Outlook on climate change adaptation in the Tropical Andes

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Outlook on climate change adaptation
in the Tropical Andes mountains
This synthesis publication builds on the main findings and results
available on projects and activities that have been conducted.
It is based on available information, such as respective national
communications by countries to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and peer-reviewed
literature. It is based on review of existing literature and not on new
scientific results generated through the project.
The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the
views or policies of UNEP, contributory organizations or any
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Production Team
Tina Schoolmeester, GRID-Arendal
Miguel Saravia, CONDESAN
Magnus Andresen, GRID-Arendal
Julio Postigo, CONDESAN, Universidad del Pacífico
Alejandra Valverde, CONDESAN, Pontificia Universidad Católica
del Perú
Matthias Jurek, GRID-Arendal
Björn Alfthan, GRID-Arendal
Silvia Giada, UNEP
Front cover photo:
Southern Bogota, Colombia
The development of this publication has been supported by the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the context
of its inter-regional project “Climate change action in developing
countries with fragile mountainous ecosystems from a sub-regional
perspective”, which is financially co-supported by the Government
of Austria (Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry,
Environment and Water Management).
Angela Soriano, CONDESAN
Bert de Bievre, CONDESAN
Boris Orlowsky, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Clever Mafuta, GRID-Arendal
Dirk Hoffmann, Instituto Boliviano de la Montana - BMI
Edith Fernandez-Baca, UNDP
Eva Costas, Ministry of Environment, Ecuador
Gabriela Maldonado, CONDESAN
Harald Egerer, UNEP
Ieva Rucevska, GRID-Arendal
Koen Verbist, UNESCO
Larisa Semernya, UNEP
Manuel Peralvo, CONDESAN
Marie Halvorsen, GRID-Arendal
Rolando Celleri, Universidad de Cuenca, Ecuador
Selene Baez, CONDESAN
Tiina Kurvits, GRID-Arendal
Riccardo Pravettoni, Cartografare il Presente
ISBN: 978-82-7701-151-6
Recommended Citation
Schoolmeester, T.; Saravia, M.; Andresen, M.; Postigo, J.; Valverde, A.;
Jurek, M.; Alfthan, B. and Giada, S. 2016. Outlook on Climate Change
Adaptation in the Tropical Andes mountains. Mountain Adaptation
Outlook Series. United Nations Environment Programme, GRIDArendal and CONDESAN. Nairobi, Arendal, Vienna and Lima.
www.unep.org, www.grida.no, www.condesan.org
UNEP promotes
environmentally sound practices
globally and in its own activities. This
publication is printed on fully recycled paper,
FSC certified, post-consumer waste and chlorinefree. Inks are vegetable-based and coatings are waterbased. UNEP’s distribution policy aims to reduce its
carbon footprint.
Outlook on climate change adaptation
in the Tropical Andes mountains
Executive summary
Climate change
Climate change hazards and trends
Impact of climate change on natural and human systems
Loss of ecosystem functions and biodiversity
Key risks related to climate change
Policy assessment
Analysis of relevant adaptation policies and frameworks of the major vulnerable sectors
Policy approaches
Institutional and stakeholder analysis
Gender issues
Indigenous people
Gap analysis
Comparative analysis of available policies
Loss of ecosystem functions and biodiversity
Food (agriculture)
Energy (hydropower)
Are the responses forward-looking?
Summits of the Iliniza volcano, Ecuador
Mountain ecosystems enrich the lives of over half of
the world’s population as a source of water, energy,
agriculture and other essential goods and services.
Unfortunately, while the impact of climate change is
accentuated at high altitude, such regions are often
on the edge of decision-making, partly due to their
isolation, inaccessibility and relative poverty.
That is why the United Nations Environment
Programme and GRID-Arendal have partnered on
a series of outlook reports about the need for urgent
action to protect mountain ecosystems and to mitigate
human risk from extreme events. Covering the Western
Balkans, Southern Caucasus, Central Asia, (Tropical)
Andes and Eastern Africa, the reports assess the
effectiveness of existing adaptation policy measures and
the extent to which they apply to mountain landscapes,
going on to identify critical gaps that must be addressed
to meet current and future risks from climate change.
The result of a broad assessment process involving
national governments and regional and international
experts, the reports offer concrete recommendations
for adaptation. This includes sharing regional good
practices with the potential for wider replication to
improve cost efficiency and adaptation capacity.
While each of the regions is covered in a dedicated
report, they all face similar issues. On one hand,
rising temperatures and changing precipitation
patterns affect a range of mountain ecosystems,
including forests, grasslands and lakes. On the
other, drivers such as pollution from mining and
unsustainable agriculture erode their ability to
cope with these changes. The combined impact
is increasing vulnerability among the local and
downstream populations who depend on mountain
ecosystems – especially when they are isolated from
markets, services and decision-making institutions.
Achim Steiner
UNEP Executive Director and Under-SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations
By the end of this century, the coldest years in the
Tropical Andes Mountains will be warmer than the
warmest years to which humans and other species
have adapted so far. A vast variety of ecosystems are
found in these mountains, including the Amazon
basin, snow-capped peaks and more arid areas like
the Atacama Desert, the world’s driest. These support
the lives of tens of millions of people, so cooperation
and information sharing among Andean countries
are crucial for the health of these ecosystems, which
is why assistance from the respective governments
has been much appreciated in creating this report.
We hope that this report will serve as a practical
companion for local, regional and national policy
makers seeking to protect fragile mountain
ecosystems and the people who depend on them.
H.E. Andrä Rupprechter
Austrian Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry,
Environment and Water Management
Executive summary
The Tropical Andes are the home to many diverse
communities, from remote farming villages to large
urban centres and capitals, such as Merida, Bogotá,
Quito, Cusco, El Alto and La Paz. In total, about 60
million people live at between 1,000 and 4,500 metres
(Cuesta, 2012). The region has a tropical climate,
with little seasonal variation in temperatures.
However, there is strong seasonality of precipitation,
in the Peruvian Andes in particular. In Colombia
and Venezuela, the Andes are generally more humid,
while the Altiplano and the Bolivian Andes are drier.
The Tropical Andes will experience some of the most
drastic impacts of climate changes in South America.
By the year 2100, the coldest years in the Tropical
Andes Mountains will be warmer than the warmest
years to which humans and other species have adapted
so far. Different climate models all indicate warming
everywhere, but there is far greater uncertainty when
it comes to projections of precipitation and seasonality
(Magrin et al. 2014). However, the general trend
across the region is that precipitation will increase in
the already wet north-west and decrease in the drier
Altiplano area and north-east. The rainy season in the
Altiplano area is already becoming more concentrated,
and the dry season longer.
The Tropical Andes are among the world’s biodiversity
hotspots most vulnerable to climate change (Malcolm
et al., 2006). These mountains contain a wide spectrum
of microclimates harbouring unique diversity of
ecosystems. Glaciers, high mountain grasslands,
mountain forests, rivers, lakes and wetlands provide
essential services to society. Therefore, damage from
climate change to these ecosystems can consequently
harm society. If they are to adapt successfully to climate
change, mountain ecosystem services and mountain
communities must be recognized and protected.
Key risks from climate change
Change in the precipitation regime will have
serious implications for the provision of water
for drinking, sanitation, agriculture, energy and
industry. Meanwhile, temperature increase will alter
the biochemical composition of soil and vegetation,
thereby changing its capacity to regulate water flows.
Extreme events, albeit not caused by climate change
alone, will further reduce the capacity of soil and
vegetation to prevent landslides. Glacier melt can
– in some cases – release heavy metals into water
flows, which can pose health risks for those using the
water. The increase and concentration of the demand
for water and other resources will be amplified by
population growth and urbanization.
Farmer, Peru
Water availability is essential to all key economic
activities in the Tropical Andes, especially hydropower,
which generates the majority of electricity in the
region. Mining is another key economic activity
in the area, and relies heavily on water resources.
In areas where water is becoming scarce, inclusive
management systems are necessary to prevent conflict
between stakeholders.
Agriculture is among the most important subsistence
and economic activities in the Tropical Andes, and one
of the sectors most affected by climate change. Tubers,
such as potatoes and oca, are particularly vulnerable to
warming. As the mountains become warmer, crops need
to be moved to higher elevations, often with negative
consequences for pastoralists and biodiversity. Warming
is also threatening high mountain grasslands, which
are particularly important for pastoral communities
and water regulation (López-i-Gelats et al., 2015).
Key findings
Mountain communities in the Tropical Andes are
particularly vulnerable and exposed to climate
hazards, partly due to their disproportionate poverty
and the specific features of mountain environments.
For example, geographic inaccessibility affects all
industries and increases the costs of hazardous
events and adaptation policies. Furthermore, remote
mountain areas are often under-prioritized by
central governments. Adaptation targeted towards
mountain-specific environments is currently
underdeveloped, despite being necessary to avoiding
the abovementioned risks.
Because of the complex topography in mountainous
regions, available climate models are often too coarse
to provide precise and less ambiguous projections
at the local level. This adds uncertainty to the
development of adaptation policies, which are crucial
to facing climate hazards both in the mountains and in
the lowlands. There is also a lack of mountain-specific
Agricultural problems affect some of the poorest and
most vulnerable to food insecurity, with substantial
negative effects on human health. Furthermore,
insects and vector-borne diseases have moved higher
as the climate has warmed (Siraj et al., 2014). Malaria,
dengue fever and other diseases will therefore become
more prominent in the mountains.
Extreme climatic events are predicted to increase in
strength and can in turn cause floods, droughts and
landslides. These events have the potential to cause
enormous harm to humans, infrastructure and the
environment. Socioeconomic indicators determine
to a significant degree the outcome of such extreme
events for different social groups. For example,
poor people living in slums on the steep hillsides of
Andean cities are more vulnerable to landslides.
Llamas, Altiplano, Bolivia
Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, Peru
data, and knowledge on how climate change affects
social and biological systems, which both are key to
developing and implementing effective adaptation
strategies. Furthermore, insufficient technical capacity
on mountains and adaptation is another barrier to
successful policy development and implementation,
especially at the sub-national government levels.
Since the impact of climate change occurs over
decades and centuries, adaptation policies should
ideally be based on long-term observations in
combination with projections. However, current
institutional designs favour actions with shortterm gain. Too often stakeholders are forced to
implement reactive policies instead of more costeffective preventive action. A long-term perspective
towards adaptation also involves the development of
indicators to measure success and failure in order to
improve policies and strategies.
The lack of technical knowledge and capacity on
climate change issues that is prevalent among local
stakeholders hinders their ability to adapt to changes.
This could partly explain the lack of implementation
of existing adaptation policies in mountain
communities. Furthermore, effective adaptation calls
for the coordination of climate change adaptation
across policy sectors and places, but weak institutions
currently hinder this. There are, however, some existing
policy frameworks (e.g. for Risk Management and for
Integrated Watershed Management) that, despite not
having been created under the climate change label,
could easily be used for adaptation purposes and have
a complete set of policy instruments.
Problems caused by climate change in the mountains
are often transboundary due to their importance
in terms of hydrology, the location of basins and
the continuation of social and biological systems.
International cooperation and coordination on
Wax palms in Cocora valley, Colombia
mountain policy could increase adaptive capacity. The
tropical Andean countries share many challenges and
opportunities, which could favour mutual cooperation
and benefits, yet the lack of sharing of information and
practical experiences between countries in the region
hinders the effective development and implementation
of adaptation policies.
Another barrier is the lack of effective participation
of women and indigenous people from mountain
communities and the lack of inclusion of traditional
knowledge in the design and implementation of
mountain adaptation policies. The highest numbers of
indigenous people in the countries live in the high sierra
in central Peru and in the Altiplano. Thriving in some
of the world’s most difficult environments demonstrates
ingenuity and adaptability, yet these capacities are
currently underutilized by society due to poverty, sexism
and ethnic discrimination. Adaptation measures should
build on traditional knowledge wherever available and
involve women, indigenous people and vulnerable
groups in their planning and implementation.
Monitoring and research
1. Increase the number of hydro-meteorological
measurement stations and maintain existing
stations to ensure long-term observations and
accurate local projections in mountain areas. Efforts
to maintain and expand on the existing hydrometeorological measurement infrastructure would
reduce costs of adaptation policies by allowing
targeted and efficient measures to be implemented.
More funding should be awarded to initiatives such as
the Initiative on Hydrological Monitoring of Andean
Ecosystems (iMHEA), which currently has more than
20 monitoring sites to respond to specific hydrological
concerns of the communities and local authorities.
2. Fund and promote more research on mountainspecific impacts of climate change on social and
biological systems; this is necessary for more
efficient adaptation action. Particular attention
should be paid to the locally specific challenges
in the various settings. National data should be
disaggregated geographically, to allow researchers
to understand the different adaptation needs in
different parts of countries. Enhance the monitoring
of mountain-specific biodiversity, such as through
the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine
Environments (GLORIA-Andes) adapted for the
Andes and the Andean Forest Monitoring Network.
Key risk sectors
3. Address key risks threatening water resources,
land resources, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems,
food security and health. Mountain communities
are particularly vulnerable and exposed to climate
hazards. Policies addressing food and water
availability in these communities are important to
prevent poverty and associated ills. Water resources
provided by mountains are also crucial to the vast
majority of the population living downstream. There
is no one-size-fits-all adaptation strategy possible for
the entire Tropical Andes; hence the need for both
mountain-specific adaptation measures relevant at
the local level and specific adaptation plans for each
different setting/case. Prudent water management
and the development of sustainable water storage
solutions should be considered.
4. Implement Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA)
measures. Mountain ecosystems are threatened not
only by climate change but also by other stressors,
including pollution and changes to land use. To
successfully combine economic development with
preservation of the ecosystems in vulnerable mountain
communities, it is important to strengthen and
properly manage ecosystems, and sustainably increase
the benefits gained by society. EbA encompasses a
range of low-cost options that promote the sustainable
use of natural resources while planning for and
adapting to changing climate conditions. EbA can
benefit mountain communities as well as communities
in downstream areas.
5. Expand measures to prevent and manage extreme
events driven by climate change. The design of tools,
mechanisms and technologies to address climatedriven events (such as floods or wildfires) must be
forward-looking and preventive in nature to increase
the resilience of people, ecosystems and infrastructure.
The development of early warning systems would be
very valuable to reducing casualties, especially in the
case of flooding. In some cases, it would be beneficial
to use the policy instruments of other frameworks
(e.g. those of Risk Management) for climate change
adaptation purposes.
6. Move from reactive to preventive action. A longterm approach focused on prevention is needed
to adapt to climate change. Many effects to which
society must adapt occur over decades and centuries.
Efficient adaptation must acknowledge where longterm preventive measures are preferable to shortterm reactive measures, and efforts must be made
to ensure continuity both in policy as well as policyimplementing institutions. The institutional basis for
long-term monitoring and observations should also
be guaranteed.
7. Promote Result-Based Management. Comple­
mentary policy instruments are required to allow
policies to be implemented: policy alone is not
enough. Adaptation policies should be designed with
inbuilt indicators and mechanisms to measure their
degree of implementation success, effectiveness and
failure. Policy monitoring and evaluation is especially
important in remote areas and in areas where there is
little prior experience. Such measures are central to a
long-term approach to adaptation action.
Regional cooperation
8. Enhance technical capacity on climate change
adaptation. Climate change affects all aspects of
society and government. To reach the goals of climate
change adaptation, it is therefore important that
decision makers and implementers at all levels are
educated about climate science and adaptation policy.
