The climate in Honduras has already changed. Since the 1960s, average annual temperature has increased by 0.6°C per decade, with greatest warming in the dry season. Heavy rainfall events have also increased by 1.2% per decade. Although trends in annual rainfall have been inconsistent, Honduras has experienced reduced rainfall in the northwest and southeast. Additionally, the frequency and intensity of El Niño/La Niña events has increased.
Honduras’ climate is projected to change even more. Temperature is projected to increase by 1 - 2.5°C by 2050, and warming may be more intense in the central and south-western areas. Increases of 1.0 - 1.5°C in minimum and maximum monthly temperatures are projected for all times of the year by 2030, and larger increases, between 1.5°C and 2.5°C, are expected by 2050.
Extreme rainfall and flood events are projected to increase in frequency in Honduras. Additionally, a reduction in rainfall is expected, with more intense, prolonged droughts. The 2030 scenarios project seasonal precipitation deficits in the wettest quarter of the year (June – August), compared to the 1981–2010 average, throughout the country. An increase in precipitation is projected for all the other seasons of the year, but especially in the spring (March – May). This suggests that rains will start earlier in the year in the future compared to normal conditions. Projected changes in precipitation range between -10% and +10% with greater increases in the center and south of the country, and deficits in the Caribbean Coast. Precipitation deficits ranging between -8 and -15% are projected through 2050, particularly in the summer (June – August) in the southwest of the country.
By 2030, sea level rise will be similar on both Honduran coasts. Projections for 2050 show a sea level rise of around 50 mm on the Pacific coast, and 70–80 mm on the Atlantic coast. By 2100, sea level in the Atlantic coast is expected to have risen twice as high as in the Pacific. Sea level rise may be accompanied by more severe storm surges.
Such climatic changes will directly or indirectly impact the country's environment and key sectors of its economy and society.
Hurricanes and storms are of particular concern for energy infrastructure in Honduras. Changes in patterns of storms could aggravate physical damages to dams and power lines.
In addition, the combination of higher temperatures and lower annual precipitation will impact hydropower production, affecting the capacity to satisfy an increasing energy demand by damaging and disrupting energy supply networks, with high economic losses. About 40% of Honduras electricity is generated from renewable sources, primarily by hydropower plants. Climate change could undermine the goal of increasing renewable energy to 60% by 2022, as reduced rainfall, prolonged droughts and increased evaporation reduce inflows to hydro-electric systems. Projections for the Lempa River Basin, a major source for hydropower production, show a 20% reduction in inflows to major reservoirs with the potential to reduce hydropower capacity up to 53% by 2070.
Increased temperatures and decreased rainfall will accentuate the drought cycle, reducing surface flows and lowering groundwater levels, particularly in the Dry Corridor. Water will also be affected by rising sea levels (saltwater intrusion of coastal aquifers is likely to exacerbate the year-round water shortages and rationing that already occur in Tegucigalpa).
Reduced water quality and availability due to climate change will enhance conditions for the proliferation of vector- and waterborne diseases, and aggravate food security and malnutrition. For instance, an emergency state was declared in 2010 and 2013 due to severe outbreaks of dengue in urban areas and in 2016 due to zika, with cases concentrated in areas lacking water, sanitation, and adequate rainwater drainage. As hygiene/hand washing is compromised to conserve water, an increased weather-related mortality and exposure to disaster events (that reduce access to health care and water supplies) is expected.
Expected climate changes and extreme weather (such as more intense and prolonged droughts) will lead to higher risks of yield losses of major crops, especially in the lowlands and southwestern Dry Corridor, increased incidence of crop pests and disease, such as coffee rust, failure of rainfed crops and increased need for irrigation, reduced soil productivity from water stress, runoff, nutrient leaching and erosion, loss of crop suitability at lower altitudes, especially for coffee, increased food prices, food insecurity and migration flows.
