A large and diverse country, Mexico is considered among the most developed countries in the world, achieving a level of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of US$13,800 in 2010 (CIA, 2011). It is also noted for being the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world133 and was the first Latin American country to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. However, about 44 per cent of the population continues to live in poverty (USDS, 2010) and approximately 13 per cent of Mexicans remains reliant upon the agricultural sector (CIA, 2011). Remittances are Mexico’s second largest source of foreign currency, after oil (USDS, 2010).
Mexico has been identified as particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change (First and Second Communication, NC1/NC2 to the UNFCCC), many of which are irreversible. These impacts include continuous increase in the sea surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico, continuous sea level increase affecting coastal areas in inland basins, intensification of hurricanes, changes in water precipitation cycles, net decreases in water run offs and others. Given the long term irreversible character of these changes and the nature of the impacts, it is imperative for Mexico to start a process of adaptation. The NCs have assessed the vulnerability to climate change focusing in areas and sectors seen as particularly fragile to climate impacts: water resources, forestry, agriculture, coastal zones, in particular wetlands, drought and desertification. Key areas of concern are: a) the impact on water resources and b) specifically, impacts on the coastal region of the Gulf, seen as most vulnerable to the combined impacts of climate change.
The National Development Plan 2007-201215 (PND, Spanish acronym) identifies the Mexican Government priorities for development. In May 2007 Mexico formulated its National Climate Change Strategy (ENACC, Spanish acronym). The Strategy identifies opportunities for emissions reductions on a voluntary basis, as well as measures for the development of necessary national and local capacity for response and adaptation. The Strategy proposes concrete adaptation and mitigation measures for all sectors, including agriculture, covering all the main aspects of climate change policy. The Strategy builds on institutional improvements, analytical work and investments already underway in Mexico. Climate change strategies and action plans have also been developed at the subnational level for Mexico City, the states of Veracruz (by the Universidad de Veracruz) and Nuevo León.
The Inter-Ministerial Commission on Climate Change (CICC, Spanish acronym) was established in 2005 to mainstream climate change in development policy and is the Designated National Authority (DNA) on climate change and in particular, on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in Mexico. The Commission is responsible for formulating and coordinating the implementation of national climate change strategies and incorporating them in sectoral programs; (ii) promoting national climate change research; and (iii) promoting GHG emission reduction projects. The Commission also receives advice from the Consultative Council on Climate Change (also known as C4) which is composed of scientists and representatives of the civil society and the private sector.
A. Adaptation Needs and Priorities
As the largest state in Mesoamerica by far, Mexico has wide variations in climate and therefore faces a diversity of climate hazards, ranging from hurricanes to droughts and coastal erosion. On average, temperatures have increased by 0.6oC since 1960. Mean rainfall does not show any consistent trend. Projected mean warming is 1.3° to 4.8°C by 2090 according to different scenarios. For rainfall there is a broad consistency among different models that mean precipitation will decrease in the future, but there is high uncertainty around the mean (UNDP 2008). It should be noted, however, that the situation in individual areas can differ vastly from the country average.
Unsurprisingly for a large and relatively developed country like Mexico, there is a significant amount of ongoing work to increase its capacity to adapt to climate change at the national and sub-national levels. Mexico submitted its Fourth National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2009, and currently is in the process of preparing its Fifth National Communication (expected to be completed in 2012). Climate change receives ample recognition in the National Development Plan; and there is an overall climate change strategy as well as sectoral ones. Mexico’s size and high level of capacity results in a need and ability to spread adaptation efforts across many sectors. Coasts, water, agriculture, fisheries and human health have received the most attention, but vulnerability studies and adaptation options are also available for other sectors, including energy, transportation, human settlements, biodiversity and tourism.
B. National Level Policies and Strategic Documents
Mexico’s government recognizes the relevance of climate change for development in its six-year “National Development Plan” for 2007 to 2012 (PRM, 2007). The plan contains five strategic themes, one of which is dedicated to environmental sustainability. Under this theme, one of twelve strategic objectives is adaptation to climate change. This objective is to be achieved through four strategies: design and develop national adaptation capacities; develop regional climate scenarios; evaluate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in different socioeconomic sectors and ecosystems; and promote the diffusion of information on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation measures.
