Haiti’s climate is changing and is projected to change even more through the century. Mean annual temperature has already increased and is projected to increase by 0.5°C–0.7°C by 2030, and by 0.9°C–1.4°C by 2050. Mean annual rainfall is projected to decrease by 3% by 2030 and by 6%–9% by 2050. Rainfall variability will increase, and rains will be more intense during the wet season.
As a consequence, climate-related hazards in Haiti will become more intense or more frequent. Climatic changes and climate-related hazards (floods, drought, intense rainfall, seawater intrusion, and hurricanes) will directly or indirectly affect Haiti’s environment and most sectors of its economy and society. The 2006 National Adaptation Plan of Action and other assessments concluded that the most significant impacts are likely to be experienced in agriculture and food security, soils, coastal zones, and water resources.
As most (92%) of Haitian agriculture is rainfed, its productivity is greatly affected by the frequency, temporality, and amount of rainfall. The projected reduction in annual precipitation and more intense drought events will decrease the productivity of basic crops such as corn, rice, and potatoes and exacerbate chronic and acute food insecurity. The projected more intense tropical storms and hurricanes will increase the extent and frequency of damage/destruction of food crops, and changes in climate conditions could also alter the prevalence of plant pests and pathogens which will likely aggravate crop damage and loss. In addition, the Haitian livestock sector is dominated by small-scale animal production. Climate change and climate-related hazards can significantly affect livestock adversely by reducing growth rates, milk production, and overall health.
Haiti’s major cities, with most of the country’s economic infrastructure (factories, ports, etc.), and human populations, are located on the coast and harbour. Communities will be exacerbated by the more intense tropical storms and hurricanes, and sea-level rise that are projected to occur. This will increase the number of casualties and the amount and extent of loss and damages.
The reduced precipitation, more intense droughts, and increased sea-level rise (together with Haiti’s insufficient/inadequate hydraulic infrastructure) will limit water supply for crops and threaten the supply and quality of water resources for those segments of the population that depend on water catchment systems for their daily water needs. The country’s five major rivers supply nearly 60% of the country’s surface water resources. More intense rains will increase soil erosion, adversely impacting the water quality of these sources, as the rivers fill with water carrying soil and sediments. This renders water unusable for human consumption, further reducing the availability of this basic service.
The segments of the Haitian population most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change are small farmers and people living in ecologically fragile areas such as riverbeds, ravines, steep mountain slopes, and the coastline of the country’s major cities such as Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes, Gonaïves, Saint-Marc etc. The Sud, Ouest, Nord-Ouest, Artibonite, Nord, and Sud-Est departments have been identified as most vulnerable.
Haiti has done almost nothing to cause global warming. However, Haiti’s total GHG emissions have increased since 1995. Between 1995 and 2000, GHG emissions increased by 20.4%. Agriculture was the major source of GHG emissions in the year 2000, contributing 60.1% of total GHG emissions, followed by the energy use sector (20%).
Despite Haiti’s small contribution to global GHG emissions, an unfortunate combination of elevated exposure, high sensitivity, and poor response capacity make Haiti the most vulnerable country in Latin America and the Caribbean — and one of the most vulnerable countries in the world — to climate change. Due to its geographical location and topography, Haiti is directly and unavoidably exposed to hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Then, anthropogenic and socio-economic factors including widespread deforestation and watershed degradation, high population density, widespread poverty, inadequate land use practices, limited infrastructure and services, unmaintained drainage infrastructure, unplanned urban sprawl over sensitive areas, inadequate waste management, and others, make Haiti extremely sensitive to those natural hazards. Finally, impaired by a very difficult economic, social, and political context, Haiti's disaster mitigation and management capacities are extremely limited.
Key policies and governance approach
Haiti submitted its First National Communication on Climate Change in 2000, which included a first national inventory of GHG emissions (as for 1994–1995) and an initial assessment of the country’s vulnerabilities to climate change for the agriculture and water resources sectors only. The 2006 National Adaptation Plan of Action identified the country’s sectors, regions, and population segments most vulnerable to climate change, as well as the top priority adaptation options. The Second National Communication (2013) presented results of the second national inventory of GHG emissions (as for the year 2000s) and identified energy use and land-use change and forestry as key sectors for implementing mitigation measures to reduce GHG emissions.
