NCAP Guatemala: Engagement in the Planning Process

Submitted by Ben Smith | published 8th Feb 2012 | last updated 8th Feb 2012

Based on the experience of interacting with participants in policy setting processes in the target watershed areas from early on in the NCAP project, it became clear to the PNCC that there are at least three important points of engagement between the climate change adaptation community and water management planning and decision making.

Awareness Raising

The first point of engagement with an ongoing water resource policy setting process is simply to create awareness that the changing climate and associated changes to hydrological regimes could be an important factor to consider in arriving at a final policy or decision. This point of engagement typically provides several hurdles that can be a challenge to overcome. The first relates to lingering doubts among some stakeholders that climate change is really happening. The second is the perception that while it may be happening, it is too far off in the future to be of concern to the issues at hand. The third hurdle, which is perhaps the most difficult to overcome, is a belief on the part of one or several stakeholders that while climate change is happening, taking it into consideration is likely to reduce the justification for their preferred resolution of the decision making process in question.

Impact Assessment

The next possible point of engagement would be to actually try to understand the potential impacts of climate change on some key factors in the decision making process. These might include streamflow, water quality, evapotranspriation rates, aquifer recharge rates, reservoir storage, water supply reliability, indeed any number of water related factors. Obviously quantifying these impacts requires some analysis beyond simply inferring what higher temperatures or reduced rainfall may mean in terms of the future evolution of a particular factor. At this point of engagement, two hurdles are prominent. The first relates to a suspicion that any quantification of future impacts is too uncertain to be useful to the current decision making process. The second hurdle is more subtle and it relates to the fact that the water related factors analyzed in terms of their future evolution under conditions for climate change need to be considered relevant by those involved in the decision making process.

Defining Appropriate Adaptation Strategies

If relevant, potential impacts of climate change, properly characterized in terms of their uncertainty, are developed it becomes possible to begin an exploration of available adaptation strategies. This is the third possible point of engagement identified by the PNCC team. Activity at this level includes defining a series of strategies that could help overcome relevant, potentially negative impacts associated with climate change. Here again there are two primary hurdles that must be overcome as part of the effort to introduce climate change considerations. The first relates to the fact that participants often cling to their own preferred understanding of the process, as it is difficult to fully discount their strategy in the face of the uncertainty associated with climate change impacts analysis. The second hurdle is that climate change may require participants in a particular decision making process to imagine adaptation strategies that fall outside the range of strategies that have typically been considered. This is a difficult intellectual challenge.