To specify these directions, the Intersecretarial Commission on Climate Change (CICC) developed the “National Climate Change Strategy’ (CICC, 2007). On adaptation, 10 lines of action are proposed: reform the institutional risk management structure; position the current disaster response capacity as a platform to develop climate change adaptation capacities; identify opportunities for inter-sectoral convergence; design a climate modeling program as part of the National Climate Information System; promote land-use and ecological planning as a preventative tool against climate impacts; revise policies and public spending priorities to emphasize prevention; promote vulnerability reduction and adaptation within municipal, regional and national development plans; promote the use of insurance mechanisms as a tool for vulnerability reduction in different sectors; design a communications and education strategy to diffuse study results and promote participation in preventive and corrective action; and promote the formation of human resources in operative and prognostic meteorology. The strategy also identifies priority areas for adaptation studies. These are: hydro-meteorological risk management and water; biodiversity and environmental services; agriculture and livestock; coastal zones; human settlements; energy; and human health.
To implement the directions of both the “National Development Plan” and the climate change strategy, the CICC established the Special Programme on Climate Change (PECC) as its sub-national program for the years 2009 to 2012. It presents public policies for eight sectors: integrated risk management; water; agriculture, livestock and fisheries; ecosystems; energy, industry and services; transportation and communication infrastructure; land-use planning and urban development; and public health. Overall, 37 adaptation objectives and 142 adaptation targets are proposed. In the longer term, the program sees three big stages in the development of strategic capacities: vulnerability evaluation and economic valuation of priority measures in the period of 2009 to 2012, of which the main product will be an integrated adaptation system; strategic capacity development from 2013 to 2030; and consolidation between 2031 and 2050. Consistent with these objectives, a “State-Action Plan against Climate Change” (PEACC) has been developed under the guidance of the National Institute of Ecology. The PEACC seeks to conduct assessment studies on climate change impacts and vulnerabilities at the local level. Moreover, PEACC aims to identify and design appropriate adaptive measures and enhance local capacity.
In 2010, Mexico also established a Mid-term Adaptation Policy Framework. The main goal of this framework is to mainstream adaptation measures into various sectors and to establish a baseline to develop a vision for adaptation to climate change in Mexico towards the year 2030.
Mexico also has a number of sectoral policies that contain important adaptation objectives or measures, including sectoral programs on environment and natural resources; agriculture, livestock and fisheries; governance; health; energy; and communications and transport.
C. Current Adaptation Action
Within the last five years, a very high number of adaptation projects have been implemented in Mexico. This growth is in line with the vast amount of vulnerability and adaptation knowledge that has been gained, as well as the country’s well-developed policy framework. While many projects are related to research and capacity building, there are a number that help the federal or regional governments to put their adaptation programs into practice. Funding for these initiatives is being provided by various donors, but the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the government of Spain are particularly active. It is also noteworthy that a majority of Mexico’s adaptation projects have been developed specifically to meet its needs; it is less actively engaged in projects that involve other countries from within the region.
D. Proposed Adaptation Action
Although it may be assumed that Mexico is actively engaged in the development of new projects and programs to support adaptation, no specific activities in preparation have been identified.
Mexico dominates the Mesoamerican region in terms of land size, population and economic production. This picture is reflected in the number of adaptation projects underway within its borders, as well as in the progress it has made in terms of devising adaptation strategies at the national, sub-national and sectoral levels, and in integrating adaptation policy into development programming. The country has already submitted four National Communications to the UNFCCC, and has elaborated its Fifth National Communication. This fifth report includes a set of plans, policies and programs that mainstream climate change into the relevant government actions.
Current adaptation programming is working to put Mexico’s policies and programs into practice. However, given the large size of the country and its widely varying adaptation needs, current initiatives are only partially addressing identified concerns. To identify existing gaps in intervention, a more thorough assessment on the extent of current adaptation action at different levels would be required.
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). Mexico. The World Factbook. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mx.html
Comisión Intersecretarial de Cambio Climático [CICC] (2007). Estrategia Nacional de Cambio Climático, México: Síntesis Ejecutiva.
Presidencia de la República de Mexico [PRM]. (2007). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2007-2012.
United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] (2008). UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles: Mexico. Retrieved from http://country-profiles.geog.ox.ac.uk/index.html?country=Mexico&d1=Reports
United States Department for State [USDS] (2010). Background Note: Mexico. Last updated 14 December 2010. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35749.htm.