This could be advanced by including information
about climate change adaptation in the training of
government actors at all scales, from central agencies
to local governments - especially within mountain
areas. Awareness-raising is generally valuable to
ensuring that local people, private companies and
governments work towards shared goals in climate
change adaptation.
9. Build from existing traditional knowledge
and strengthen women’s role. Andean mountain
communities have been dealing with an adverse and
changing environment since they first colonized
the mountains more than 10,000 years ago. Their
experiences should be used for local adaptation
action and their knowledge to complement current
research. The inclusion of traditional knowledge in the
design and implementation of mountain adaptation
policies has proved successful and should be further
encouraged. Women have a profound knowledge of
their environment and often play a greater role than
men in the management of natural resources. Through
their experiences, responsibilities and strength,
women are a primary resource for adaptation and
their roles should be strengthened by government.
10. Create an Andean data-sharing platform for
adaptation. As the tropical Andean countries share
many challenges and opportunities in the mountains
due to climate change, there is potential for mutual
benefit. Both natural and social scientific research
and measurements, as well as lessons learned from
implemented adaptation policies, should be shared to
reduce costs, improve all countries’ adaptive capacity,
and avoid the unnecessary duplication of research,
policy efforts and other measures. Facilitating
interdisciplinary discussions among experts on
mountains and climate change could be an important
part of the knowledge-sharing process.
11. Improve coordination between Andean countries
on sustainable development in the mountains.
International cooperation and coordination on
mountain policy would be of mutual benefit to all
Andean countries in order to strengthen their adaptive
capacity and jointly take advantage of opportunities.
The benefits of an Andean data-sharing platform could
be further enhanced by regional coordination on the
establishment and standardization of indicators and
monitoring systems. Regional coordination could
also ensure demand-driven research and monitoring.
Mutual commitments in the region on adaptation
policies, including joint objectives and programmatic
priorities, could also facilitate a long-term approach.
Mountains are unique and threatened systems where
changes due to climate change are among the bestdemonstrated. The higher the mountains, the more
temperature-sensitive these regions are, and often
extreme impact events such as glacier lake outburst
floods – due to glacier recession and subsequent
formation of unstable lakes – can be directly
attributed to the effects of long-term warming.
In this outlook, mountain environments are areas
with an elevation and slope angles that meet the
UNEP (2002) definition.1 The Tropical Andes region
is the area of the Andean Mountain range from their
northernmost point at 11°N in Colombia until 23°S
on the southern border of Bolivia (Cuesta, 2012).
This definition is based on national borders since the
assessment focuses on policy instruments. However,
the tropical mountain environment stretches
until 27°S in the north-east of Argentina (Ibid.).
The Tropical Andes pass through five countries:
Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
The Andes are approximately 7,000 km long and
are the world’s longest terrestrial mountain range,
running parallel along the entire west coast of South
America. It is the second highest after the Hindu KushHimalaya mountain system. From northern Chile
and Argentina, the Andes widen out to 700 km, with
high valleys and a high plateau called the Altiplano.
This area marks the start of the Tropical Andes and
dominates Bolivia and southern Peru. Wide, high
mountain valleys are prevalent in Peru before the range
narrows from Ecuador and into Colombia. Valleys are
generally parallel to the range. The range splits into
three branches, one of which reaches Venezuela.
The Andes mountain range has a profound impact on
the climate and environment of the South American
continent. The range acts as a barrier between the
coast to the west and the extremely humid Amazon
basin to the east. Moisture from the rainforest is not
able to move across the range, thereby creating the
continent’s unique environment. The climate also
changes drastically throughout the region and is
greatly influenced by latitude and altitude, giving way
to the world’s driest desert, Atacama on the western
slopes of the Central Andes and rainforests along the
eastern foothills.
The countries of the Tropical Andes are all parties
to the United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as Non-Annex I
countries. The Convention serves as an important
platform for international action on climate change
mitigation and adaptation. Most of the Andean
countries (except Venezuela) have announced
Intended Nationally Determined Contributions
(INDCs) as their national commitments to mitigate
climate change. These targets will be reached
by mobilizing their own resources and also by
requesting donor support for their climate actions.
The impacts of climate change, however, continue to
grow and are felt throughout the entire region. Rising
temperatures and changing precipitation patterns
are leading to more frequent and intense weather
events, clearly highlighting the need for immediate
adaptation measures.
Against this background, this outlook has been
prepared by UNEP, its collaborating centre
GRID-Arendal and the Consortium for the
Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion
(CONDESAN), involving a number of national
and international experts. This outlook synthesizes
and analyses existing climate change adaptation
responses in the mountainous regions of the Tropical
Andes and the extent to which they address key
climate risks.
In doing so, the authors and contributors have followed
the definitions set out in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment
Report (Oppenheimer et al., 2014). The outlook
has taken three main steps: 1) the determination of
the main climate hazards, vulnerabilities and key
risks. Once identified, these key risks are considered
priorities to be addressed by adaptation policy; 2) the
identification of existing policies and strategies for
climate change adaptation, and 3) the analysis of the
extent to which these existing measures can respond
to the key risks (gap analysis).
Risks are considered key if there is a combination of
vulnerability and likelihood of exposure to hazards
(Oppenheimer et al., 2014). Climate hazards are
the physical events or trends resulting from climate
change that can threaten society or natural systems.
For example, there is a high likelihood of increased
temperatures in the high mountains, which will have
negative consequences for local farmers. These farmers
are generally vulnerable (predisposed to harm) due to
their extreme environment, remoteness from services
and markets, poverty and other social inequalities.
The resulting high risk of decreased income and
malnutrition is therefore considered to be key. This
methodology is applied to describe the key risks to
climate change in the Tropical Andes Mountains.
The Tropical Andes region
This synthesis publication has used the following
information sources: peer-reviewed journal articles;
grey literature sources (e.g. those available from NGOs
and international organizations); government reports
including the National Communications submitted
by countries to the UNFCCC); and extensive expert
input through stakeholder consultations.
Ritacuba Blanco
Cero Raya
N. del Ruiz
Socioeconomic background
Mt. Roraima
Volcán Galeras
N. Huascarán
Elevation (m.a.s.l.)
1 000
2 000
3 000
4 000
5 000
Nevado Coropuna
El Alto
La Paz
N. Illimani
N. Sajama
Highest peak
Country capital
Large city
(more than 1 million inhabitants)
Protected area
Tropic of Capricorn
Volcán Llullaillaco
The risk of climate change to society varies both with
the magnitude of the expected climate hazards and
with the society’s exposure and vulnerability to these
hazards. Vulnerability arises both from the sensitivity
and susceptibility to harm, and from the limited
capacity to cope and adapt. Many social factors such
as poverty, gender discrimination and education levels
are relevant to determine degrees of vulnerability.
People with limited funds, access to government
institutions or social safety nets have fewer adaptation
options and are more likely to suffer from the impact
of climate change. The high Andes, particularly in
Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, have some of the most
widespread poverty in South America. Furthermore,
poverty-related problems in the mountains are
often exacerbated by remoteness from markets and
services. The effects of climate change could therefore
exacerbate existing social inequality and suffering,
including gender, ethnic and economic inequalities, all
of which are significant in the Tropical Andes region.
Despite significant economic growth and other
improvements achieved in the region during the late
1990s and the first decade of 2000, these countries
face other common issues, including poverty,
poor literacy and health care. Weak governing
institutions and high levels of corruption also limit
sustainable development and adaptive capacity in
the region. Furthermore, illegal activities, such as
the drug-industry, environmental crime and illegal
mining, place additional stress on people and the
environment, which increases their vulnerability.
A new wave of extractive industries in the Andean
region (e.g. large-scale, open pit mining) also poses
challenges for local people and high elevation
systems, including on water resources, livelihoods
and social relationships (Bebbington & Bury, 2009).
While several governmental policies have favoured
rural and indigenous communities in Bolivia over
the last decade, discrimination of ethnic minorities
still constitutes a significant barrier to adaptation.
The highest numbers of indigenous people in the
Tropical Andes live on the steep valleys of the high
sierra in central Peru and in the Altiplano. Among
the many and diverse indigenous groups in the
mountains, Quechua and Aymara are the largest.
A significant proportion of these groups are smallscale farmers, who are particularly vulnerable to
climate change. However, traditional ecological
knowledge is a significant capacity for adaptation
(Berkes et al., 2000). Thriving in some of the world’s
most difficult environments demonstrates ingenuity
and adaptability; capacities that are underutilized by
society due to social structures, including poverty
and ethnic discrimination. For example, a study
showed that indigenous people living in the northern
part of the Altiplano are particularly vulnerable to
climate change due to poverty and lack of education
(Valdivia et al., 2013). Furthermore, for many people,
mountains and glaciers also have a deep cultural and
religious significance.
Due to sexist social structures, women often have
fewer tools available for adaptation, such as access
to education, financial credit and participation in
local and national governance. Sexism and other
forms of discrimination, such as racism and poverty,
combine to make many women in the high Andes
particularly vulnerable to climate change. In a study
on particular Aymara communities in the Altiplano,
about 30 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men
did not speak Spanish (Valdivia et al., 2013). This
was partly due to unequal educational levels and
access to external services. However, recent years
have seen an improvement, as women become both
more educated and more included in local decisionmaking. To succeed, adaptation policies must target
such social barriers by considering the needs and
opinions of women, especially in areas with high
levels of emigration.
in determining vulnerability to climate change.
Migration (including temporary) often constitutes
an essential element of adaptation for families and
communities. Meanwhile, changes in land use,
population growth and unsustainable exploitation of
resources are, in combination with climate change,
threatening the capacity of the Andes Mountains to
provide ecosystem services needed in both the highand lowlands.
Some social causes of vulnerability not only increase
the vulnerability of the underprivileged, but also
enhance the capacity of the privileged. For example,
the overrepresentation of men in parliament could
mean that their issues are given disproportional
weight; and the entitlement of the rich is enhancing
their adaptive capacity by reducing that of the
poor. The representation of women in parliament
differs substantially along the range, from Bolivia
at 52 per cent and Ecuador at 42 per cent to the
less representative 17 per cent in Venezuela, 20 per
cent in Colombia, and 22 per cent in Peru (World
Bank, 2015a).
Urbanization and international migration, to both
large and smaller cities in the region, affect migrants
and those left behind. Migrants often receive
increased wages, improving both their own situation
and helping their dependents and community.
Remittances from migrants play an important role
in providing adaptability and resilience in rural
communities, while migration from the mountains
reduces strain on vulnerable ecosystems. On the
other hand, emigration can erode local institutions
and governance arrangements that influence access to
resources. Emigration also leaves rural communities
with a reduced labour force, and migrants often face
significant difficulty establishing themselves in a new
area. Dependency relationships with urban centres
could also prove problematic if remittance levels
were to go down.
Multiple capitals and large cities are located in the
Tropical Andes. Bogotá is the most populated,
with approximately 9 million inhabitants. Other
big cities include Medellín, Quito, Cusco, El Alto
and La Paz. Sixty million people live on the range
at between 1,000 and 4,500 m.a.s.l. About half of
these live in Colombia. Bolivia is the country with
the highest percentage of its population living in the
mountains (90 per cent). Population growth and
international and internal migration are key factors
All countries in the region have high levels of
urbanization and population growth. These trends
will significantly increase and concentrate the
demand for services and resources, which are
already often threatened by climate change, such as
water resources and agricultural goods (Buytaert and
De Bièvre, 2012). Demographic trends and social
challenges must be considered in combination with
climate change to develop successful adaptation
policies across all policy sectors.
Miraflores, Peru
Population distribution within the Tropical
Andes countries
Caracas Barcelona
Valledupar Cabimas
Ciudad Guayana
San Cristobal
Floridablanca Barquisimeto
Santo Domingo
Urbanization rate trends
Percentage of people living in urban areas
Per square kilometre
Less than 5
5 to 25
25 to 50
25 to 250
250 to 1 000
More than 1 000
Major cities*
Thousand inhabitants
7 600
La Paz
El Alto
3 000
1 000
*With more than 200 000 inhabitants
Sources: Center for International Earth Science Information
Network (CIESIN). Columbia University; UN Statistical Division
Climate change
Páramo ecosystem, Colombia
Climate change hazards and trends
Climate hazards are the physical events or trends
resulting from climate change that can threaten
society or natural systems. For example, increased
temperatures, extreme precipitation events, glacial
melting and landslides can be climate hazards.
The degree to which areas and policy sectors are
susceptible to damage from hazards is termed their
vulnerability. Vulnerability to climate hazards is
dependent on varied characteristics of the society
or natural system exposed. This includes the
presence of key infrastructure, environmental and
socioeconomic factors, as well as governments’ and
peoples’ willingness and capacity to adapt. Hazards
become risks when society is both exposed to the
hazard and is vulnerable to its effects.
There is uncertainty about both observed and
predicted climate change due to insufficient data and
the complex topography of the region, which requires
a high density of long-term hydro-meteorological
measurement stations. This lack of measurements
represents a significant barrier in the development of
adaptation policies.
In the Tropical Andes, projections of future climate
change often appear to exacerbate climate events
already being observed: wetter areas become wetter,
drier areas become drier, leading in turn to more
dramatic precipitation events and more dramatic
droughts (Magrin et al., 2014). In other areas,
projections show that some very dry areas may also
become wetter (Hijmans et al., 2005).
Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, Peru
Numerous studies confirm that the Tropical Andes
have undergone significant warming in the last century
(Magrin et al., 2014), yet the degree of warming in
different locations differs significantly, partly because
of the rugged landscape and the increase in warming
with increasing elevation. From the information
available, some broad trends have been observed.
Mean warming of about 0.7-1°C was recorded in the
Tropical Andes in the latter half of the 1900s. From
1939 to 2006, the increase was about 0.1°C per decade
(Vuille et al., 2008). The rate of warming accelerated
in later years: from 1980 to 2005 the rate of warming
was about 0.33°C per decade (Barry, 2005). Only two
out of the 20 last years have been below the average
recorded from 1961 to 1990 (Vuille et al., 2008).
However, the increase varies greatly within the region
and at the local level. The highest warming has been
observed in parts of the Colombian Andes (Ruiz et
al., 2008) and in the Central Andes of Peru and the
Altiplano (Valdivia et al., 2013; Vuille, 2013).
Mindo Nambillo Forest Reserve, Ecuador
Rainfall varies substantially with time and location
in the Tropical Andes. It is therefore particularly
important to recognize that trends of annual total
precipitation in the region do not represent the trends
in specific places or times of the year. In the Central
Andes, Bolivia and Peru have highly differentiated rainy
and dry seasons. Approximately 50 to 80 per cent of the
yearly total precipitation falls in the rainy season in the
Central Andes (Vuille et al., 2000). In the Altiplano area,
more than 60 per cent of precipitation falls in the rainy
period (Thibeault, 2010). The northern Andes and
surrounding areas are generally more humid and
have less seasonally differentiated precipitation.
Changes in total annual precipitation over the
last century in the Tropical Andes have been less
clear overall than changes in temperature, as the
rugged topography of the Andes influences the
generalizability of precipitation measurements.
Most importantly though, the internal variability
(such as year-to-year differences) is very large for
precipitation, and therefore any climate change
signal must be very strong to be visible in this
variability (and it isn’t). The trends observed are that
precipitation has increased in the inner tropics but
decreased in the outer tropics (Magrin et al., 2014).
Bolivia and southern Peru have the biggest problems
with water shortages. The north-western coast of
Peru and the hyper-humid Ecuadorian Choco have
experienced an increase in precipitation, while the
drier Altiplano area has observed a decrease.
