Panama's Second National Communication - 2011

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.

Panama’s First and Second National Communication identifies the following sectors as sensitive to climatic changes: agriculture, water, coastal-marine systems, health and forests. The first three are highlighted as particularly vulnerable. Panama’s Second National Communication identifies energy as a further vulnerable sector. It also has a regional focus on the dry arc, a dry area in the southeastern part of the country, and on threats to island territories. Vulnerability and adaptation assessment aim to analyze interrelations between sectors in these focus areas.

Project Details

Panama is located in Central America and borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Marking the transition point between North and South America, the Republic of Panama has one of the most developed economies in Central America. It lies at 9 00 N and 80 00 W and has an area of 75 420 square kilometres. It has a tropical climate and is hot and humid. It has a long rainy season from May to January and a short dry season January to May. There are occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area. The interior of Panama is mostly steep, rugged mountains and upland plains. Its coastal areas are largely plains and rolling hills. Panama’s natural resources include copper, mahogany forests and hydropower. There is deforestation of tropical rainforests and mining threatens natural resources.

Much of its economy (70 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, or GDP) depends on a service sector that includes the Panama Canal, banking, tourism and healthcare (USDS, 2010). Agriculture (including livestock and timber) forms only a small portion (6.2 per cent) of the country’s GDP (USDS, 2010). Although about 30 per cent of Panamanians live in poverty, this level has been declining in recent years (CIA, 2011).

Land degradation and soil erosion threatens the siltation of Panama Canal. The water in Panama is being polluted by agricultural runoff and this is threatening fishery resources. The Global Environment Facility has provided funding to reduce Panama’s greenhouse gas emissions through an increase in carbon sequestration. The project’s specific objective is to promote sustainable rural development and environmental management in the Province of Veraguas.

The Initial National Communication establishes the National GHG Inventory with 1994 as its base year, it includes vulnerability and adaptation studies to climate change for water resources, coastal area and the agricultural sector and mitigation options for the forestry sector. It concludes by underscoring the necessity of development of a national strategy on climate change.

Panama's Second National Communication was completed in 2011, It includes an update of the national GHG inventory with 2000 as its base year, as well as renewed vulnerability studies and mitigation measures for the land-use change and forestry sector. Panama is also in the process of developing a National Climate Change Strategy which will include the establishment of a program responsible for the periodic update of the national communications, a national climate change mitigation strategy, and adaptation strategy to climate change as well a program fostering national scientific research on climate change.

Adaptation Needs and Priorities

Panama is periodically affected by droughts (often linked to El Niño events), tropical storms and hurricanes (though to a much lesser extent than the more northern parts of Central America) and inundations. Climate projections for Panama estimate that mean annual temperatures could rise by 1.2° to 1.5°C by 2050, and by 2.2° to 3.6°C by 2100. Rainfall projections have much wider uncertainty margins; on average, models project reductions of 2 to 6 per cent for 2100, much less than in other countries of the region. All figures are according to the averages of three models and compared to a 1980 to 2000 baseline (ECLAC, 2010).

Panama’s First National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) identifies the following sectors as sensitive to climatic changes: agriculture, water, coastal-marine systems, health and forests. The first three are highlighted as particularly vulnerable (República de Panamá, 2001). Panama’s Second National Communication identifies energy as a further vulnerable sector. It also has a regional focus on the dry arc, a dry area in the southeastern part of the country, and on islands. Vulnerability and adaptation assessment aim to analyze interrelations between sectors in the focus areas (ANAM, 2007).

Panama’s First National Communication identifies key adaptation measures for the following vulnerable sectors (República de Panamá, 2001):

  • Coastal and marine systems – Retreat from vulnerable areas; accommodate human intervention with ecosystem conservation (i.e. through integrated coastal zone management); and protect the most vulnerable zones (e.g., reforest mangroves and minimize erosion).
  • Agriculture – Strategic sectoral planning taking climate risks into account; studies on plagues and diseases; improve efficiency of irrigation systems; improve coverage of weather stations; test new varieties; use crop models; and improve agricultural land planning.
  • Health – Establish a strategy on health and climate change; improve statistics; monitor and develop projection for health indicators; conduct studies to identify vulnerable regions; improve sanitation and education; and technology development and transfer.
  • Water – Education on water availability; improve the hydro-meteorological network; scientific studies on hydrology and climatology; protection, conservation and rational management of natural resources; promote alternative sources of renewable energy; promote policies that improve living conditions in watersheds; promote technology research to improve efficiency of water use; develop water use plan; explore alternative water sources; and strategic exchanges with other countries in the region.
  • Forests – Management of protected areas and elaboration of plans for participative management.