The most concrete steps to address climate change challenges in Haiti were identified through the compilation of the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution in 2015. Being one of the smallest GHG emitters and, at the same time, one of the countries of the world most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Haiti’s NDC aimed to: (i) improve its resilience to climate change-related disasters; (ii) better respond to loss and damage caused by extreme weather events, and (iii) contribute to the global efforts to limit the increase in global temperature below 2°C To implement its INDC, Haiti would formulate several planning and policy instruments including a National Climate Change Policy; Climate Loss and Damage Response Plan; Land-use plans by region; and a National Forest Policy. The institutional framework for implementation of the NDC would be coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment in collaboration with the — still to be created — National Committee on Climate Change.
The National Policy to Fight Climate Change was officially adopted in 2019; it aimed at putting Haiti on the path to green growth by 2030, by making the key socio-economic sectors less sensitive to climate change, with sufficient capacities to respond to adverse climatic conditions, and oriented towards the adoption of low-carbon technologies, in particular renewable energies, without compromising their competitiveness.
The recently completed (but still under approval) Environmental Action Plan 2021 includes, among its strategic objectives, strengthening the resilience and adaptation of communities and ecosystems to climate variations, while contributing to the reduction of GHG emissions.
Successes and Remaining Challenges
The financial needs for implementing the actions envisioned in Haiti’s NDC were estimated at USD 25.387 billion, comprising USD 16.614 billion for adaptation and USD 8.773 billion for mitigation actions. Conditional and unconditional mitigation measures amounted to USD 7.999 billion and USD 773.52 million respectively.
However, Haiti’s efforts to address climate change seem to have been, so far, extremely limited. The social and political instability together with the very difficult economic conditions that the country has experienced over the last decade or so have made environmental management, in general, difficult and not the top national priority. In fact, the NDC itself recognized that not all the priority actions identified in the National Adaptation Action Plan were being implemented. This was due not only to lack of financial resources but, also very important, to the limited technical capacities of the relevant government institutions.
Initiatives and Development Plans
Haiti has a number of climate change adaptation projects currently underway, most of them sponsored by various donors, including UNDP (project on coastal zone management funded by the Least Developed Countries Fund), UN FAO (project on agriculture and disaster risk reduction funded by the Global Environment Fund), the EU, USAID (several projects focused on building climate change resilience in the agricultural sector), and others. Perhaps the major project addressing climate change adaptation is the Strategic Program for Climate Resilience funded by the Climate Investment Fund and being implemented by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Use Planning since 2013. Haiti also participates in various regional adaptation projects.
Goals and Ambitions
According to Haiti's NDC, the country's priorities for adapting to climate change include Integrated management of water resources and watersheds; integrated management of the coastal zone and infrastructure rehabilitation; preserving and strengthening food security; information, education, and awareness.
- In order to build long-term resilience to climate change impacts and natural disasters in Haiti, adaptation measures need to be integrated into development planning and closely integrated with water management, agriculture, fisheries, land use, and forestry policies. Such adaptation strategies should take into account the adaptation deficit that already exists, caused by recent and recurrent disasters, the long and widespread deforestation and land degradation, widespread poverty, lack of basic infrastructure, high population density in urban coastal areas, among others. Effective implementation of the objectives and measures envisioned in the National Policy to Fight Climate Change in the strategic sectors and regions already identified in the National Adaptation Plan of Action would help to build resilience in the country.
- While the country’s exposure to natural hazards cannot be reduced, it has been the anarchic occupation of the territory, the rapid and unplanned urbanization and peri-urbanization of certain areas, the cultivation of areas unsuitable for agriculture and prone to degradation, that has amplified the susceptibility to natural risks. A long-term, comprehensive vision of land-use planning and management such as the one envisioned in the 2012 Strategic Development Plan for Haiti could help to reduce the impacts of climate change.
- A number of well-articulated out plans and strategies have been formulated to address climate change-related and other challenges but, in many cases, these have not been implemented or only partially implemented due to the lack of financial and technical resources and institutional limitations. Because of this, the country has relied for so long and so much on foreign assistance, which has been considerable and has been present for so long, but with only partial or ephemeral success in many cases. It seems that the traditional approach of channeling foreign affairs through international NGOs rather than through local actors and, in particular, the country government, has to be reformulated.
 World Bank Climate Change Knowledge Portal. Retrieved October 2021.
 World Meteorological Organization. KNMI Climate Change Atlas. Retrieved October 2021