The effect of El Niño on weather in the Andes
Wet conditions
Dry conditions
Raising of
warm moist
Warm waters
accumulates on South
America’s coast
than usual
Changing seasonality is perhaps the most important
change in precipitation patterns observed so far. In
the south in particular, there are indications that the
rainy season has become more intense and more
seasonally concentrated, while the dry season has
become longer (Seth et al., 2010).
Precipitation in the Tropical Andes also has great
yearly and decadal variation. This is mainly due
to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and
Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) climate systems.
It is important to remember that ENSO events have
spatially and temporally different and asynchronous
effects in different parts of the Tropical Andes.
Along the lower slopes of the Tropical Andes, El
Niño events generally cause heavy rainfall. However,
this rainfall does not reach above 2000 m.a.s.l. In
fact, El Niño events generally lead to warm and dry
weather in the high elevations of the Tropical Andes
and along the eastern slopes. La Niña events, on the
contrary, generally cause cold and wet conditions
in the high mountains. In the Central Andes,
this influence is less significant and less uniform
(Chevallier et al., 2010).
Low soil
South East trade winds
reversed or weakened
Droughts in the Andes
Intense summer
Warm ocean
Cold ocean
Cold and warm episodes
Oceanic Niño Index
Source: National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration
The clearest trend in the Tropical Andes is the increase
in air temperature. The Tropical Andes are expected
to experience some of the most drastic change in
climate in South America (Urrutia and Vuille, 2009;
Hijmans et al., 2005). However, projections of future
climate change using different models in the Tropical
Andes are highly uncertain, particularly for rainfall.
For temperature there is a higher degree of agreement
between the different models. This is partly because
the topography of the region is too rugged to be
captured by low-resolution global models. In addition,
there is not a high density of meteorological stations,
which would be needed for validating and calibrating
climate models. Climate models, therefore, differ
more from observations in the Andes than in other
parts of South America. This is true for both models
on temperature and precipitation projections. While
especially in short-term projections internal variability
(“noise”) of the modelled processes is often larger than
any trends, for longer time scales the signal-to-noise
ratio improves and allows for deriving robust trends
(in particular for temperature).
El Niño and la Niña events have strong, though
varying, effects on both precipitation and temperature
in South America and the Tropical Andes. The overall
frequency of El Niño events is expected to decrease
slightly. Extreme El Niño events, however, are in
recent studies predicted to increase in frequency due
to global warming (Cai et al., 2014). El Niño events
are also associated with extremely warm years,
thereby adding to the predicted warming.
Future warming is predicted to be highest in the
mountains (Urrutia and Vuille, 2009; Bradley et al.,
2004). In all medium emission scenarios, by 2100
the coldest years in the Tropical Andes Mountains
will be significantly warmer than the warmest years
people have adapted to over the centuries (Vuille,
2013). This means that by 2100, temperatures will
be unprecedented for current social and ecological
systems. It is important to remember that climate
variability, such as by ENSO events, will also affect
how climate change manifests at particular times in
the future.
In a high-emission scenario (RCP8.5), temperatures
in the Tropical Andes are expected to increase by
4.5-5°C by 2100 (Bradley et al., 2009; Hijmans et al.,
2005). It should be noted that models vary greatly in
their projections for the regions, and are particularly
uncertain in mountain regions, but all models agree
that temperature will increase (Valdivia et al., 2010).
In some models, the Bolivian Altiplano is expected
to experience 3-4°C warming (Anderson et al., 2011,
Minvielle and Garreaud, 2011). A high-resolution
model projects significantly greater warming at
higher altitudes, from 3.5°C warming at 500 m
to 4.8°C warming above 4,000 m on the western
slopes (Urrutia and Vuille, 2009). In low emission
scenarios, the expected warming has about half the
amplitude. Available models also project a higher
frequency of warming than today’s average in the
years approaching 2100.
Most studies on precipitation focus on changes in
total annual precipitation. However, for the Tropical
Andes the main change may be in seasonal variability.
In southern Peru and Bolivia, for instance, climate
models predict more intense and concentrated rainy
Girl, Peru
seasons and longer dry seasons (Seth et al., 2010).
However, it is important to recognize the high
variance of precipitation patterns within these areas.
The expected changes in total annual precipitation
are generally low and uncertain in South America
as a whole. However, models predict that in a highemission scenario there will be significant changes
for some sub-areas (Magrin et al., 2014). In general,
wet areas will get wetter, and dry areas will mostly
get drier. The north-western Andes of Colombia,
Ecuador and Peru will experience increased rainfall,
while a decrease is expected in the north-eastern
Andes of Venezuela and Columbia, in southern Peru
and in the Bolivian mountains (Vuille et al., 2008;
Magrin et al., 2014; Hijmans et al., 2005).
Climate change in the Tropical Andes
Annual average temperature
Annual average rainfall
500 2000 4000
5 10 15 20 25 30
1000 3000
30 40 60 80 100
*Precipitation of the
wettest consecutive
three months divided by
annual precipitation
Projection for
RCP 8.5
Projected temperature change*
Projected precipitation change
Projected seasonality* change**
Percentage points
-10 -5 0 1 2 3 4 5 7
-40 -20 -10 0 10 20 40
*Climate models
agree well on
direction of change
Projection for
RCP 8.5
Maps have been produced
within the SMD4GC program
at UZH (Switzerland)
Projection for
RCP 8.5
between climate
models can be low
Sources: Hijmans, R.J., et al., Very
high resolution interpolated
climate surfaces for global land
areas, 2005, at worldclim.org
between climate
models can be low
Impact of climate change on
natural and human systems
Patchwork countryside, Ecuador
Loss of ecosystem functions and biodiversity
Mountain environments provide a wide range of
ecosystem services, from the cycling of nutrients,
water and greenhouse gases to disease regulation and
protection from landslides and floods. The Tropical
Andes contain a wide spectrum of microclimates,
harbouring a unique diversity of ecosystems, such as
glaciers, high mountain grasslands, mountain forests,
rivers, lakes and wetlands. The ecosystems in the most
tropical parts of the Andes, the north and along the
eastern slopes, have particularly diverse and populous
wildlife. The whole region is one of the biodiversity
hotspots most vulnerable to climate change (Malcolm
et al., 2006), partly due to its low inter-annual variability,
which means that ecosystems are not adapted to longterm climate variability (Williams and Jackson, 2007).
Therefore, many of the expected impacts of climate
Flora in the Altiplano, Bolivia
change will come indirectly through affecting these
ecosystems and their services to society.
A biome-based model, using a high-emission
scenario, predicts a potential 25 per cent change
in ecosystem distribution in the Andes by 2050,
based on preferred climatic conditions (Tovar et al.,
2013). Glaciers, cloud forests and páramos are most
vulnerable to climate change (Young et al., 2011),
with the highest relative loss of area being predicted
for these ecosystems and tropical mountain forests
such as Yungas (Tovar et al., 2013). These losses
can be explained by the direct impact of climate
change on hydrology, and also by the high altitude
of these ecosystems. Their altitude implies difficulty
for species to migrate, a high rise in temperature
Vicuñas, Peru
and other factors resulting in fragility. However, this
model does not take into account land-use change,
which is the most damaging stressor on regional
ecosystems (Magrin et al., 2014).
To adapt successfully to climate change, mountain
ecosystem services must be recognized and preserved.
Climate change, in combination with other stressors
such as land-use changes, invasive species, poaching and
pollution, puts significant pressure on fragile mountain
environments. Reduction of these other stressors will
increase the capacity to adapt. Human activities directly
determine the landscape in large parts of the Tropical
Andes. One study estimates that human activity – in
varying degrees – has transformed on average 22 per
cent of the area directly (Josse et al., 2009).
The Tropical Andes eco-regions
Retreating glaciers
Evergreen montane forest
Xeric and seasonally dry montane forest
Other forest ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems of the Yungas
Puna ecosystems
Páramo ecosystems
Desert and other xeric ecosystems
Water body
Exposed soil
Cultural landscape
La Paz
Tropic of Capricorn
Glaciers, recognized as a good indicator of climate
change due to their sensitivity to temperature
increase, are already experiencing its drastic effects.
Climate change is expected to cause increased
melting in the future, especially for tropical glaciers
(Rabatel et al., 2013) such as those in the Tropical
Andes, which range from about 4,000 to 6,500 m
altitude. To date, melting has been most prominent
in small and low-lying glaciers. The significant
melting of tropical glaciers is possibly due to high
radiation and moist tropical climate dynamics
(Ibid.). Beyond the direct warming of the glaciers
by air temperature, precipitation falling as rain
instead of snow contributes to melting by reducing
the albedo of the glacier surfaces. El Niño events are
also associated with reduction in glacier mass, due
to the higher temperature and reduced precipitation
(Francou et al., 2003; Jeschke, 2009).
Glaciers in the Tropical Andes
The Andes contains 99 per cent of the world’s
tropical glaciers (Chevallier et al., 2010). This
amounts to 0.8 per cent of the world’s glacial
area (not including Antarctica) (NCIDS, 2008).
The remaining tropical glaciers are located in
Africa and New Guinea, with a total area of less
than 10 km². The total area of glaciers in the
Tropical Andes was 1,920 km² about 10 years
ago (Francou and Vincent, 2007), with 71 per
cent in Peru, 20 per cent in Bolivia, 4 per cent in
Ecuador, and 4 per cent in Colombia-Venezuela
(Rabatel et al., 2013). The overall area of glaciers
in the Tropical Andes has diminished further
since 2007.
Glaciers play an important role in the hydrology of
the Andes by storing water in the rainy seasons and
releasing it throughout the year. The proportion of
glacial meltwater in rivers is substantially higher
in the dry season and in dry years (Buytaert et
al., forthcoming). This is due to the lack of rain
and not because of increased melting in the dry
season. Glaciers have a particularly significant effect
downstream in rivers that move into arid areas
towards the Pacific after leaving the mountains.
One extreme example is the Santa River in Peru,
which receives water from glaciers on the Cordillera
Blanca. On average, the contribution of glacial
water in this river is between 4 and 8 per cent
(Ibid.). However, in years with little precipitation
the contribution can be as high as 80 per cent in the
dry season. The compensation effect of glaciers is
particularly important in Bolivia and Peru, where
most tropical glaciers are located: here, there is the
highest difference in seasonal precipitation and
annual precipitation totals are low. In the short term
in the Tropical Andes, diminishing glaciers cause
increased water flow, but in the long term there will
be reduced dry season compensation (Vuille 2013),
which is mainly important for local ecosystems and
mountain communities.
people downstream. They are also important for
biodiversity and provide carbon storage (Myers et
al., 2000). Carbon stocks in Andean ecosystems are
comparable with those in tropical lowland forests,
especially when organic carbon stocks in the soil
are considered (Spracklen and Righelato, 2014).
Anthropogenic pressure, from agriculture and
climate change in particular, threatens the capacity
of these ecosystems and their services. Páramos are
among the ecosystems most threatened by climate
change, with one biome-based model predicting a
loss of 31 per cent of páramos by 2050 (Tovar et al.,
2013), without including the added threat of landuse change.
Deforestation in the Tropical Andes region
Forest and forest loss areas
Intact forest landscape*
Other forest cover
Net forest loss (2000-2014)
Annual deforestation rate
High mountain grass- and wetlands
Grass- and wetlands cover the areas of the high
Andes from the treeline and up to the edge of
the snow. These unique ecosystems include the
neotropical alpine grasslands, known as páramos,
dry and wet puna grasslands and other wetlands.
Páramos cover the upper part of the northern
Tropical Andes and wet punas occupy a similar niche
in the Central Andes. These grasslands, containing
millions of streams, rivers, lakes, and various kinds
of wetlands, are crucial to the hydrology of the
mountains, providing water to tens of millions of
Forest and forest loss extent
Thousands square kilometres
Tropical Andes
Forest (2014)
Net forest loss (2000-2014)
*Defined as an unbroken expanse of natural ecosystems within the zone of current
forest extent, showing no signs of significant human activity and large enough that all
native biodiversity could be maintained
Source: based on Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA, 2013
predicts a reduction of evergreen forests, in favour of
more seasonally dry forests. However, the predicted
rate of warming requires forests to migrate by more
than 9 m in altitude per year (Feeley and Silman, 2010).
This is much lower than observed migration rates
and it is likely that most species will lose substantial
proportions of their population.
Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca – Cooler as it becomes drier?
Adaptation policies must be designed to
acknowledge the local variation in both hazards
from climate change, and the vulnerabilities of
local people and ecosystems. Lake Titicaca is the
largest lake in South America in terms of volume.
Due to its size and depth, it has a substantial
effect on the local climate. The immediate areas
around the lake today are about 4-5°C warmer
and are also wetter than comparable areas at the
same altitude. Palaeological records have shown
that as water levels of the lake lowered during
warm, dry, interglacial periods, a regional cooling
effect took place and even reversed the trend
Tropical mountain forests
With warmer temperatures, ecosystems often respond
by moving upslope to colder climates (Feeley and
Silman, 2010). This trend has been observed for
towards warming. In a warming world, species are
generally expected to migrate upward in order to
stay within their optimal temperature range. This
has already been observed on tropical mountains
(Feeley et al., 2011). However, Lake Titicaca may
be an example where such general assumptions
do not apply and where the upward migration
of forests will be halted abruptly (Bush et al.,
2010). However, a reduced Lake Titicaca would
have a huge impact on irrigation and agriculture
downstream and Lake Titicaca has an impact on
the whole endorreic (closed drainage system)
Titicaca-Desaguadero-Poopó-Salares watershed.
decades as some species of trees are attempting to outclimb the heat (Feeley et al., 2011). The aforementioned
biome-based model predicts that areas currently
covered by páramos will become suited to tropical
mountain forests (Tovar et al., 2013). The model also
Variance in ability to migrate partly determines
the implications of climate change on species and
ecosystems. Cloud forests, for example, have been
unable to migrate into the high grasslands while
being diminished in lower elevations (Rehm and
Feeley, 2015). Features of both species themselves
and their environment can limit migration. For
instance, insurmountable peaks and steep valleys
represent migration borders. Land use can also
reduce the ability for tropical mountain forests to
migrate. Studies show faster upward migration in
protected than in non-protected areas (Lutz et al.,
2013). However, the rate of migration is still too slow
to match the predicted changes in climate.
Lakes and rivers
The aquatic ecosystems of the Tropical Andes include
a great number of lakes, rivers and wetlands occupied
by fish, microinvertebrates, plankton, algae and plants.
The diversity of fish species declines with altitude,
while algae and aquatic plants show the greatest
diversity above 3,000 m (Maldonado et al., 2011). Lake
Titicaca, with its numerous endemic species of fish,
plants and algae, is an exception. The highly vulnerable
aquatic ecosystems could be an early indicator of
climate change in the region. However, few studies
exist on the topic. Studies from Europe suggest a
substantial decrease of cold-water species in favour of
more warm-water species. Rivers and lakes depending
on water from vulnerable areas such as páramos and
glaciers could experience the largest impact.
Climate change in the Tropical Andes Mountains will
affect the availability of water for millions of people
across the continent, including most major cities in
the region. Population growth and urbanization will
dramatically increase the amount and concentration
of demand for already unequally distributed fresh
water resources. The observed and predicted changes
in precipitation discussed above, with more in the
north-west and less in the south, will exacerbate the
existing problems of water availability. Additionally,
higher temperatures will increase evaporation rates
across the region, thereby reducing available water
resources. This applies in particular to the western
slopes of the southern Tropical Andes. Climate
change will dramatically reduce the capacity of
mountain environments to provide water for
drinking, sanitation, industries, mining, agriculture
and energy. Temperature increase, precipitation
patterns changes, glacial retreat as well as damage
to wetlands and páramos will change the amount,
timing and purity of water supply.