Higher temperatures and reduced rainfall are projected to decrease yields of maize (by 12%) and beans (by 32%) by 2050 compared to 2000. Temperature rise will also reduce the area suitable for growing coffee (the main export product), requiring producers to cultivate at higher elevations (from ~600 to 1,000 m asl), increasing land degradation and deforestation in previously uncultivated areas.
Climate change threatens critical systems such as mangroves, coral reefs, cloud forests, rainforests, and fisheries, all of which are critical to livelihoods. These systems are already stressed by overfishing, extensive deforestation and degradation from mining, logging, fuel wood collection and forest conversion. Changes in temperature and precipitation may exceed the adaptive capacity of these systems. Since 2013, almost a quarter of forests in the country have been lost to a bark beetle outbreak, attributed to a protracted drought brought on by an El Niño event. Cloud forests might disappear in western Honduras. Some projections suggest that the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the world’s second largest coral reef) could collapse by mid-century, partly due to warming ocean waters.
Honduras contribution to global emissions in 2018 was less than 0.05%. In 2018, the country's per capita emissions were 2.34 t CO2eq/person/year, much lower than the global average of 6.26 t CO2eq/person/year and also lower than the average of 4.99 t CO2eq/person/year for the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
The country’s net emissions (emissions minus removals) grew by 140% from 2005 (3,575 Gg CO2eq) to 2015 (8,581 Gg CO2eq), mainly due to the growth of fossil fuel consumption and deforestation.
Excluding the LULUCF sector, the country's total emissions in 2005 and 2015 were 13,435.70 Gg CO2eq and 16,272.78 Gg CO2eq, respectively.
The sectoral distribution of gross emissions in 2005 was: Energy (38%), LULUCF (28%), agriculture (26%), waste (5%), and industry (3%). For 2015 the distribution was: energy (41%), LULUCF (31%), agriculture (15%), industry (7%), and waste (6%). The LULUCF sector is the second largest emitter of GHG emissions from deforestation and land use change.
Key policies and governance approach
Honduras signed on to the UNFCCC in 1992. Honouring its obligations to the convention, the country has submitted three National Communications in 2000, 2012, and 2019. The country has also been building up a policy and institutional framework to comply with the objectives of the UNFCCC and its own national development goals.
Honduras created a Climate Change National Office (DNCC) within the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment (SERNA) in 2010. SERNA is the national focal point for the UNFCCC, while the DNCC is responsible for delivery of national-level action on adaptation with participation of members from the Climate Change Inter-Institutional Committee (CCIC). The CCIC is a direct advisor to the President on climate change.
The Country Vision and National Plan (2010-2038) was adopted in 2010 as the guiding instrument for development planning in Honduras. Included is the objective aimed at having a productive country that makes sustainable use of its natural resources while reducing environmental vulnerability, including climate factors.
The Honduran Environmental Agenda is a country document that is implemented in a national and international context based on the legal framework of the General Environmental Law. It comprises three programmes: (i) Good Governance of Natural Resources, Environment, and Biological Diversity; (ii) Risk Management, Control and Environmental Quality; and (iii) Promotion of Sustainable Investment and Valuation of Natural Capital.
Part of the Environmental Agenda, is Honduras’ Climate Agenda which identifies the key elements necessary to provide the population with solutions and opportunities to reduce their vulnerabilities, build adaptive capacities, promote sustainable development, and address the causes and consequences of climate change in an inclusive and sustained manner. The Climate Agenda aims to reduce poverty, inequality, and exclusion by creating capacities and opportunities through actions jointly addressing mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The Honduran Climate Agenda comprises the 2030 National Climate Change Mitigation Plan which is currently in its preparatory phase and aims to identify programmes for fulfilling the pledges made by the country in its NDC, and the 2030 National Adaptation Plan with its respective Technological Action Plan.
