and strengthening the capacity of government to prepare for and respond to climate change. Gaps in programming appear to be present in relation to human health and biodiversity; as well, none of the projects identified give explicit attention the gender-based impacts of climate change.

Nicaragua’s finalized “National Strategy and Action Plan on Environment and Climate Change” proposes a number of adaptation programs for the period 2010 to 2015. Moreover, Nicaragua’s policy framework is being strengthened, not the least through the national strategy which was adopted in 2010. Climate change is also mentioned in the country’s “National Human Development Plan.” Despite advancements made in adaptation measures, Nicaragua’s national government experiences weak capacities; MARENA, for example, has few permanent staff.


  • 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). Nicaragua. The World Factbook. Retrieved from
  • Centro del Agua del Trópico Humedo para America Latina y el Caribe [CATHALAC] (2009). Consideraciones Generales para el Desarrollo de una Estrategia de Adaptación de los Ecosistemas Forestales al Cambio Climático en Nicaragua.
  • Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo [CCAD] and Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana [SICA] (2010). Estrategia Regional de Cambio Climático. Documento Ejecutivo.
  • Milan Perez, J.A. and A. Martinez Ortiz (2010). Vulnerabilidad al Cambio Climático de la Región Autonoma del Atlantico Norte.
  • Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales [MARENA] (2008a). Nicaragua Unida frente al cambio climático!
  • Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales [MARENA] (2008b). Estrategia de Adaptación al Cambio Climático de los Sistemas Recursos Hídricos y Agricultura
  • Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales [MARENA] (2003). Plan de Acción Nacional Ante el Cambio Climático.
  • República de Nicaragua (2001). Primera Comunicación Nacional Ante la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre Cambio Climático. Retrieved from
  • República de Nicaragua (2009). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo Humano Actualizado 2009-2011.
  • República de Nicaragua (2010). Estrategia Nacional Ambiental y del Cambio Climático. Plan de Acción 2010-2015.
  • United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] (2010). Nicaraguan Second National Communication Project Website:
  • United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] (2010). UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles. Nicaragua. Retrieved from
  • United States Department for State [USDS] (2010). Background Note: Nicaragua. Retrieved from
Signature programmes: 
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 and partnering organizations: 
Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, Nicaragua
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Project status: 
Financing amount: 
Co-financing total: 

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 

Water Resources

  • Increase water supply, e.g. by using groundwater, building reservoirs, improving or stabilizing watershed management, desalination
  • Decrease water demands, e.g. by increasing efficiency, reducing water losses, water recycling, changing irrigation practices
  • Reduce water pollution
  • Improve or develop water management
  • Alter system operating rules, e.g. pricing policies, legislation

Reports and publications

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.


Yamil Bonduki
Coordinator, National Communications Support Programme (NCSP)
Office of Climate Change and Clean Development
Freddy Picado
Project Affiliate
Government of Nicaragua
Mayra Salinas Uriarte
Project Affiliate