Alliances for Ecosystem-based Climate Adaptation in Guatemala
A global shout out to ecosystem-based adaptation
Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), is globally recognised as an effective response to climate change (EU Commission, 2020; CBD & HLPF, 2020; UNDP, 2018). Studies further underline that, as a nature-based solution, EbA can provide almost 40% of the climate mitigation needed until 2030 (Bronson et al., 2017), with a multitude of co-benefits for adaptation (Nature, 2020). Harnessing the full potential of nature to confront the climate crisis is not only feasible, but vital.
Yet, the continuous degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity undermines the achievement of global targets related to sustainability, biodiversity and climate (IPBES, 2019). Despite the multiple co-benefits that EbA can generate, the persistent gap in funding (Paulson Institute, 2020) poses a major challenge to effective implementation at scale. Delving into the underlying reasons for this continuing lack of traction reveals a fundamental “divide” that inhibits greater acceptance of the EbA concept. While environmentalists increasingly push for EbA, including as part of Covid-19 recovery packages (OECD, 2020), actors outside of the broader “nature” community are yet to embrace ecosystem-approaches into their da-to-day business.
A first step towards seizing the full potential of EbA, therefore, is to build broader alliances among actors involved in fostering sustainable development. To bring diverse actors on board, more attention needs to be paid to the social, governance, and economic advantages that EbA offers. Solid evidence about what EbA can deliver and how to unleash its benefits synergistically, is an integral part of harnessing the interest of different stakeholders. The joint and transparent conversation about how to achieve inclusive and sustainable development is a prerequisite for initiating ways to implement EbA more broadly (ScienceDirect, 2020).
This much-needed conversation has started to take place in Guatemala.
 Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) can be understood as a branch of nature-based solutions. Effective EbA measures improve livelihoods and build people´s resilience against climate change while preserving ecosystems and biodiversity and promoting participatory governance processes.
 The importance of healthy and resilient ecosystems is represented in major global agreements, such as the UNFCCC, the Agenda 2030, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Breaking the silos: How Guatemala is building alliances for ecosystem-based adaptation
Guatemala is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change (Germanwatch, 2020). Through a newly formed multi-stakeholder group — gathering diverse societal actors — the country is creating the required enabling environment for a systemic response to climate adaptation and mitigation. An important aspect in this is demonstrating practical entry points for different sectors of society, that, in combination can help tackle the underlying structural barriers that have limited the impact of climate actions taken so far. Commonly observed barriers include socio-economic inequalities, rural poverty, and excessive natural resource extraction.
Established in 2019, the EbA technical group (GTAbE) is a multi-stakeholder national platform implemented under the auspices of the Climate-SDG Integration Project (implemented by TMG Research, WWF Mesoamérica, and ADIMI). With more than 30 members, the GTAbE transcends institutional silos. With the joint objective of scaling up EbA approaches, the lead ministries responsible for coordinating implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) meet regularly with representatives from civil society, the private sector, NGOs, academia, and international development cooperation.
GTAbE is embedded within the overarching National System for Climate Change Sciences (SGCCC), which enables the platform to advise core ministries about EbA, and to foster inter-institutional learning and collaboration. GTAbE is not only unique in its energetic, collaborative, and transparent way of working, but also in its capacity to catalyse multi-sectoral expertise. Many institutions have recognised the GTAbE as a “go-to” platform for matters of adaptation. While EbA has not featured prominently on Guatemala´s policy agenda, key government bodies are now including ecosystem approaches in their planning. As noted by Keila Gramajo, Director of Public Management and Development at the National Planning Secretariat, during the First National EbA Forum (2019): “….Giving value to ecosystems is one of the ten national development priorities.” (video, Building Alliances for EbA).
Learn more about the genesis of this promising multi-stakeholder process in Guatemala in our newly published Info Brief “People-Nature Alliances”.
 The GTAbE was initiated in May 2019 under the “Climate-SDG Integration project” (financed by the International Climate Initiative) and implemented by the think tank TMG Research, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guatemala/Mesoamérica and the Association for Integral Development Mitij Ixoq’ (ADIMI). Aiming to develop synergies between the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, the project supports EbA as a way to both reduce vulnerabilities at community and landscape level and to support governments in meeting their global commitments. One of its main pillars is to develop a roadmap of strategic activities, commitments, and a common vision to upscale EbA in Guatemala.