Ecuador is a mega-diverse country due to its wide variety of climates, microclimates, and biodiversity. Ecuador has a wide range of climate zones linked to its geography which ranges from high-altitude glaciers to tropical rain forests in the Amazon upper tributaries, to dry tropical forests on the Pacific Coast, and insular outpost in the Pacific (Galapagos Islands). Ecuadorian biophysical systems are highly sensitivity to climate variability and long-term change [1].

From 1960 to 2010, Ecuador experienced increases in temperature, and spatial and seasonal variations in rainfall throughout its territory. Observed average temperature increase was 1.4°C, with maximum temperatures increasing by 1.0°C and minimum increasing by 1.1°C in the Galapagos Islands. Additionally, the country's volcanoes have lost about 50% of their glacial surface [1].

Moreover, future climate projections reported in Ecuador’s Third National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) show that if the current temperature trend continues, the increments could be 2.0°C more by the end of the century, and the Amazon and Galapagos would present increases even higher [1].

Climate change has exacerbated the country's vulnerability in various areas. For example, in the coastal zone, changes in coastal dynamics require the implementation of adaptation measures because of the rising sea level, the retreat of the coastline, the increase in water temperature, acidification, lack of protection against extreme weather events, and human and economic losses. Despite the uncertainty of the scientific models on sea level rise, global projections show that Ecuador may face an increase in floods, acceleration of coastal erosion, and the salinization of aquifers and final stretches of rivers [1].

Climate variability in Ecuador is closely related with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) [2]. The intensification of natural phenomena such as ENSO, that has an occurrence cycle of 3, 5, and 7 years, increases rainfall while La Niña causes rainfall deficit. Both phenomena trigger severe droughts and floods that have historically affected the country [1]. Past events such as the El Niño phenomenon of 1997 and 1998 caused losses estimated at $2,869.3 million, equivalent to 15% of the country’s GDP in 1997 [2]. The social and economic costs of Natural phenomena like “El Niño” often hit the poor the hardest. Health risks are greatest in areas with poor sanitary infrastructure and poor overall social conditions. At the same time, most of the economic costs relate to losses of agricultural production (mainly small farmers in corn, cocoa, coffee) and damages to infrastructure. For some, El Niño was not a disaster but a boon in the same year. Wealthy shrimp producers saw productivity increased by over 25%, while banana exporters can compensate for production losses through higher export quotas and prices [3].


The latest Ecuadorian greenhouse gas inventory dates from 2016, with data from 1994 to 2012 [4]. The inventory shows that in 2012, Ecuador emitted 80,627.16 Gg of CO2eq, of which Energy accounted for 46.63% of the total emissions, followed by land use/cover changes (25.35%). The agricultural sector ranks third with 18.17%. Industrial processes and the waste sectors together represent 5.67% and 4.19%, respectively [1].


Key policies and governance approach

The Ministry of the Environment (MAE) is the national institution that leads efforts regarding the development and implementation of climate change policies. The National Climate Change Strategy (ENCC) 2012-2025 aims to achieve adaptation and mitigation outcomes. The ENCC establishes the prioritized adaptation in food sovereignty, agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, and fishing. Moreover, it points out priority sectors for adaptation (productive, strategic, health, water, natural heritage, groups of priority care), and priority areas for mitigation (energy, agriculture, land use/cover, forestry, and waste) [1].

Ecuador signed the Paris Agreement in 2016 and its ratification in 2017. The country then submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC in 2019 and its Third National Communication in 2017. In its NDC, Ecuador has set a goal of reducing its emissions by 9% in the energy, industrial processes, waste, and agriculture sectors; and additionally, a 4% reduction in the land use and land use change sector, which includes deforestation and land degradation as a country commitment. Further, with the support of alliances and international cooperation management, a total reduction of 20.9% and 20%, respectively, could be achieved [1].

According to Article 414 of the Ecuadorian Constitution, the State must adopt adequate and transversal measures for the mitigation of climate change, by limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation, and air pollution.

Likewise, the National Environmental Policy (2009) declares the adaptation and mitigation of climate change a priority. Moreover, the National Climate Change Strategy (2012) promoted the creation and operation of the Interinstitutional Committee on Climate Change which is responsible of developing public policies for climate change management [1].

