At the end of November, climate scientists and policy experts will gather in Cancun, Mexico, to negotiate the world's next steps in the battle against climate change. As leaders debate the best solutions to such a complex issue, they will have a successful state-level initiative to look to as a compelling example of a participatory and inclusive consolidation process for combating climate change: CI-Mexico's Climate Change Action Program for the State of Chiapas (PACCCH).
CI-Mexico's Climate Change Coordinator, Juan Carlos Franco, facilitates and coordinates the process to build this sub-national pilot program for the state of Chiapas, Mexico. PACCCH is the first climate change action plan at the state level that has been successful and had buy-in from all necessary parties. Its success, Juan says, comes from linking stakeholders in a science-based approach "to bring the climate change negotiations to the reality of a very important region in Mexico."
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Located in southwestern Mexico, Chiapas is a biologically and culturally diverse region that provides ecosystem services of importance for all of Mexico. Thirty percent of the country's fresh water passes through watersheds located there.
But Chiapas, which has seen widespread deforestation and forest degradation in recent years, is also particularly vulnerable to climate change. High poverty rates make its people less able to relocate or take other preventative measures against drought, fire or flooding. Preliminary results show that Chiapas produces around 4.82 percent of all of Mexico's greenhouse gas emissions – 62 percent of which is attributed to land use and land use change. These figures indicate that land-use mitigation strategies such as REDD+ and ecosystem-based adaptation initiatives would be most impactful in this region.
IN DEPTH: Sierra Madre de Chiapas
Climate Change Action Program for the State of Chiapas (PACCCH): A Model For the World to Follow
As a result, the PACCCH was developed as an inclusive institutional framework to implement a climate change strategy tailored to the specific conditions of the state of Chiapas. This work entails developing the scientific information (a REDD+ baseline, future climate scenarios and a greenhouse gas inventory), as well as the technical framework, necessary to develop scientifically sound actions at a practical level.
Establishing such a program is a complex process because it involves engaging multiple stakeholders. But despite various agendas, Juan emphasizes that "we must generate a common understanding about climate change and how it can be confronted," which is exactly what PACCCH aims to achieve.
"At the moment, we are moving very fast establishing the basis for the scientific foundation of the climate change action program," Juan says. "We are creating the technical groups that will have the capacity to support mitigation and adaptation strategies. At the same time, we are informing the government in how they can work with other governmental agencies and stakeholders to make this feasible."
Supporting the science behind the framework is only one part of the equation. In order for the framework to be politically effective, the Intersecretarial Commission on Climate Change was created to ensure that all of Chiapas' state ministries are involved in decision-making and integrating climate change considerations into their agendas.
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Financed by the British Embassy, the Federal and state governments and CI, PACCCH is powered by the collaboration of many partners from state and federal government, academia, civil society and the private sector.
"State-level action plans that have the buy-in and support from all major stakeholders (such as the PACCCH) are vitally important because these action plans are the primary tool for developing solutions tailored to the unique context of each region to confront climate change," Juan says.
Creating a solid climate change strategy for Chiapas is essential if PACCCH is to be used as a foundation for replication on a larger scale. Information and policies from PACCCH will serve as a model for other Mexican states to use as they develop integrated programs to address climate change.
Acting Locally, Thinking Globally
"The PACCCH is providing the umbrella to link national decisions on climate change mitigation and adaptation with the state (of Chiapas') circumstances using the most rigorous international methodologies for acounting GHG emissions and modelling climate change scenarios," Juan says. " At the same time, it takes into consideration the national climate change structures and policy and is currently developing its own government structure that will serve as a link between the federal and the municipal levels for real, long-term sustainable development with low emissions in a more resilient way."
The PACCCH's success will result in Chiapas becoming the first carbon-neutral, and the most resilient, state in Mexico.
"We are proving that REDD+ is feasible and can be implemented on the ground," Juan says. "There is huge potential of amplifying this initiative not only throughout Mexico, but also to the rest of the world to ensure that we confront climate change in an effective and efficient manner."
REDD+: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation "plus" conservation, the sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks
"At COP 16, CI will highlight that REDD+ is essential and that previous experiences with forest carbon initiatives can contribute to the negotiation process," Juan says.In addition to being one of the country's most biodiversity-rich states, Chiapas is also one of the states in Mexico that produces the most coffee. Starbucks and CI begin working together in this region more than 10 years ago.
IN DEPTH: The 16th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP16)
Today, they are developing actions with local communities to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change by increasing tree and forest cover on private and communal land, which also helps to generate extra income. After successful work with Starbucks to promote coffee production practices that protect biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of coffee farmers, CI has expanded this work to include carbon sequestration and to link local farmers to voluntary carbon markets. This is just one example showcasing the potential of REDD+ to work on the ground, helping communities thrive while ensuring sustainable land use.
Giving Back: Creating a Sustainable World
Working on the PACCCH hits close to home for Juan, who became interested in environmental issues, specifically climate change, after spending most of his life doing field work and growing up in Bochil, Chiapas. "I think I decided to study something related to sustainable development because I saw the relationships between our needs and our potential here in the state."
Juan, an ecological engineer with expertise in biofuels, has made a mark on his home state with his work through the PACCCH. "I'm very proud of the way work is moving forward and that Chiapas is becoming very important for REDD+ in the context of Mexico because of the work we're doing."
In addition to being a valuable pilot for replication throughout the country, "this work directly supports CI's new mission because we are trying to demonstrate to the world that we can achieve sustainable development through a scientific foundation to make consensus-based decisions and promote the sustainable use of natural resources," Juan says.
Juan is optimistic that his work on the PACCCH initiative can help global climate policy take a step forward. "I continue to be motivated to do my work because I am hopeful that I can contribute to changing the way the world is currently functioning to make it more sustainable," Juan says. "There is no time to waste."
FEATURE: Taking Climate Action in Chiapas, Mexico