In the long term, tropical glacier loss threatens to
reduce the water and electricity supplies of large cities
and hydropower projects, as well as the agricultural
and tourism sectors. Glaciers, wetlands, aquifers,
páramos and other ecosystems provide services
that are essential for water supply particularly in
dry periods (Urrutia and Vuille, 2009). Wetlands
and aquifers are most influential at lower elevations
and in the north. Páramos in the high mountains
are particularly important in Venezuela, Colombia
and Ecuador, where millions rely on them for
their water supply (Buytaert et al., 2006). Bogotá,
for example, relies on the páramo of Sumapaz. In
addition to climate change impacts, human activities
such as mining, pine plantations, grazing livestock,
hydropower and tourism have had a negative impact
on páramos and their capacity to provide clean and
sufficient water. In the Central Andes and in the
south, glaciers, wet puna and wetlands serve a similar
purpose of compensating for lack of precipitation in
the dry season.
As described above, climate change has caused a
drastic retreat of tropical Andean glaciers. Glacial
meltwater is proportionally most important to
communities just beneath them in the Central Andes
of southern Peru and Bolivia. However, glaciers are
also important to specific communities in the north,
such as in Quito, Ecuador. In an average year, about
570,000 people, primarily in the high mountains, rely
Importance of Glaciers to La Paz and El Alto
Glaciers are important to the water availability for
millions of people living in and below the tropical
Andes. Their role is mainly to compensate for lack
of other water sources by slowly releasing water
in dry periods. The Central Andes around the
Altiplano are characterized by highly differentiated
dry and rainy seasons. Ninety per cent of Bolivia’s
total rainfall is concentrated in a period of roughly
four months (December-March). The urban areas
of La Paz and El Alto, located at around 3,600 m
and 4,100 m altitude respectively, are particularly
dependent on the compensation effect of glaciers.
The yearly average contribution of glacial meltwater
to the water flow in the cities is estimated to be
around 18 per cent. Between 12 and 40 per cent
of the potable water is currently provided by
these glaciers, depending on yearly fluctuations
in precipitation. The area relies on rainfall during
the rainy season, a time when glacial meltwater
comprises only a small proportion of the total
water flow. Towards the dry period, however, the
proportion of glacial meltwater in the available
water increases as other sources dry up (Buytaert
et al., forthcoming). At the peak of the dry season,
the contribution is on average 57 per cent. In a
drought year, the city relies almost exclusively
on glacial meltwater in the driest period (93 per
cent). Since the rainy season is expected to be more
concentrated in the future, and overall precipitation
is expected to go down, the relative importance
of dwindling glaciers for the areas water supply
will increase. Glacial melting is causing increased
water flow in the short term. However, as the
glaciers shrink the flow will be reduced and the
compensatory effect of glaciers providing water
flow in the dry season will cease. More than 80
per cent of the glaciers in Cordillera Real are
small (< 0.5 km²). This means they are particularly
vulnerable to the high warming predicted in their
altitudes (Rangecroft et al., 2013). Already between
1963 and 2006, Cordillera Real in Bolivia has lost
about 48 per cent of its glacier mass.
Flood occurrence
Drought severity
La Paz
Number of floods
More than 27
10 to 27
4 to 10
2 to 4
Less than 2
Source: WRI Water Atlas, Aqueduct Global Maps 2.1 Indicators
Drought severity
Extremely high
Medium to high
La Paz
Drought severity measures the average length of drought
times the dryness of the droughts from 1901 to 2008. Drought
is defined as a contiguous period when soil moisture remains
below the 20th percentile. Length is measured in month and
dryness is the average number of percentage points by which
soil moisture drops below the 20th percentile.
Source: WRI Water Atlas, Aqueduct Global Maps 2.1 Indicators
Water stress in the Tropical Andes countries
Lake Poopó – officially declared
“evaporated” in December 2015
Water stress
Annual average
Percent of water withdrawal
on water availability
Less than 10
10 to 20
20 to 40
40 to 80
More than 80
The main reason for its disappearance is the
strong drought caused by El Niño, but other
contributing factors include the diversion of the
lake’s resources for water and agriculture.
Arid land (low water use)
High seasonal variability
Capacity, billion cubic metres
Lake Poopó is located in the Altiplano mountains
of Bolivia, at approximately 3,700 m altitude. It
was formerly the second-largest lake in Bolivia
after Lake Titicaca. The lake reached its peak
in 1986 with an area of 3,500 km2 (Quinn and
Woodward, 2015). The area of the lake has
always fluctuated and is sensitive to even small
changes in precipitation and river inflow (inflow
is mainly provided through the Rio Desaguadero,
which itself flows from Lake Titicaca) (Zola and
Bengtsson, 2006). In 1996, the lake completely
disappeared and reverted to a salt flat status, and
it took several years before water reappeared.
However, by January 2016 water had almost
completely disappeared apart from a few marshes.
La Paz
Baseline water stress measures total annual water withdrawals (municipal, industrial, and
agricultural) expressed as a percentage of the total annual available freshwater and
groundwater. Higher values indicate more competition among users.
Seasonal variability measures variation in water supply between months of the year.
Satellite images courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory,
Lake Poopó, Bolivia, April 2013
Lake Poopó, Bolivia, January 2016
Laguna Churup, Huascarán National Park, Peru
on glacial meltwater for more than 25 per cent of their
water needs (Buytaert et al., forthcoming). However,
by melting throughout the year and storing water from
the rainy season, glaciers in the Tropical Andes spread
water supply to dry periods, which is important for a
much higher number of people: about 800,000 rely on
it for more than 25 per cent of their water in the driest
months. Currently, during extreme droughts, this
figure rises to more than 5 million people.
Rural communities without sufficient water storage
are particularly vulnerable to the diminishing glacial
compensation effect (Buytaert et al., forthcoming). One
possible solution to increased seasonality and decrease
in precipitation is to expand water storage systems in
cities and in rural communities. For centuries, humanbuilt water management systems have allowed people to
thrive in the Andes. This Mamanteos in Huamantanga
in Peru, for example, have been rebuilt to provide
water for the local community as well as improve water
availability for the lower basin, including the city of
Lima. In creating these water management systems, it
is important to acknowledge the possible social conflict
arising from some groups being able to control water
resources. This was observed near Lake Parón in Peru,
where conflict arose between local communities and
the hydropower company due to the latter’s control
over the water flow (Carey et al., 2012).
Accelerated Impact of Glacier Retreat in the Tropical Andes (PRAA)
The PRAA project, implemented in parallel in
Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru between
August 2008 and March 2014, was a pioneering
initiative to adapt to the effects of climate
change in tropical glaciers and other fragile
high mountain ecosystems, especially for local
economies dependent on the water and conditions
historically provided by glaciers. The project
aimed to monitor glacial melting and its effects
on the local environment and communities as
well as to develop local adaptation measures, such
as improving hydrological infrastructure and
restoring páramos. The project was financed by the
Global Environmental Fund (GEF) with the World
Bank as the implementing agency; the General
Secretariat of the Andean Community (CAN
General Secretariat) acted as the administrator
of the resources, and each country’s national
environmental authority lead and coordinated its
implementation in each country.
In Ecuador, the Ministry of Environment
carried out this function through the National
Office for Adaptation to Climate Change of
the Undersecretary of Climate Change. The
PRAA in Ecuador implements pilot measures in
neighbouring watersheds: Antisana and Papallacta
on the Amazonian side of the continental
watershed (Napo River basin) and Pita on the
pacific slope (Esmeraldas river basin). These areas
are important because they supply water for about
3 million Ecuadorians living in the Metropolitan
District of Quito and the surrounding area. The
areas also constitute a natural laboratory for
applied research on the impacts of climate change
on glaciers and water resources. The predominant
ecosystem in these areas is páramo, which through
its characteristic soil, flora and fauna, has an
extraordinary capacity for storage and regulation of
water. However, the páramos are also particularly
sensitive to natural or anthropogenic pressures, such
as overgrazing and climate change.
Huayna Potosi, Bolivia
The most direct beneficiaries of the pilot
measures in Ecuador were the residents and
members of the community of Tambo Valley,
the Cooperativa San Jose del Tablon Alto, and
the community of Papallacta. The high Andean
ecosystems in which restoration has begun have
also benefitted directly. In addition, institutions
were also strengthened with equipment,
training, research and capacity building. This
includes the GADs (Decentralized Autonomous
Governments) Papallacta, Napo and Quijos;
National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology
(INAMHI); The Quito Water Fund (FONAG);
Metropolitan Public Company of Water Supply
and Sanitation (EPMAPS) and the Ministry of
Environment of Ecuador.
At the end of PRAA-Ecuador, there was a change
in people’s attitude to climate problems and the
opportunities available for adaptation; a significant
amount of information was also gathered, not only
on the climate, glacier dynamics and vulnerability
to climate change for specific communities, but
mainly on the potential of initiatives such as
those undertaken by the project. This data and
experiences is stored and used by institutions such
as INAMHI, EPMAPS, FONAG and local GADs.
The latter have prepared climate change plans and
incorporated climate change considerations into
their PDOTs (Plan for Territorial Development
and Organization), even before the issuance of the
new guidelines of the Ministry of Environment or
the latest provisions of SENPLADES. The PDOT
for Papallacta in particular is known for its scope,
thoroughness and for its pioneering character.
Agriculture, being one of the most significant
economic activities in the Andes Mountains, is
particularly important to those living there but also
to the wider economy. However, it is one of the
human activities most affected by climate change. The
agricultural industry increases in significance from
north to south in Andean countries, from 4 per cent
of GDP in Venezuela to 13 per cent in Bolivia (World
Bank, 2013). This is also generally the case for the
degree of employment in agriculture, from 8 per cent
in Venezuela to 32 per cent in Bolivia. Precipitation
and water flow changes will have significant effects
on irrigation across the region. In the Bolivian
mountains and Altiplano, the increased concentration
of the rainy season has already affected farmers
(Boillat and Berkes, 2013). Farmers have shifted
their crops to fast-growing vegetables relying more
on artificial irrigation. This puts pressure on water
flow, which is eventually shared with communities in
the lowlands. Many rural farming communities are
significantly affected by national and international
migration. Young men disproportionally migrate in
search of employment and opportunities elsewhere.
This leaves responsibilities for agriculture in the
mountains in the hands of women, children and
the elderly. The fact that women generally have less
access to adaptation options is therefore particularly
problematic for many mountain communities.
Agriculture will be both positively and negatively
affected by climate change. A general trend is that
as the mountains become warmer, crops suited to
warmer environments will be able to grow in higher
elevations. Reduced frost in the high mountains is
beneficial since badly timed frost-nights can destroy
harvests (Condori et al., 2014). Temperate farming,
such as for maize and rice, could also benefit from
increased warming through upward expansion of
farmable land. A study of corn farmers in Peru found
that in the last two decades, crops had been extended
by 200-300 m in altitude (Skarbø and Lambrou,
Cocora Valley, Colombia
2015). The crops adapted to the higher altitudes,
however, are likely to suffer due to natural limitations
to upward relocation.
Potato and oca are examples of crops particularly
threatened by climate change. For tubers to keep
Agriculture and pasture production in the Tropical Andes region
The Andes best-valued
agricultural products
Million US$
Million US$
1 000
Rice, paddy
2010 2013
Less than 20
20 to 40
40 t0 60
More than 60
Cereal production
Million tonnes, 2013
3 000
Cropland intensity
Pasture land intensity
1 000
(Lamas, Alpacas...) 0
Less than 20
20 to 40
40 t0 60
More than 60
Cereal production
Million tonnes, 2012
Source: FAO statistical database, SEDAC,
CIESIN Database, accessed November 2015
Food security, disasters and climate change
vulnerability in the Tropical Andes region
La Paz
Medium High Very high Severe
Probability of
climate change
to disaster risk
Level of food
Pastoralism is an important part of the agriculture
of the grasslands of the high Andes. Here alpacas,
sheep and lamas graze all the way up to the snowline.
Moving upward in elevation, agriculture generally
shifts to mixed farming and pastoralism gives way
to mainly pastoral communities. Pastoralists are
sometimes more resilient to change due to the
mobility of their herds. However, when disaster
strikes their wealth is also more concentrated. Climate
change is also threatening high mountain grasslands
important to pastoral communities (López-i-Gelats
et al., 2015). The southern Tropical Andes are also
home to two wild species of camelids, vicuñas and
guanacos. Both provide significant income for local
farmers through their fine wool, which is the most
expensive in the world. The animals are caught,
sheared and then released back to the wild. However,
sustainable ecosystem management is required to
prevent pastoralism of domesticated animals from
pushing these wild animals out of their grazing areas
or infecting them with diseases.
Being able to interpret seasonal changes in the natural
environment has been important to cope with the
Analysis has been conducted starting from national sources at different administrative
scales. Although presented together, maps of each country should be interpreted
separately as the indicators used to construct the maps differ between countries.
Source: World Food Program, Food Security, Disasters and Climate Change in the
Andean Region, 2014
their nutritional properties, they require cold
temperatures (Ortiz, 2015). Many farmers in the high
Andes are pushed upward to maintain favourable
temperatures for their crops. One study shows that
potato farmers in the region have moved their crops
upward by about 150 m in the last 30 years (Shaw
and Kristjanson, 2013). Reduced frost in the high
Altiplano also threatens the production of Chuño,
freeze-dried potatoes, which for centuries have
been a source of food security (Valdivia et al., 2013).
Chuño is still an important food component for
many in the region. Investment is needed to preserve
the genetic resources of the Andean potatoes as
well as to find substitutes capable of coping with the
changing climate.
harsh mountain environment, for example to time
sowing and harvesting. Traditional agricultural
knowledge is in many places losing its utility as local
climates and ecosystems are changing (Berkes et al.,
2000). Past practices to reduce risk, such as crop
rotation and the cultivation of multiple kinds of tubers
in each lot, have in recent years been increasingly
abandoned, partly to meet market expectations
(Ruiz et al., 2013). This also has a negative effect
on communities’ ability to cope with unexpected
change; forces beyond their control are threatening
the resilience that some rural communities have
developed over centuries.
Forests, lakes, rivers and other ecosystems currently
provide important food sources for many living in
the Tropical Andes. Fishing is an important source
of protein for many communities, including people
living on and around Lake Titicaca, where fishing is
a significant industry. Foraging in the tropical forests
and valleys of the Andes is another important food
source. The rich biodiversity also has the potential to
provide agricultural crops in the future. Many of the
current food staples around the world were originally
found in the Andes Mountains and there could
potentially be species suited for growing in changing
and challenging environments.
Otavalo market, Ecuador
Fisherman on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Problems with water supply, hydropower, agriculture
and biodiversity all have drastic effects on human
health. Agricultural problems will drive poverty
and food insecurity primarily among people living
in the mountains but also in South America as a
whole. Reduced biodiversity and damaged mountain
ecosystems will also threaten the nutritional
ecosystem services they provide. This includes
wild harvesting of edible and medicinal plants and
firewood as well as fresh water. Damage to fish stocks
and unique Andean ecosystems could also threaten
tourism. One broad implication is contribution to
poverty and its wide-reaching associated ills. When
people’s economic situation is worsened, other
negative effects of climate change are aggravated.
as the climate has become warmer. Malaria, dengue
fever and other diseases will therefore become more
prominent in the mountains. El Niño events and
climate change have been demonstrated to significantly
increase the altitude at which vector-borne diseases
are experienced in Colombia (Poveda et al., 2000).