The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) is a strategic instrument that envisions adaptation to climate change as a development process that places people at the centre of the intervention. Its implementation is projected for 2030, consolidating a first period of compliance with the ENCC (2010), in line with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
The 2010 National Climate Change Strategy (ENCC) outlines strategic objectives and guidelines for implementation of national adaptation and mitigation. The strategy seeks to foster climate change resilient development. It includes 15 objectives for adaptation and two objectives for climate change mitigation. The implementation of the ENCC is operationalised through the national adaptation and mitigation plans framed in the Climate Agenda.
The development of the Technology Action Plan (TAP) was a three-stage process for both adaptation and mitigation in the following sectors: Agri-Food and Food Sovereignty, Human Health, Infrastructure and Socio-Economic Development, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and Water Resources. It should be noted that respect for human rights and gender equity (especially for the most vulnerable groups), disaster risk management, the promotion of land-use planning and the awareness-raising and training of citizens to respond to climate change are included as cross-cutting issues.
Honduras’ National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) was developed in 2018 with the main objective of being the official instrument for the implementation of the strategies defined in the National Adaptation Plan, and to communicate the prioritised activities to address the most urgent needs of Honduras related to adaptation to climate change.
Further, the Water, Forest, and Soil Master Plan was launched in 2017 and is aligned with a territorial planning approach where climate change adaptation and mitigation are mainstreamed into municipal development plans. It also includes the water, forest, and soil sectors as complementary elements to implement adaptation and mitigation measures and technologies in the various parts of the country in a targeted and differentiated manner.
Honduras' Climate Change Law (2013) describe actions and plans to implement disaster risk management, tackle sectoral vulnerabilities, and protect, conserve, and restore coastal marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their biodiversity.
The country also has sectoral strategies for adaptation to climate change, which frame adaptation actions. Of the five strategic axes of the NAP, only Food Sovereignty and Security and Human Health have sectoral adaptation strategies. It is expected that the remaining sectors, Infrastructure and Economic Development, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and Water Resources will develop their respective sectoral adaptation strategies in the future.
In addition, there are numerous regulations that frame the country on directly related issues. These regulations cover issues such as: Human Rights and Adaptive Governance, Knowledge Management, Land Management, Transversal Pillars, Agri-Food and Food Sovereignty, Infrastructure and Socio-Economic Development, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Water Resources, Human Health, Disaster Risk Management, Gender and Vulnerable Groups, Desertification and Drought (PAN LCD), among others.
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
Honduras has made significant progress in constructing the policy and regulatory framework for addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation, and some action plans and priorities have been identified. However, most of these are still to be implemented. For example, the National Climate Change Mitigation Plan is currently in its preparatory phase, and implementation of the National Adaptation Plan is projected for 2030, yet several sectoral adaptation strategies are still to be formulated.
Goals and Ambitions
Honduras’ Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) considers adaptation to climate change as a priority to reduce the vulnerability of the country. The implementation of mitigation policies and measures would contribute to an increase in the adaptive capacity of its population, as well as its natural and productive systems.
The contribution of Honduras aims to reduce by 16% the GHG emissions expected under the BaU scenario in 2030: 28,945 Gg CO2eq (excluding LULUCF). As a result of the revision of GHG emissions and removals projections for the years 2016 to 2030, Honduras is expected to have net emissions of 17,911.1 Gg CO2eq in 2030, which would represent an increase of 208.7% over the 2015 net emissions of 8,581.1 Gg CO2eq.
The implementation period is 2012-2030, with periodic reviews every five years. In particular, the emissions currently estimated for the BaU scenario will be updated periodically to keep in line with improvements in the GHG inventory (good practice according to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines) and improvements in the information and estimation methods of the projections.
The 16% reduction contribution would be allocated to the sectors according to their proportional share of total national emissions: 9% energy sector, 5% agriculture sector, 1% IPPU sector and 1% waste sector.
Honduras has made significant progress in constructing the policy and regulatory framework for addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation, and some action plans and priorities have been identified. However, most of these are still to be implemented; given the country’s difficult conditions, significant financial, technical, and material support would be required.