The Organic Environmental Code (2017) updates, complements and clarifies the regulations established in Ecuador for the management of climate change, and represents an essential tool to facilitate interinstitutional and intersectoral articulation and enable the integration of adaptation into development planning at the local level from the Decentralized Autonomous Governments [1].


Successes and remaining challenges

One of the successes concerning climate change policies is the creation of local (provincial and municipal) dependencies to tackle climate change. Such entities are decentralized and work in coordination with academy. Thus, since 2017, Ecuador began the process of collecting, processing, and mapping information of actors, roles, and sectors to develop scenarios to prioritize measures to achieve the NDC [1]. By 2016, Ecuador had four provincial, eight municipal, and ten parish plans [3]. 

However, several barriers, challenges and gaps still exist related to the implementation of climate change adaptation strategies. The main barriers are associated with incorporating specific strategies in the development planning at the sectoral, territorial, and local levels. Ecuador must reinforce and create policies and develop technical skills to identify its vulnerabilities to climate change. This knowledge and data would allow Ecuador to prioritize places and sectors for enhancing adaptation. Moreover, Ecuador must improve the coordination between the Sectoral Ministries and the different levels of Decentralized Autonomous Governments. This lack of coordination does not allow for effective implementation of regional or local strategies [1].

In addition, Ecuador could enhance specific projects to increase the resilience of its socio-ecological systems linked to priority areas like agriculture, aquaculture, urban and peri-urban systems, and biodiversity. The implementation of plans to reduce risk while enhancing adaptation in Ecuador's vulnerable systems will only be possible if the country has enough resources and if it is supported by international funding [1].


Initiatives and Development Plans

The National Plan for Good Living (2013), the Electrification Master Plan 2013-2022 and the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) (2016-2025) are focused on Ecuador's energy transition to promote GHG reductions in the energy sector [3]. Moreover, in the AFOLU sector, Ecuador has launched the REDD+ RBP project to restore deforested and degraded areas. In 2019, the country received US $18.5 million from the Green Climate Fund’s pilot program for the REDD+ RBP project [5].


Goals and Ambitions

Ecuador has as a specific objective to contribute, at the national, sub-national and local levels, to the global efforts to increase adaptation capacity, promote climate resilience and reduce the risk of the effects of climate change, in a context of equity, sustainable development and poverty eradication, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and in accordance with the capacities of the country [1].

Ecuador has established the following goals: a) to reduce gender gaps, b) to decrease negative impacts on priority attention groups, c) to increase rigorous scientific information, and d) to promote relevant traditional and indigenous knowledge of local actors. Further, the National Adaptation Plan seeks to e) improve climate projections, climate risk and analysis of vulnerability and impacts on human and natural systems, in terms of spatial and temporal resolution; f) strengthen institutional capacities through guiding documents, methods, and tools to facilitate climate risk management; g) train people; h) design mechanisms for measurement, reporting and verification for the process of the National Adaptation Plan, and actions implemented by strategic actors; and i) promote strategies to ensure that the financing, sustainability, scaling and replication of climate change adaptation actions meet the established requirements [1].

  • Ecuador must reinforce and create policies and develop technical skills for identifying its vulnerabilities to climate change. This knowledge and data would allow the country to prioritize places and sectors for enhancing adaptation [1].
  • Ecuador must improve the coordination between the Sectoral Ministries and the different levels of Decentralized Autonomous Governments [1].
  • Ecuador could enhance specific projects to increase the resilience of its socio-ecological systems linked to priority areas like agriculture, aquaculture, urban and peri-urban systems, and biodiversity.
  • Ecuador has many opportunities to reduce their emissions in two sectors. In the energy sector, transformation and support for alternative energies can be an opportunity to reduce the country's emissions. The land use/cover change and the agricultural sector can be supported to reduce their emissions while improving social conditions through REDD+ projects and agroforestry. 
  • Related to flooding, opportunities should be focused on improving: 1) structural flood control measures, 2) opportunities for relocation, 3) tax revenue schedules and compensation, 4) compulsory flood insurance, 5) civil society participation, 6) citizen involvement in decision-making, 7) flood warning systems, 8) smart land-use planning, 9) data collection, and 10) flood modeling vulnerability assessment [6].