Increased frequency of extreme El Niño events is
estimated to contribute to an increase of vectorborne disease (Thomson, 2014). These phenomena in
combination could have a significant effect, especially
in highly populated areas in the mountains, such as
Bogotá and Medellín in Colombia. A recent study from
the Antioquia region in Medellín demonstrates that
malaria will become more prevalent in the highlands
because of increased temperatures (Siraj et al., 2014).
Changes in water availability, particularly in poor urban
areas, could cause a significant increase in infectious
diseases and generally limit the lives of millions of
the most vulnerable. Access to improved sources of
water for sanitation in Bolivia was about 61 per cent
of the population in urban areas in 2015 (WHO and
UNICEF, 2015) , but only 28 per cent in rural areas. In
Peru, the numbers are 82 and 53 per cent respectively.
Decreased water flow in the dry season will also have
significant effects on sewage systems and sanitation.
Diarrhoea remains a major killer of children in the
world as well as in South America. El Niño events and
temperature increases have also been associated with
increased frequency of diarrhoea in Peru (Checkley
et al., 2000). The relationship between climate change
and diarrhoea, however, remains unclear.
The Andes are characterized by significant risk for
extreme events. Some are climate driven, such as
wildfires, mudslides and avalanches, while others
Warming of the climate also influences the spread
of insects and associated diseases (Thomson, 2014).
Vector-borne diseases have moved upward in elevation
are not, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
However, climate change will increase vulnerability
even to non-climate-driven disasters. For example,
the steep slopes of the Andes combined with warming
and increasingly concentrated precipitation in some
places will increase the risks of landslides. These
topographic features exacerbate the problems already
expected from increasingly concentrated rainfall and
increased frequency of extreme El Niño events. This
directly threatens infrastructure, ecosystems and
human lives. Socioeconomic issues determine to a
significant degree the outcome of such disasters for
different social groups. In cities in the Andes, slums
are often found along the steepest hillsides and have
poor building quality (O’Hare and Rivas, 2005).
These areas, home to millions of people, are the most
vulnerable to landslides. Due to lack of legal ownership
for the residents, as well as lack of infrastructure, these
communities have restricted capacity to adapt.
Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in the Tropical Andes
Melting glaciers also contribute to increased risk of
Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). As glaciers
melt, lakes of meltwater build up and can sometimes
burst out, causing severe damage. These lakes are
often particularly fragile because the dam is made
of loose moraine gravel and rock. Climate change
is increasing the risk of GLOFs in the Cordillera
Blanca, both because of increased melting and
through an increased number of extreme events.
In 1970, an earthquake caused the bank of a glacial
lake on the Huascarán Mountain to collapse, causing
a flood that killed 20,000 people (Hegglin and
Huggel, 2008). In 1941 a similar disaster occurred
in the same area after a huge part of a glacier fell
into Lake Pallqaqucha, causing a GLOF which
killed over 50,000 inhabitants of the city of Huaraz.
The Peruvian government has made significant
progress in monitoring these lakes and creating risk
reducing infrastructure, such as overflow tunnels.
These demonstrated their worth in 2002 when a
rock avalanche caused a 70 m high wave in Laguna
Safuna. Due to the overflow tunnels, no human lives
were lost, despite significant damage and the death of
a number of grazing animals (Chevallier et al., 2010).
Climate and hydrological disasters in the Tropical Andes countries
A comparison with the rest of the region, 2000-2015
Number of disaster registered
People killed
Deaths caused by disaster
= 10 people
Disaster type
Cold wave and severe winter conditions
Flash flood
Riverine flood
Storm and cyclone
Source: D. Guha-Sapir, R. Below, Ph. Hoyois - EM-DAT: International Disaster Database – www.emdat.be – Université Catholique de Louvain – Brussels – Belgium.ii
As we have seen, climate change will have a
significant impact on water flow, thus affecting
hydropower generation, which generates the
majority of power in the region. In South America
as a whole, hydropower generates about 65 per
Solar panel on rural house, Peru
cent of electricity (WWDR, 2014). The majority of
hydropower facilities are located in the mountains.
In the region, Peru is the country most reliant on
glacial water also for its hydropower generation.
Southern Peru and Bolivia also rely significantly on
hydropower and are, in addition to melting glaciers,
expected to experience a decrease in precipitation.
North-western Peru, Ecuador and Colombia are
expected to see an increase in precipitation, which
could increase their hydropower generation capacity.
For eastern Colombia and Venezuela, on the
contrary, reduced precipitation could cause reduced
capacity. Drastically changing glaciers, páramos and
other ecosystems must also be accounted for in the
development of hydropower policies in the futures.
This is also true for the increasing proportional
demand from other sectors of the economy including
the rapidly rising population.
Mountains also present alternatives for other
renewable energy sources. A rapidly rising
population and per capita energy use mean that the
region will require substantial additional energy
production in the future. Adapting to climate change
also involves adapting to climate change mitigation,
which is increasingly relevant for Andean states. The
topography of the Andes can create areas of intense
winds suitable for turbines, yet this resource is
largely untapped. Another important energy source
is firewood, which is an ecosystem service provided
by sustainable mountain forest management.
Solar power is another resource with significant
potential in the Andes due to high radiation at high
altitudes (Kawajiri et al., 2011). This source of power
has the potential to provide electricity for larger
urban areas. It can also be particularly suitable for
remote rural communities in the high mountains.
Increasing or diversifying electricity production
could also increase the adaptive capacity of
rural communities.
Hydropower lights up the Tropical Andes
Electricity production trends and sources
Billion Kwh
generated per year
*Most of Venezuela's hydroelectric power is generated
in the Amazon region and not in the mountains
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed Novembre 2015
= 10 Billion
= 1 Billion
Electricity generated by source
Fossil fuel
Changing hydrology in particular will influence
many industry sectors, although industry also relies
on the forests and biodiversity in the Andes for
pharmaceutical products, food and raw materials.
Mining is a key economic activity in the Tropical
Andes, which relies heavily on water resources for
production. Mining competes for water resources
along with agriculture, other industries and human
settlements. In areas where water becomes scarce,
effective management systems become increasingly
necessary. Competition for water resources has
previously led to protests and vocal conflicts in some
places. For example, around the Yanacocha mine in
the north of Peru, the second largest gold mine in the
world, farming communities came into conflict with
the mining company regarding control over water
flow (Bebbington and Williams, 2008).
Tourism is also an important industry in the
mountains, with many tourists drawn by the
Andean mountains’ unique ecosystems and
landscapes. Ecotourism and adventure tourism are
particularly dependent on sustainable management
and protection of key ecosystems. Cloud forests,
páramos, glaciers and river systems will all be
affected by climate change, which in turn will affect
the tourism industry. Studies in the region also
indicate that tourism generally has a negative direct
impact on biodiversity (Barros et al., 2014). Tourism
is therefore another stressor on ecosystems, but
through effective management, tourism can often
help finance the protection of ecosystems and the
services they provide.
Yanacocha gold mine, Cajamarca region, Peru
Key risks related to climate change
Summary of key hazards, vulnerabilities and risks
Climate Hazards
Key Vulnerability
Key Risk
•Rising mean land
•Heavy reliance of winter tourism economy on steady snow
•High geographic exposure of agricultural and farming land,
homes, property and assets, including physical exposure of
rural and urban populations to potentially flooded areas
•Ageing energy infrastructure located in downstream flood-prone
•Poor land management and spatial planning practices
•Limited capacity of local and national public institutions to
respond immediately to natural disasters, as well as to adapt
to increased floods
•Lower yield and/or crop failure can lead to
economic losses/destruction of livelihoods/
exacerbation of poverty and reduced development.
•Increased risk of food insecurity leading to
malnutrition of those communities that are
depending on these crops (with the highest risk to
the poorest), and subsequent risk of harm or loss
of life due to malnutrition.
•Potential loss of biodiversity (including endemic
species) and degrading of the capacity of
ecosystems to provide important ecosystem
services (including hydrological). Loss or decrease
of wild food options.
frequency and
extension of vectorborne diseases
(malardia, dengue,
Zika) into higher
•Underdeveloped capacity to respond to outbreaks of vectorborne diseases (communities without prior experience are
more susceptible).
•People already facing other stressors (such as poverty and
malnutrition) are particularly susceptibility, especially where
population density is high (big cities).
•Increased mortality and morbidity, illness and
increased burden on health-care systems.
•(Pan) epidemics.
Summary of key hazards, vulnerabilities and risks (continued)
Climate Hazards
Key Vulnerability
Key Risk
Shift of seasons
•Change of
precipitation patterns
•Concentration of
rainy season
•Mostly in the Altiplano and southern Peru. Too much
•Communities lacking water management infrastructure to
store excess water for later use.
•Economic loss and exacerbation of poverty due to
lack of irrigation, resulting in lower yield and crop
failure, which in turn can lead to malnutrition and
its related health risks.
•Increased infectious diseases due to lack of water
for sanitation.
•Death, injury and loss of other valuables.
•Risk of reversal of progress in reducing poverty
and malnutrition.
•Displacement of population, causing unrest
•Increased landslide risk (exacerbated by
deforestation and inadequate land management).
•Damage to infrastructure, including hydropower
systems, economic loss.
•Loss of ecosystem services, such as carbon
sequestration and soil protection.
•Spread of pollutants from mining areas with
inadequate flooding protection, leading to health
and environmental risks.
NB Rainfall (precipitation) does not fall uniformly across the
Tropical Andes. It varies from north to south and east to west.
Precipitation also varies from one season to another. While the
overall annual precipitation has remained the same, it is the
seasons of rainfall that are changing the most. During the rainy
season, precipitation is becoming concentrated in fewer rainy
days with a higher intensity.
•Increase in annual
•Changes in run-off
•Increase in frequency
of floods
•Areas already experiencing problems with flooding (mainly
Ecuador and Colombia). The north-western Tropical Andes
in and around Ecuador are predicted to see the highest
increase in precipitation.
•High geographic exposure of agricultural and farming land,
homes, property and assets, including physical exposure of
rural and urban populations to potentially flooded areas.
Urban populations are especially densely populated, rural
populations are often even less protected and the poorest are
the most vulnerable.
•Areas with inadequate flood protection and drainage
•Ageing energy infrastructure located in downstream floodprone areas.
•Poor land management and spatial planning practices.
•Exposed mining facilities containing polluting substances.
•Insufficient governmental dedication to disaster risk
Summary of key hazards, vulnerabilities and risks (continued)
Climate Hazards
Key Vulnerability
Key Risk
Floods (continued)
•Increase in frequency
of landslides
•Death, injury and loss of other valuables. Security.
•Destruction of infrastructure and communication
•Agricultural communities are most vulnerable.
•Lack of good land management (both the land itself (pasture
and agriculture) and the management of livestock).
•Infrastructure and general environment in steep erosionprone areas.
•Economic loss, food insecurity.
•Damage of communication and transport
•Exposed areas (mainly Altiplano and Venezuela) that already
have low water availability.
•Agricultural crops need more water to grow but there is a lack
of irrigation infrastructure.
•Cities and communities dependent on riverine water supply
for drinking, hygiene and irrigation.
•Urban and rural communities dependent on hydropower
•Poorer and more vulnerable populations (e.g. elderly) in rural
and urban settings are more susceptible to food insecurity,
decreased sanitation.
•Biodiversity and ecosystems that need fresh water resources
and forest ecosystems will be under stress.
•Economic loss and exacerbation of poverty due
to lack of irrigation and subsequent crop failure/
lower yield.
•Risk of increased malnutrition due to acute crop
failure, risk of loss of life.
•Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
•Water shortages, risks to crops and health.
•Infectious disease.
•Exacerbated water conflicts and social and political
unrest. The most vulnerable living in border areas
might become increasingly vulnerable in terms of
water “ownership”.
•Economic loss.
•Decreased capacity for hydropower production.
•People living on steep hillsides. Communities with frail
infrastructure and degraded ecosystems are particularly vulnerable.
NB Rainfall-induced landslides are very common, with aboveaverage rainfall having been linked to landslide activity (see
Kirschbaum et al., 2012). However, both natural factors and
human factors, including human (mis)management of land
and forest areas, are also contributing factors; the interaction of
climate hazards in combination with land-use practices can make
landslides and erosion much more severe.
•Increase of erosion
and soil degradation
•Decrease in annual
and consequent
decreasing river flow
(accompanied by
an ever-increasing
demand for water
and energy)
Summary of key hazards, vulnerabilities and risks (continued)
Climate Hazards
Key Vulnerability
Key Risk
Droughts (continued)
NB It is somewhat difficult to know exactly what is caused by
climate change and what is caused by climate variability. The
drought in the Colombian highlands and the Peruvian southern
Andes, and the flooding in the southern Andes are not because of
climate change but because of ENSO. However the effects of ENSO
(and El Niño) seem to be exacerbated by the effects of climate
change: generally this translates into dry areas getting even dryer
and wet areas, wetter (at least during some periods of the year).
Glacier melt
•Accelerated and
advanced glacial
melting of glaciers/
disappearance of
•Decreased dry-season discharge/diminished water availability,
leading to increased water-resources-related vulnerability:
– Cities and communities heavily reliant on glacial meltwater
in dry periods/seasons are most vulnerable
– Water supply less reliable for ecosystems that adapted to
conditions created by glaciers – especially wetlands.
•Communities with cultural and/or religious ties to glaciers
and snow-capped mountains.
•Specific local areas dependent on ice and snow-related
•Mainly: glacier retreat can exacerbate current water-resourcesrelated vulnerability.
•Exacerbated droughts and dry spells causing water
shortages and water insecurity, with associated
negative impacts on agriculture productivity,
human health and energy production, leading to
economic loss and harm to health.
•Irreplaceable loss of water supply.
•Meltwater might contain harmful metals which
can pose a health risk to those using it (also
indirectly through agriculture).
•Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
•Increase of glacial
lake outburst floods
(hazard specific to
Peru only)
•People (and infrastructure) living below rapidly melting
glaciers without adequate monitoring and early warning
•Inadequate governmental attention to risk reduction.
•Death, injury and loss of livelihoods and other
•Damage and destruction of infrastructure and
communication systems.
Policy assessment
La Paz, Bolivia
Analysis of relevant adaptation policies and frameworks
of the major vulnerable sectors
People have adapted to the past climate in the Tropical
Andes over millenniums, from the domestication of
crops and livestock such as potatoes and alpacas and
the acclimatization of the Andean population to high
altitudes, to institutional arrangements developed for
facing mountain environments and extreme weather
events. In the current climate change discourse,
however, the necessity of adaptation has only recently
gained pre-eminence, and become as widely accepted
and supported as that of mitigation to greenhouse
gas emissions (Agrawala and Fankhauser, 2008).
For Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the
economic cost of a 2.5°C rise in temperature (most
probably around 2050) for the region at between 1.5%
and 5% of the region’s present GDP depending on
which study is used, although these are conservative
estimates which have a high degree of uncertainty
(ECLAC, 2015).
