Ecosystems, communities and climate change adaptation in Mexico

Mexico is using Ecosystem-based Adaptation as a pillar of climate change policy and practice, writes Cecilia Conde.

Cecilia Conde, General Coordinator of Adaptation to Climate Change at Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Photo: IUCN / Mark Gnadt

The Government of Mexico views adaptation to climate change as a priority. This is shown by several key policies and programmes, including the General Law of Climate Change (2012), the National Climate Change Strategy (2013), the Special Climate Change Programme (2014) and the 2015 Mexican Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), submitted under the United Nations climate change convention.

Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) – using biodiversity and ecosystem services to help communities adapt and become more resilient to the negative effects of climate change – underpins all of Mexico’s climate change policies and actions and is central to Mexico’s NDC, which was developed by 15 government ministers.

Mexico aims to coordinate climate change adaptation and conservation action across the country’s municipalities with a landscape-scale, multi-sector approach. Municipalities are classified according to their degree of vulnerability to climate variability and change. A National Atlas of Vulnerability to Climate Change currently in development shows 319 municipalities to be the most vulnerable. The NDC states that 50% of them must take action to reduce this vulnerability by 2030.

The country also focusses on Community-based Adaptation (CBA), which, through the active engagement of stakeholders at the local level, means that policies and actions tend to have greater ownership by communities, and communities are then more likely to uphold and promote them.

Mexico, like several other countries, is adopting the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approach which aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards such as floods, droughts and cyclones, by focussing on prevention. Again, healthy ecosystems are a mainstay of this strategy.

Several commitments in Mexico’s NDC illustrate the importance of Ecosystem-based Adaptation. They include strategic reforestation to ensure watershed function and biodiversity conservation, and boosting ecological connectivity and carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration.

These commitments are being achieved through several ongoing projects. In one of them, ‘Adaptation of Coastal Wetlands of the Gulf of Mexico to the Impacts of Climate Change’, local communities, with the strong participation of women, have reforested mangroves and riparian habitats. Coral reefs have also been restored and the community has also helped revive watersheds to improve the health of mangroves.

These efforts highlight the synergies between climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is known that coastal vegetation is effective at absorbing and storing carbon. It can sequester carbon for thousands of years, without becoming saturated as forests do. Conserving mangroves generates other benefits – boosting fisheries, limiting coastal erosion and protecting communities from hurricanes, which are projected to increase.

The relationships between climate change, livelihoods and ecosystems will be a focus at the IUCN Congress in September. Mexico is keen to share its experience of adaptation and mitigation and discuss how to further advance nature-based solutions to climate change.

Cecilia Conde is General Coordinator of Adaptation to Climate Change at the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (INECC, SEMARNAT), Government of Mexico.

INECC, SEMARNAT is responsible for generating and integrating scientific and technical knowledge to support public policies leading to environmental protection, ecological restoration, green growth and climate change mitigation and adaptation in Mexico. Mexico is a State Member of IUCN.

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