National Level Policies and Strategic Documents

At a national level, Panama has developed policies and strategies that address vulnerabilities in priority sectors. For example, the government established a “National Climate Change Policy” in 2007 (República de Panamá, 2007) that proposes a general framework for mitigation and adaptation action in Panama. It says that a participatory action plan on climate change is to be elaborated and that vulnerability and adaptation considerations are to be included in national environment plans. Additionally, a “Climate Change Action Plan” is currently being prepared with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). However, Panama’s “Strategic Government Plan” for the period 2010 to 2014 identifies logistics, tourism, agriculture and financial services as economic priority sectors, but does not mention climate change or adaptation (República de Panamá, 2010).

In addition to these actions, Panama has finalized one National Communication (República de Panamá, 2001). A second report was to be published in 2010, but is not yet available. It will, among other things, contain vulnerability assessments for various sectors and with a regional focus on dry areas and islands (ANAM, 2010). The National Environmental Authority (ANAM) is the UNFCCC focal point and has a unit focusing on climate change and desertification. In 2009, the National Climate Change Committee of Panama (CONACCP) was founded in order to assist ANAM with implementation of the country’s climate change policy. CONACCP consists mainly of government agencies and universities.

Regionally, Panama 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 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

A moderate number of adaptation projects exist to date in Panama. Most are directed towards building the capacity of government to respond to the projected impacts of climate change. Coastal zone management needs are also being addressed through more than one project. Action in several other sectors is also ongoing, including agriculture, water, energy, forestry and disaster risk management. Overall, adaptation programming in Panama remains mainly focused on capacity building and/or policy research.

Proposed Adaptation Action

With respect to the initiation of new adaptation projects, Panama is anticipated to participate in two regional programs that individually will address food security and coastal zones management concerns. Funding for these projects is being provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Assessment

Policy documents on adaptation to climate change are presently scarce in Panama. The only detailed official document on priority sectors and adaptation measures is its First National Communication from 2001, as climate change is not mentioned in Panama’s current national development plan elaborated in 2010. However, there are indications that adaptation is gaining momentum in national policy making. First, a national climate change policy with general directions was enacted in 2007. In 2009, the interagency climate change committee CONACCP191 was established. Currently, IADB is funding the elaboration of a national climate change action plan. Also, the Second National Communication with a focus on vulnerable areas, especially dry areas and islands, is expected to be finalized soon.

A moderate number of current adaptation project have been identified, each of which will help provide a basis for more concrete adaptation action in the future. Most of these projects emphasize capacity building activities. A number provide support to the government as it develops its capacity to support adaptation within the country. Although adaptation needs in several sectors are being addressed, gaps in programming appear to be present with respect to areas such as human health, gender concerns, biodiversity and the built environment.

References:

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: 
Government of Panama
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Project Status: 
Completed
Location: 
Urban
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: 

Agriculture and Food Security

  • Educational & outreach activities to change management practices to those suited to climate change
  • Enhance irrigation efficiency and/or expand irrigation
  • Agricultural research and transfer of technology
  • Develop new crops
  • Develop early warning systems and disaster preparedness
  • Improve pest and disease forecast and control

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
  • Improve or develop water management
  • Alter system operating rules, e.g. pricing policies, legislation

Coastal Zones and Marine Ecosystems

  • Develop Integrated Coastal Zone Management
  • Develop planning/new investment requirements

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.

Contacts

UNDP
Yamil Bonduki
Coordinator, National Communications Support Programme (NCSP)
UNDP
Gisele Didier
Country Officer
Government of Panama
René A. López
Project Affiliate