How national policies and instruments were assessed in this report
National adaptation policies and instruments of
each country were assessed using the following
• Funding
• Adaptation targets
• Multisectoral articulation
• Implementation tools
• Focus on mountain ecosystems and adaptation
in particular
• Adaptation programmes
The second analysis focuses on adaptation
measures addressing key risks in the following
thematic area for each country:
• Water resources
• Land
• Agriculture
• Hydropower
• Public health
• Forests
• Disaster risk management
Each indicator was given a numerical score, ranging
from (1) Existent and sufficient, (2) Existent but
insufficient/planned but not implemented, (3)
General mention, (4) Non-existent.
These sectors are similar to the key sectors evaluated
for key vulnerabilities and risks in Chapter 2.
Each is assessed below according to the presence
or absence of the following: (i) Adaptation goals,
(ii) Adaptation targets, (iii) Implementation tools,
(iv) Mountain adaptation policies, (v) Regional
considerations, (vi) Adaptation actions.
The goal of this chapter is to qualitatively assess the
adaptation policies or policy instruments of Bolivia,
Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.2 We consider policy
instruments as strategies, plans and programmes
at the national level. The scope of this assessment
excludes policies at the local level of government since
the aim of the report is to provide recommendations
for national and Andean regional policies. The
analysis is based on four sources of data: publically
available official policy documents, a survey answered
by government officials, input provided at a regional
stakeholder consultation workshop carried out in
September 2015 in Lima, and expert opinion.
This chapter is organized into three sections: the
first analyses policy instruments for adaptation to
climate change at the global and (sub-)regional
levels (organizations formed by the tropical
Andean countries). The second section focuses on
the national level, where both national policy and
instruments targeting key sectors affected by climate
change are assessed according to a set of indicators
(see textbox below). The third section describes the
institutional framework of climate change adaptation
policies within each country.
Adaptation policies tailored specifically to mountain
ecosystems are extremely rare in the Andean region.
This might be due to policymakers not perceiving
mountains as isolated units for policy intervention
and not treating them as a “special” type of ecosystem.
Moreover, policies address public problems and
needs rather than specific ecosystems or territories,
except perhaps in the case of Amazonian forests (e.g.
Peruvian Forest Law). However, a similar trajectory
to the Amazonian forests may be initiated just for
glaciers and mountain environments: for instance,
Ecuador is integrating weather stations’ monitoring
of páramos and glaciers into the national network of
weather stations.3
The main findings of this chapter are:
• Adaptation is gaining importance within
countries’ priorities. All countries have national
policy instruments in one form or another (e.g.
national strategy or a plan for climate change
adaptation; or joint mechanisms for adaptation
and mitigation in the forest sector in the case of
Bolivia), although the means for implementing
adaptation programmes and measures are still
being developed. All countries have submitted their
Intended Nationally Determined Contributions
(INDCs) to the UNFCCC. In generally, funding
remains insufficient and adaptation targets and
implementation tools are general and vague.
• The rising recognition of adaptation in
policymaking is hindered by weak or non-binding
international agreements and the lack of attention
given to environmental issues in supra-national
• Mainstreaming adaptation policies across sectors
and from national to local levels is an ongoing but
slow process.
• Institutions from an increasing number of sectors
Farmers, Paramo El Zumbador mountains, Venezuela
are articulating policies around adaptation to
climate change.
• Mountains are rarely treated as a specified target
of adaptation policies.
• Ecosystem services provided by mountain
ecosystems, such as wetlands, grasslands and
tropical mountain forests, are both essential to
people and threatened by climate change, and
measures such as ecosystem-based adaptation
measures which are designed and implemented in
a participatory process to address specific issues in
mountain communities could be further pursued.
• Although many sectoral policies do not explicitly
focus on adaptation to climate change in
mountains, they often address broader issues that
influence mountain adaptation. These policies
may be opportunities to include adaptation
measures when explicit mountain adaptation
policies are lacking.
• Gender and ethnic inequalities are insufficiently
addressed by adaptation policy. Recognizing the
contributions of women and indigenous people
to adaptation to climate change may encourage
policymakers to address discrimination.
Limitations to analysis
The analyses presented in this outlook have some
limitations and caveats. Firstly, because many
policies have been formulated they may not yet
have been implemented or yet have results or
impacts; therefore, it is difficult to assess policy
performance. Also, most adaptation policies fail
to include monitoring mechanisms, which makes
it difficult to assess their effectiveness. Monitoring
effectiveness is further complicated when multiple
policy instruments are used to address the same
issue, or when instruments yield unintended
effects. In other words, social and economic
policies not intended to reduce climate change
risks also affect the degree of adaptation (e.g.
programmes for poverty alleviation that decrease
population vulnerability). Furthermore, there are
policies with unexpected or unintended impacts
on adaptation. For instance, trade agreements
that promote water-intensive crops can increase
pressure on water resources and provisioning
Policies and instruments targeting the environment. Source: IEA Community Learning Platform – Graphic4
Instruments 1, 2, A1, A2 and C2 correspond to
different policies and sectors (A, B) that, whether
coordinated or not, affect the environment.
Adaptation policies rarely indicate which
instruments address which vulnerabilities, nor
whether they focus on mountains or other
ecosystems. Therefore, progress on adaptation and
on other issues results from different policies and
targets different sectors. This mix of policies makes
attribution and measuring effectiveness challenging.
There are at least two ways to frame the lack
of focus on adaptation in mountains. The first
Countries’ architecture for policy instruments
is as exclusion, whereby mountains are not
recognized as a unique territory. The second is
as an opportunity for redefining and redirecting
unspecific policies from multiple sectors towards
the adaptation of vulnerable mountain ecosystems.
Mountains are important for public issues that
belong to many sectors; therefore, mountains
do not fall within any single sector, nor are they
exclusively addressed by any single policy analysed.
The figure shows how national climate change
strategies fall under (and have to be consistent
with) national development plans, and are above
the subnational development plans. Each of these
instruments generates policies that interact with
each other (e.g. adaptation policies influence
sector policies) and apply in the mountains.
Man harvesting potatoes, Bolivia
Policy approaches
Adaptation covers a wide range of activities, from
reducing risk and vulnerability, to taking advantage
of opportunities, to building capacities at multiple
government levels and across sectors, and coping
with climate change impacts (Tompkins et al.,
2010). Additionally, the complexity of adaptation
requires governments to respond in multiple
policy sectors (e.g. agriculture, ecosystems, and
urban areas) (Eakin and Lemos, 2006). Central
government authorities design adaptation policies
that ought to be locally implemented. This requires
coordination and feedback among multiple levels
of governance. However, weak vertical integration
among governance levels and highly heterogeneous
capacities among actors at a given level (e.g.
municipalities) make success of adaptation strategies
implemented exclusively by subnational (local)
governments highly inconsistent. A balance needs
to be attained between centralized and decentralized
approaches in a long-term transition process towards
more effective work by local governments.
One reason for underdeveloped adaptation policies
is the lack of strong institutions, stable budgets and
political will as well as appropriate mechanisms to
align international agreements to national agendas.
The increasing number of policy instruments
designed at the global level is not adequately reflected
in the countries’ adaptation policies.
Global policy instruments
Treaties and international agreements are the
main framework of global policy, with some also
establishing funding commitments for adaptation.
The UNFCCC is the most prominent international
treaty addressing climate change. The UNFCCC has
advocated adaptation and has founded the Adaptation
Committee.5 In addition, the Convention has facilitated
the creation of the Adaptation Fund, which since 2010
has committed US$ 331 million in 54 countries for
climate adaptation and resilience activities,6 as well as
other financial and technical assistance mechanisms
for adaptation and resilience-building (e.g. Green
Climate Fund, Climate Technology Centre and
Network). Existing global estimates of the costs of
adaptation in developing countries range between
US$ 70 billion and US$ 100 billion per year globally
by 2050, although this is likely to be a significant
underestimate especially after 2030 (UNEP, 2014).
The UNFCCC, as well as relevant financial
mechanisms, assists countries to mainstream climate
change considerations into national agendas and
priorities, and provides a framework for regional joint
initiatives and national policy responses to climate
change. Even though global mechanisms may lack
binding or regulatory capacity, they provide effective
leadership and guidance for innovative policies for
confronting climate change in national policymaking.
During the 20th meeting of the Conference of
the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP20) in Lima
in 2014, countries agreed on the importance of
implementing National Adaptation Programmes
of Action (NAPAs) and identifying vulnerable
populations in a participatory and transparent
manner. The importance of focusing on people
in vulnerable situations to prevent damage by
climate change was reiterated in the 2015 Paris
Landscape in Cordillera Blanca, Peru
Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015). The international
acknowledgement of the importance of focusing
on vulnerable groups and incorporating traditional
knowledge brings the opportunity for including
women and indigenous peoples’ perspectives in
the policy instruments. However, funding, specific
mechanisms and institutions for such inclusion need
to be strengthened and/or created.
Regional and sub-regional level policy
Policy instruments at the regional and sub-regional7
level are primarily created in the framework of
the regional organizations in which the Andean
countries participate: the Union of South American
Nations (UNASUR), the Andean Community
(CAN), the Pacific Alliance and the Community
of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
These organizations aim to provide representation in
international negotiations on trade agreements and
on enhancing sovereignty for the region.
UNASUR is formed of 12 South American countries:
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador,
Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and
Venezuela. Its stated objective is to build a space for
cultural, economic, social and political integration. It
also aims to eliminate socioeconomic inequality and
expand social inclusion to increase civil participation.8
Key guiding documents of the organization
mention the relevance of: addressing causes and
effects of climate change; protecting biodiversity,
water resources and ecosystems and; cooperating
for disaster prevention. However, these aims have
not led to actions on climate change adaptation.
Moreover, UNASUR does not have an environmental
commission or any other agency responsible for
environmental issues or for implementing measures
to address climate change risks.
The Andean Community (CAN)9 was formed to
promote industrial, agricultural, social, and trade
cooperation between member countries (Bolivia,
Colombia, Ecuador and Peru). The environment has
been a top priority for CAN for many years. During
this time it has supported the development of the
Environmental Andean Agenda to guide multicountry actions on climate change, biodiversity
and water resources; and actions to face climate
change effects in the Andes and its basins. Activities
undertaken as part of this agenda include but are
not limited to:
• The Climate Change Adaptation Programme in
the Andean Region, which compiled information
on climate change impacts on the ecosystems in
the Andean region.
• Project for Adaptation to the Impacts of Receding
Glaciers in the Tropical Andes (PRAA), which
implemented a pilot programme on adaptation
measures in glacial basins of Bolivia, Ecuador
and Peru.
• Climate Change and Environment in the Social
and Economic Cohesion Sector (ANDESCLIMA),
which is oriented towards mountain EbA to
climate change in the Andean Region.
• The establishment of research stations and
research projects for monitoring climate change
impacts on biodiversity (e.g. GLORIA-Andes10).
Monitoring climate change impacts on mountain biodiversity in the Andean Highlands (GLORIA-Andes)
The impact of climate change is a major longterm threat to biodiversity in mountain regions
around the world. Nevertheless, information on
how climate change threatens biodiversity in
the Andean highlands is lacking. This includes
a lack of long-term observations suitable to
establish a baseline for comparison with the
predicted climate change impacts. To address
this need, the GLORIA Research Program
(Global Observation Research Initiative In
Alpine Environments) was established as a
global effort for long-term observation and
Grasslands and the Sincholagua Volcano, Ecuador
comparative study of climate change impacts on
highland biodiversity.
supporting the design of adaptation measures and
policies under an ecosystem-based approach.
Through coordinated efforts of CONDESAN, the
General Secretariat of the Andean Community
(SGCAN) and several South American research
centres, the High Andes Biodiversity Monitoring
Network was created in 2010, in the framework of the
GLORIA Global Initiative. The objective of this network
is to provide technical assistance to operators of South
American sites, to ensure their sustainability in the
long term, and to produce regional outlooks aimed at
At present, the network has promoted the
establishment of 12 GLORIA sites in five
countries, which cover more than 5000 km from
the Eastern Andes of Colombia, through Ecuador,
Peru and Bolivia, to the Argentinean highlands at
the limit of the Tropical Andes Ecoregion. Along
this huge area, more than 800 vascular species are
monitored, making it the biggest biodiversity and
climate change research network in the Andes.
The Pacific Alliance is an effort for regional
integration among Chile, Colombia, Mexico
and Peru.11 Its stated aims are the free movement
of goods, services, resources and people; to
drive growth, development and competitiveness
for improving the well-being and overcoming
inequality of its members; and to foster political
action on economic and commercial integration
projected with the Asia-Pacific region. The Alliance
has not been as active as CAN on climate issues,
although it supported the actions planned at COP20
for addressing climate change.
CELAC seeks deeper integration within the region
and to facilitate discussion on regional issues. On the
topic of climate change, CELAC hosted a meeting
in 2014 for the elaboration of the Sixth Special
Declaration on Climate Change and Disaster Risk
Management. The Declaration stressed the need
for the international community, particularly
developed countries, to comply with the Kyoto
Protocol and the principle of common but
differentiated responsibility.12 It also called for
developed countries to respect and strengthen their
commitments to financing climate change adaptation
and technology transfer.
UNASUR and, in particular, CAN have been active
in supporting climate change actions in regional
projects. In recent years, however, they have become
less active on environmental issues and have given
more attention to trade and economic integration.
National policy frameworks for
Bolivia. The design and implementation of
adaptation policies are still in their early stages
(Hoffmann, 2015), though the Bolivian government
is working on consolidating and improving
adaptation measures. Part of the initial effort was
the inclusion of risk management and climate
change adaptation as development planning criteria
in Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution. The Development
Plan for Living Well,13 however, only mentioned
possible effects of climate change and did not outline
strategic actions. The authority on climate change
was the National Program on Climate Changes of
the Ministry of Environment and Water until 2012,
when the Framework Law of Mother Earth and
Integral Development for Living Well No. 300 was
approved. This framework created the Plurinational
Authority of Mother Earth as the new institution
for leading the country’s work on climate change,
which started operating in 2014.14 Law 300 also
created three mechanisms with which to address
climate change:
1.Art. 55: The Mitigation Mechanism for Living
Well, focused on emission reductions from nonforestry sectors;
2.Art. 56: the Adaptation Mechanism for Living
Well; and
3.Art. 54: The Joint Mitigation and Adaptation
Mechanism for the Holistic and Sustainable
Management of the Forests of Mother Earth
(MCMA) - Bolivia’s alternative to REDD+.15
The new institutional arrangement entered into force
in 2014, thereby generating a two-year institutional
vacuum and few policies on climate change
adaptation. The National Mechanism for Adaptation
to Climate Change and the National Plan on Climate
Change ended in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Furthermore, the ongoing National Strategy of
Information and Communication for Climate
Change aims to build capacity for addressing climate
change, while the National Strategy on Forests and
Climate Change aims to stop forest degradation
caused by a changing climate.
Colombia. Climate change is a key threat to
development.16 This has led the country to prioritize
four strategies within the National Development Plan
2010-2014 (Prosperity for all) to take an integrated
approach towards addressing climate change. One
of these strategies includes the elaboration and
implementation of the National Plan for Adaptation
to Climate Change (PNACC).17
The purpose of PNACC is to reduce the risks
of climate change. PNACC aims to do this by
incorporating climate change considerations
into the planning of five sectors: agriculture,
energy, transport, housing and health. The goal
is to prioritize adaptation actions within the
development plans of each sector in order to reduce
vulnerability to climate change.
The PNACC addresses climate variability and change
through four objectives:
1.To widen knowledge generation about potential
risks and actual challenges.
2.To take advantage of the opportunities brought
by climate change and variability.
3.To incorporate climate risk management in
sectoral and territorial development planning
4.To identify, prioritize, implement, evaluate
and monitor adaptation measures for reducing
vulnerability and exposure of socioeconomic
systems to climatic events.18
The inclusion of climate risk management in
territorial planning objective (iii) links development
with climate change at the local level. In so doing, it
brings climate change from the environmental into
the socioeconomic realm, thereby helping address the
non-climatic aspects of vulnerability such as poverty,
inequality or illiteracy. Moreover, the PNACC guides
the formulation of priority programmes and projects,
as well as strengthening actions. Local participation
and democratic dialogue between stakeholders are
important for implementing sustainable adaptation
actions locally.
Ecuador. The high relevance of climate change is
acknowledged in the Article 414 of the Constitution,
with an emphasis on mitigation:
“The State shall adopt adequate and cross-cutting
measures for the mitigation of climate change, by
limiting greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and
air pollution; it shall take measures for the conservation
of the forests and vegetation; and it shall protect the
population at risk” (Ecuador: 2008 Constitution in
English, Translated by Georgetown University).19
In 2009, Executive Order 1815 recognized the
National Commitment to Climate Change and
expanded it to include adaptation.20 The Ministry
of Environment was appointed to raise awareness
of climate change and develop a national strategy.
This commitment was made operational through
the Plan Nacional del Buen Vivir (2013-2017), with
policy 7.10 to implement mitigation and adaptation
measures for reducing economic and environmental
Additionally, Executive Decree 495° (8 October
2010) created the Inter-institutional Committee
on Climate Change (CICC)21 whose main task is to
promote the implementation of Ecuador’s National
Strategy on Climate Change (ENCC) (Ludeña and
Wilk, 2013). The ENCC focuses on adaptation
and mitigation, with adaptation prioritized in the
following sectors: Agriculture, livestock and food
sovereignty; Fishing and aquaculture; Health;
Water resources; Natural ecosystems; Vulnerable
human groups; Tourism; Infrastructure; and
Human settlements. While actors in each of these
sectors may implement significant adaptation
policies in mountains, there are no specific policies
for mountains. ENCC policies will be carried out
through the National Adaptation Plan, which will
implement national programmes to strengthen the
country’s capacity to face climate change.
Though national programmes for Ecuadorian
mountains are still scarce, it is worth mentioning two
national programmes that promote payments for
ecosystem services, one for the restoration of Andean
grasslands – páramos (the SocioPáramo Program)
and one for the restoration of forests (the SocioBosque
Program). One reason for implementing these
programmes was the interconnectedness between
the environment and agriculture (e.g. degraded
landscape, páramos and forest).
Peru. The importance of climate change in general,
and adaptation in particular, are gaining in formal
recognition in the policy framework of Peru. For
the long term, the Bicentennial Plan22 (National
Strategic Plan up to 2021) considers adaptation as
one of its five priorities. Adaptation is also indirectly
included in the following policies of the Acuerdo
Nacional (National Agreement): Fostering food
security and nutrition; Sustainable development
and environmental management; Rural and
agrarian development; Disaster risk management;
Water resources; and Territorial ordering and
management.23 Climate change adaptation is
mentioned in the National Environmental Policy
and the National Law of the Environment24 as
being important for the population’s security. Also,
the Multi-year Macroeconomic Framework, an
instrument that defines the destination of public
expenses, considers climate change to be a priority
for public investment and risk control.
The most important instrument for climate change
adaptation in Peru is the National Climate Change
Strategy (ENCC),25 published on 23 September
2015. Its objectives include raising awareness
about climate change and increasing the adaptive
capacity of people, businesses and the government.
It also aims to increase private investment and
quality of public expenditure on climate change
adaptation, to reduce human and economic losses
due to climate-related disasters, and to increase
research and technology to guide adaptation and
risk management for climate change. Elements
in the ENCC plans particularly relevant for
mountain communities are: capacity-building at
the subnational level; gathering, generating and
disseminating information about climate change
effects; evaluation of climate change effects on
basins and ecosystems; strengthening local and
traditional knowledge and generation of technology
for adaptation to climate change; and providing
technical assistance for preventing dissemination
of pests and diseases threatening food security
(Ministerio del Ambiente, 2015). Despite the
multisectoral approach needed to achieve results,
the inclusion of the strategy within sectoral policies
has been quite partial and uneven. However, the
Action Plan for Adaptation and Mitigation for
Climate Change, from 2012, includes climate
change adaptation measures to reduce economic,
social and environmental vulnerability.26
Currently, MINAM is designing the National
Programme on Climate Change to implement
the National Strategy on Climate Change. There
are also initiatives on climate change adaptation
from other ministries, which focus on assessing
specific effects by sectors. For instance, “Disaster
risk and climate change vulnerability” is a priority,
justified using evidence of climate change impacts
on Peru’s landscape, and articulated in the
Nazca Province, Peru
section Environment, biological diversity and risk
management of a planning document for 2021. The
country has defined five priority sectors: water;
agriculture; fishery; forestry; and health, based upon
scientific evidence and consultations with relevant
actors in each sector, subnational authorities and
civil society.27
Funding for climate change management at the
national level comes chiefly from the government
itself, although international donations cover
a small part. In 2011, the total budget for 88
programmes was about US$ 809 million, of which
49 per cent was funded directly by the government,
34 per cent as loans from international agencies
(which will also by paid by the government), and 17
per cent through official development cooperation
(Pereira et al., 2014). The last decade has seen
several adaptation projects in different sectors
supported through international cooperation (e.g.
PACC, IPACC, Glaciares 513, IMACC, TACC,
These projects have aimed to strengthen institutions,
implement pilot projects for adaptation and develop
financial mechanisms and scientific research (Ibid).
Adaptation measures to address key
vulnerabilities and risks
The key risks and vulnerabilities from climate
change were presented in Chapter 2.28 Although
it would be expected that countries use this
information for designing policies for climate
change adaptation, the use of scientific evidence
to support and guide policymaking is generally
weak because of the underdeveloped sciencepolicy interface. This is particularly problematic
at the local level of government where adaptation
measures addressing the climate challenges for each
community must finally be specified. Policymaking
responds to pressures from non-scientific realms
(e.g. lobbyists) and the insufficient participation of
experts in decision-making processes (Sutcliffe and
Court, 2005).
Water resources policy analysis
In Bolivia, water availability is an issue for many
communities. It has therefore been prioritized under
the Framework Law of Mother Earth and Integral
Development for Living Well No. 30029 and included
in the Plurinational Policy and Plan of Climate
Change for Living Well. Article 27° (Water) of this
Summary of the assessment of national policy instruments per country
Adaptation targets
Multisectoral articulation
Implementation tools
Mountain adaptation
Adaptation programmes
1: Existent and sufficient, 2: Existent but insufficient/planned but not implemented; 3: General mention; 4: Non-existent.
law sets priorities for the integrated management
of water resources, including 13 lines of action,
although only two are specific to climate change
adaptation (Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional de
Bolivia, 2012). Being a framework law, it still requires
lowel level and more specific legislation in order to
be implemented. The 2025 Bicentennial Patriotic
Agenda also has specific objectives and strategies
programmes that focus on water, but neither
mentions climate change or mountains specifically.
Colombia’s National Policy for Integrated Water
Resource Management 2010–2022 (Ministerio de
Medio Ambiente, 2010)30 recognizes the impacts of
climate change on water management (e.g. through
flood risk and water availability). The policy’s main
objective is to have an integrated management of
risks related to water supply. It proposes:
• the generation and dissemination of information
on the potential climate change risks to water
resource availability (strategy 4.1);
• the incorporation of water supply and availability
risk management into the planning instruments
(strategy 4.2); and
• mitigation and adaptation measures to reduce the
risks resulting from climate variability and climate
change (strategy 4.3) (Ministerio de Ambiente,
VyDT, 2010).
The development of adaptation measures is
important for water regulation for ecosystems
and important economic sectors. Consequently,
Colombia has developed the Project for Adaptation
to the Impacts of Receding Glaciers in the Tropical
Andes (PRAA). This initiative aims partly to generate
data to reduce vulnerability and improve risk
analysis of changing water availability. Moreover, the
Colombian Government has analysed hydrological
cycles and glacier retreat in the high mountains.
The Government has also implemented projects for
watershed management in páramos, and created
water reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems
(Gutierrez and Espinoza, 2010).
Ecuador manages its water resources through the
Organic Law of Hydric Resources, Uses and Utilization
of Water (2014). The document acknowledges the
relevance of páramos as an ecosystem serving to store
water and the dependence of the Andean population
on their services. The importance of this ecosystem
underscores the significance of implementing policies
for its sustainable management and conservation.31
The Ecuadorian National Climate Change Strategy
(ENCC) addresses adaptation in the water sector
by planning the following activities: development of
the Plan of Water Resources; identification and use
of aquifers to head off potential droughts; capacitybuilding on water scarcity; implementing two projects
for water management; building water reservoirs for
different uses in case of extreme weather events; and
establishing a coordination platform for management
and conservation of water resources.
The national water authority is the Ecuadorian
National Water Secretariat (SENAGUA), which
participates in information exchanges about climate
change with ministries involved in the water sector.32
It has also been involved in the preparation of the
National Plan for the Integrated and Integral
Management of Water Resources,33 which will
include climate change adaptation indicators or
measures. This type of involvement by SENAGUA
creates institutional links that may yield robust
management, adaptive responses and, more broadly,
resilient governance of water resources.
Peru’s policy on water resources in the National
Agreement (Acuerdo Nacional34) provides the
framework for water policy instruments.35 In this
policy, the government commits to stewardship of
water as part of the nation’s heritage, and to access to
potable water as a human right. The policy emphasizes
the importance of integrated management of water
resources as an approach for sustainable, equitable
and rational water use. This approach considers
basins as the management unit, and climate change
as a perturbation.
The relevant law governing water resources is the
National Policy and Strategy of Hydric Resources.36 A
strategic component of this policy is Climate change
adaptation and extreme events, which aims to reduce
vulnerability by enforcing integrated management
of water resources. Moreover, this component
combines knowledge generation, policy articulation,
and adaptation measures. It promotes research,
capacity-building, climate change adaptation and
risk management within the water sector.
Adaptation policies should be articulated with other
instruments (e.g. laws, decrees, planning processes)
for risk management in the water sector. In order to
institutionalize this articulation, it has to be included
in the framework formed by the National System
for Environmental Management and the National
System of Risk Management. Adaptation measures
and mechanisms need to address the supply, demand
and use of water resources in a way that considers
both current and future impacts of climate change
and disaster risk management (Ministerio de
Agricultura y Riego, 2015). The National Policy and
Strategy is also in accordance with the Peruvian
National Environmental Policy and the recently
published National Strategy for Climate Change 2015
(Ministerio Del Ambiente, 2015).
Although the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation,
through the National Water Authority, is the main
competent authority for water-related issues, there
are other government bodies that also have authority
over areas that affect water resources. The Ministry
of Environment, water providers and the National
Superintendence of Water and Sanitation Services,
for example, are responsible for protecting water
sources. There are other initiatives, including the
Public Investment Projects, that involve multiple
sectors such as: environment, housing, agriculture,
economy and finance. Due to the different and
partially overlapping objectives and priorities of
these various governmental agencies and authorities
in water-related issues, it is difficult to make concrete
action and to attribute concrete responsibilities.
Water policy matrix
Adaptation goals
Adaptation targets
Implementation tools
Mountain adaptation
Regional considerations
Adaptation actions
0: Absence; 1: Presence.
Adaptation to Climate Change through Effective Water Governance in Ecuador (PACC)
The PACC Project in Ecuador (implemented
between July 2008 and May 2015) was a pioneering
initiative by improving water resource governance
as a means for climate change adaptation. Many
communities in the country suffer from the risk
of water shortages, and/or are highly vulnerable
to the effects of floods and landslides associated
with heavy rainfall. The PACC was financed
mainly by the Global Environmental Fund
(GEF), the implementing agency was the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and
the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador was the
executing agency, through the National Office
of Climate Change Adaptation (DNACC) of the
Under Secretariat for Climate Change (SCC).
The PACC aimed to increase the ability to respond
to the risks of climate change in water resources
management at the national and local levels. It
was designed as a project generator, implementing
pilot projects to generate knowledge for different
types of interventions applying the integrated
water resources management (IWRM) approach.
IWRM is a framework for sustainable watershed
management, and is an essential element of
adapting to climate change. Pilot projects included
constructing water management infrastructure
and plans in highland communities.
The intervention had the following priorities:
• Promote sustainable use of water for irrigation
and drinking using a watershed approach and
support GADs in project management with the
participation of other local stakeholders;
Cajas National Park, Azuay, Ecuador
• Develop planning tools that integrate climatic and
historical findings with hydrological models to
inform management plans;
• Support basin management organizations that can
manage the use of water within the basin, while
working on own GADs programs that increase
energy and food security in accordance with the
Buen Vivir principle.
The PACC implemented 20 pilot projects in the highland
provinces of Azuay, Canar and Loja, in the Ecuadorian
coastal provinces of Manabi and Los Rios, and in
the Amazon province of Morona Santiago.
The main project results were:
• The risk of climate change in the water sector
was integrated into key plans and programs.
• Strategies and measures to facilitate adaptation
to climate change impacts on water resources
were implemented locally.
• Institutions had capabilities strengthened, and
research findings were disseminated.
Land policy analyses
The Impact of Glacier Retreat in the Andes: International
Multidisciplinary Network for Adaptation Strategies
Programme (IHP) project “The Impact of
Glacier Retreat in the Andes: International
Multidisciplinary Network for Adaptation
Strategies” aims to identify the vulnerability of
glaciers to climate change, as well as to facilitate
adaptation policies targeting glacial melting. To
identify these policies, a set of regional activities
were organized since 2012, strengthening the
science-policy dialogue in the Andean Region.
Four background papers were developed to
identify the current gaps and opportunities related
to climate change effects on water resources
and adaptation potential. The papers were later
transformed into policy briefs to inform decision
makers. The first policy brief dealt with ‘Mapping
of vulnerability of water resources to global
changes in the Andean Region’ and focused on
the physical environment. The second brief was
entitled ‘Policy needs for adaptation strategies
in water resources management’, and addressed
current policies in different countries to identify
gaps to meet future conditions . The third paper
dealt with ‘Education and curriculum needs’ on
water resources, and snow and glacier issues,
Peru recently established the National Institute for
Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems
(INAIGEM).37 This institute is responsible for
generating and consolidating scientific knowledge on
climate change to improve conservation and resource
use in glaciers and mountain areas. It is expected that
showing current gaps. The last paper documented
‘Climate Change Adaptation local practices in the
Andean Region’.
Complementary to this effort, a regional
assessment of the vulnerability of Andean natural
resources (water and environmental resources)
to glacier melt was finalized. This has led to the
identification of areas with higher vulnerability to
glacier retreat, and areas for follow-up activities
to develop adaptation strategies. A website was
created to present these outcomes (http://unesco.
envisim.com/) and a final document is being
created for public diffusion, in collaboration with
GRID-Arendal. A scientific paper has also been
submitted for peer review titled “Tracing the
white water: Tropical glacier melt contribution to
human water use” (Buytaert et al., forthcoming).
Based on the capacity building realized as part
of the project, and in collaboration with the
project partners and the Andean Climate Change
Interamerican Observatory Network project
(ACCION) in particular, a manual for analysing
glacier mass balance is under development and
will be released in 2015.
it will coordinate with initiatives led by the General
Directorate of Climate Change, Desertification and
Water Resources on mountains and climate change.
Another potential partner is the Working Group on
Mountain Ecosystems, which was recently created
within the National Commission of Biological Diversity.
In Bolivia, Law 300 states that the Plurinational
Authority of Mother Earth is responsible for
implementing a Joint Mitigation and Adaptation
Mechanism for the integrated and sustainable
management of the forest and Mother Earth.
This mechanism aims to conserve, protect and
restore biodiversity and ecological functions by
facilitating optimal land use. These uses would be
part of sustainable production systems, and include
agricultural and forestry practices for reducing
deforestation and forest degradation as part of
mitigation and adaptation strategies (Asamblea
Legislativa Plurinacional de Bolivia, 2012). Land,
however, is only referred to in the mechanism as it
relates to production or other important resources
(e.g. forests). This perspective overlooks the
importance of soils for responding to climate change,
and indicates a potential gap for action. However,
this may be solved by the programme Sustainable
Management and Use of the Land. This programme
is part of the Patriotic Agenda’s strategy, Agrarian
and productive development. Additionally, there
is a specific objective to support communitarian
economic entrepreneurs who favour food sovereignty
and security (Ministerio de Autonomías, 2013).
Colombia has a National Policy for the Integrated
Environmental Management of Land (GIAS),
which is governed by the Ministry of Environment
and Sustainable Development (MADS). This
policy prioritizes sustainable agriculture and
forest management, which may be considered
an adaptation measure. It may also contribute
to mitigation through carbon sequestration. The
main goal of this policy is disaster risk reduction
(Ministerio de Salud y Proteccion Social, 2012). The
policy includes a sustainability principle, with one
of its key elements being climate change resilience.
Regional Initiative on Hydrological Monitoring of Andean Ecosystems (iMHEA)
A key service provided by Andean ecosystems
is the supply and regulation of water for
domestic use, agriculture and hydropower
generation. However, basic information about
hydrological processes in the Andean ecosystems
is still needed to understand the effectiveness of
Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador
different climate change adaptation measures that
target land use in Andean watersheds. However,
it has been difficult to establish and maintain
research-grade observation networks because of
remoteness and the lack of recognition of these
ecosystems as water providers. The iMHEA was
created by Andean experts and institutions to
address these obstacles.
The iMHEA aims to increase knowledge about
the hydrology of Andean ecosystems to support
decision-making for the sustainable management
of Andean water resources. The researchers
who are members of the iMHEA agreed on the
following goals for the network:
• Generation and management of information,
according to common standards, about the
hydrology of Andean ecosystems;
• Promotion of interaction among research,
public, private, and community entities
interested in Andean hydrology;
• Strengthening the technical capacities of local
entities about water resources;
• Diffusion of the results of research on Andean
Currently the network monitors 17 small
catchments in 8 communities throughout the
Tropical Andes, which will soon make it possible to
draw conclusions at the regional level and to identify
spatial variability in sub-regions. The programme
also benefits these communities through capacity
building and detailed hydrological information
for water management. This monitoring program
fills a gap in the data from the national hydro
meteorological networks, initiatives on monitoring
of glaciers under climate-change conditions, and
hydrological modelling studies, which have been
insufficient for hydrological management decisions
in the Andes.
It also mentions risks and vulnerabilities of land to
climate change. Therefore, adaptation policies for
preventing degradation or improving soils quality
need to be included in future plans and activities.
The Colombian National Pilot Programme for
Climate Change Adaptation (INAP), for example,
proposes planning models for land use that
incorporate climate change. Furthermore, one of
the specific prioritized actions is the delimitation
and protection of 36 páramo areas (approximately
3 million hectares) by 2030.38
The fifth objective of the Ecuadorian ENCC
includes adaptation strategies for protecting
land experiencing climate change, including the
protection of natural protected areas, sustainable
land management, and remediation of over 1,000
hectares of land (Ministerio del Ambiente, 2012).
The land sector is managed by the Ministry of Urban
Development and Housing through the Public
Policy for the Use and Management of Land,39 which
does not include climate change adaptation goals
but focuses on urban planning. This provides an
opportunity to design adaptation policies for urban
expansion in the mountains, in particular related to
the importance of protecting soil and building on
suitable soils and slopes.
Peru’s National Environmental Policy includes
activities to prevent desertification and to mitigate
or remediate soil degradation and loss (Ministerio
del Ambiente, 2009). The ENCC includes a key
goal for the public and private sectors to conserve
carbon reserves and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions (Ministerio del Ambiente, 2015).
Moreover, the ENCC links the vulnerability of land
with that of water: land vulnerability increases water
vulnerability, and vice versa.
Agriculture policy analysis
Article 24° (Agriculture, Fishing and Farming)
of Bolivia’s Law 300 specifies that the sustainable
development of agriculture and farming is important
for achieving good living standards, and an expansion
in agricultural area if foreseen over the coming ten
years. Additionally, the resilience of the agricultural
sector is important for maintaining the country’s
food sovereignty. However, the article dedicated to
agriculture does not mention climate change (Asamblea
Legislativa Plurinacional de Bolivia, 2012). Although
this omission may be due to an understanding of climate
change as a cross-cutting issue, generating knowledge
on the impacts of climate change on agriculture and
mountain ecosystems would allow policies to target
Land policy matrix
Adaptation goals
Adaptation targets
Implementation tools
Mountain adaptation
Regional considerations
Adaptation actions
0: Absence; 1: Presence.
specific issues in different communities, diminish
vulnerability, and increase adaptive capacities. One
such example that could be replicated is from the recent
pilot project on Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in
Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, Peru, which
has been jointly implemented by UNEP, UNDP and
IUCN (see case study).
Colombian agriculture policy, Action Plan 2014,40
includes actions towards reducing the risk of
climate change for specific crops and territories.
Colombia is also implementing the strategy Climate
and Colombian Agricultural Sector: Adapting
for Sustainable Production. This strategy seeks to
improve the competitiveness of the agricultural
sector through the implementation of policy
instruments, strengthening investment for research,
technological development, and innovation.41 Under
the strategy, data has been gathered and is being used
to generate models for interactions between climate
change and agriculture. It is providing agro-climatic
forecasts for the main agricultural areas of Colombia.
Additionally, it has identified climate-limiting
factors for rice, beans and maize production, which
may result in production gaps for farmers in 11 of
the 32 departments (departamentos) in Colombia.
This information raises important questions that
can help the development of policies for climate
change adaptation (e.g. which crops and/or activities
could replace rice, beans and maize cultivation? Is
there research on drought-resistant or heat-tolerant
varieties?). The knowledge-policy interface may be
an area that requires work in multiple sectors.
According to the Ecuadorian ENCC, the country has
implemented measures to guarantee food sovereignty
under changing climate conditions and to react to the
risks of climate variation for its crops (Ministerio del
Ambiente, 2012). However, the Ministry of Agriculture,
Farming, Aquaculture and Fishing – the governing
Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape reserve, in the
Peruvian Andes
In the high mountains of Peru, an Ecosystem
based Adaptation (EbA) pilot project was
implemented. This is an innovative approach
which protects ecosystems as a means to adapt
to climate change. The project was implemented
in the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve
(NYCLR), located in the Lima and Junin
departments (see image). Its main objective was
to strengthen the country’s capacity to identify
and implement climate change Ecosystem-Based
Adaptation (EbA) measures, by developing the
tools necessary for both implementation and
As a result of measures taken by the communities,
facilitated by the EbA programme, the mountain
ecosystems now also provide economic benefits
from the vicuña (vicugna vicugna), a wild camelid
threatened by livestock overgrazing and spreading
diseases. The vicuña is gathered in season in a
communal effort to collect their wool before they
are released back into the wild. It’s wool is one of
the finest natural fibres in the world and is among
the most expensive. Sustainable management of this
resource therefore provides important revenue to the
community, further enhancing its adaptive capacity
and well-being.
The Peruvian EbA pilot project supported local
communities in developing sustainable livestock
practices, including grassland management to
prevent overgrazing by domesticated animals.
This benefits natural grasslands, comprising
bofedales (wetlands) and pajonal (puna
grasslands), which are the NYCLR’s most
extensive ecosystems. These ecosystems are the
most pressured by livestock grazing, and are
potentially the most seriously threatened by the
adverse effects of climate change, according to
the vulnerability assessment conducted as part
of the project. The most important ecosystem
services for the local community is providing
pastures and water for livestock production
- the major economic activity in the area.
Other ecosystems services include fresh water
provision and biodiversity preservation also for
lowland communities.
EbA measures implemented in the reserve:
• Vicuña management for animal fiber (in Tanta
and Tomas);
• Community-based sustainable native grasslands
management, including livestock management (in
Tanta, Canchayllo and Miraflores); and
• Community-based sustainable water management,
including (ancestral) hydric infrastructure, and
wetland and grasslands restoration (in Canchayllo
and Miraflores).
The project has also made progress towards its aim
to upscale EbA and to mainstream the concept in
public policy. Through an initiative to foster the
preparation of guidelines for public investments
in biodiversity and ecosystem services, the project
positioned EbA in the guidelines for public
investment projects related to biodiversity and
ecosystem services. These were recently released
jointly by the Ministry of Environment and the
Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The pilot project in NYCLR was part of the
Ecosystem-based Adaptation Programme (EbA),
which was a global initiative implemented by
UNEP, UNDP and the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN), funded by the
German Federal Ministry for the Environment,
Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear
Safety. The World Conservation Monitoring
Centre (UNEP-WCMC) also participated in
this effort. These organizations cooperated with
national governments to use the EbA approach.
Mountain ecosystems and populations were
particularly sensitive to the impacts of climate
change, and hence are targeted by the EbA
Programme. In addition to the project in
Peru, experiences of EbA in mountains were
being developed in the Himalayas in Nepal,
and in the East African mountains on Mount
Elgon in Uganda. In Peru, the programme was
commissioned by the Ministry of Environment of
Peru (MINAM) with the support of the National
Service of Natural Protected Areas (SERNANP).
The activities under IUCN’s responsibility
were implemented in partnership with The
Mountain Institute (TMI) in the communities of
Canchayllo and Miraflores.
Vicuña management, Peru (Mountain EbA Project)
Agriculture policy matrix
Adaptation goals
Adaptation targets
Implementation tools
Mountain adaptation
Regional considerations
Adaptation actions
0: Absence; 1: Presence.
body of food production – does not have initiatives
for climate change adaptation. Currently there is no
consistent approach in implementing actions for food
security through the ENCC, nor does the national
authority in agriculture have any adaptation actions
that reflect the multisectoral nature of climate change.
Extensive efforts should be dedicated to creating
institutional arrangements that would tackle the
impacts of climate change on food production.
In Peru, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation
(MINAGRI) has implemented the Plan for Risk
Management and Adaptation to Climate Change
in the Agricultural Sector (PLANGRACC- A) to
assess the impact of four extreme events (frost, hail
storm, flood, and drought) on 11 crops, four species
of livestock, and four species of grass. In addition,
a project on the construction, maintenance and
recovery of terraces combined with the conservation
of natural resources is expected to optimize farming
and generate environmental services for adaptation
to climate change and reduction of desertification.
However, Peru faces the challenge of linking the
results of sectoral policies. Another challenge is to
coordinate national and subnational levels to provide
consistency, constructive feedback, shared lessons,
and economies of scale in interventions.
Public health policy analyses
Bolivia has not yet implemented climate change
adaptation policies in the public health sector, even
though there is evidence of climate change having
a wide-ranging impact on human health in the
country.42 According to UNDP,43 data gathering
and information systematization on climate change
impacts on human health are still in their early stages.
Colombia’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection
(MSPS) has been leading several actions to assess the
sector’s vulnerability to climate change.44 Since 2011,
MSPS has conducted several workshops to raise
awareness on climate change and environmental
health. It has also funded campaigns to monitor and
prevent vector-borne diseases (e.g. dengue fever),
which are increasing due to climate change.45 In
addition, adaptation initiatives are part of the 10year Plan of Public Health 2012–2021, specifically
the Integral Risk Management in Emergencies and
Disasters component. The goals include greater
disaster risk management to reduce current and
future impacts of climate change.
The Ministry is preparing the sectoral plan for
climate change adaptation following the directives
of the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan
(Ministerio de Salud y Protección Social, 2012).
Moreover, the MSPS is formulating the environmental
health component of this plan, which is expected to
be fully implemented by 2015 throughout all of the
Regional Directorates of Health.
The Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health, through
its Environment and Health Directorate, protects
human health from the impacts of climate change with
measures such as identifying the relationships between
climate change and the occurrence of malaria, dengue,
leishmaniasis and respiratory diseases. Between 2010
and 2012, the Control and Monitoring of Malaria
Health policy matrix
Adaptation goals
Adaptation targets
Implementation tools
Mountain adaptation
Regional considerations
Adaptation actions
0: Absence; 1: Presence, NA: Not Available. Authors’ elaboration.
Disease Programme has contributed to a 70 per cent
reduction in malaria diagnosis.
The Environment and Health Directorate supports
and occupational health, and climate change.
Additionally, Ecuador has free health care, which is
a particularly important provision, especially for the
most vulnerable groups.
The Peruvian Health Ministry (MINSA) does not
have actions specifically directed towards climate
change. It does, however, have actions for disaster
risk management which include climate-related
events. These actions include the provision of health
care in the event of disasters. One example of the
increasing recognition of climate effects on health is
the participation of the Ministry in the Multisectoral
Plan for the El Niño phenomenon.
Disaster risk management policy analyses
Bolivia’s Law 300 is a framework law which
addresses disaster risk management. Article 17°
specifies relevant sectors to be protected or to
have risks managed, with climate-related disasters
being referred to directly in subarticles (Asamblea
Legislativa Plurinacional de Bolivia, 2012). It is
possible that areas impacted by disasters related to
climate change will be targeted by funding recently
allocated by the World Bank in 2016 to implement
risk management and climate change adaptation
programmes (World Bank, 2015b).
Risk management is included in Bolivia’s
Patriotic Agenda’s section Strong Production and
Employment. The third strategy of the section
is Environmental Quality Management and
Integral Risk Management, which includes three
programmes: Disaster Prevention in vulnerable
sectors; Hydrometheorological information for
Risk Management, and National Sectoral System for
Risk Management and Early Warning (Ministerio
de Autonomías, 2013).
Colombia understands risk management and
climate change adaptation as complementary
strategies, although the responsibility for these
rests with different institutions and thus requires
coordination (Departamento Nacional de
Planeación, Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo
Sostenible, 2013). The National Unit for Disaster
Risk Management (UNGRD) is the agency in
charge of disaster risk reduction, while SISCLIMA
(National Climate Change System) is the agency
responsible for climate change adaptation. The
existence of multiple organizations with partially
overlapping mandates has not led to joint actions at
the regional or local level, and better coordination is
required between these institutions and subnational
level authorities. Nevertheless, risk management has
been included in some projects in the agricultural,
land, hydric and energy sectors.
Ecuador has mapped the susceptibility and risk of
mass movement processes using mapping analysis
and climate change scenarios. It has also identified
and started implementing at least three multipurpose
infrastructure projects to address extreme water
events caused by climate change. These infrastructure
projects include creating protection for riverbeds,
building retaining walls to reduce flood risk, and
digging drainage channels. In addition, Ecuador’s
National Plan for Risk and Emergency Prevention
incorporates measures to adapt to climate change.
Furthermore, three studies of flood control projects
have been conducted in the most sensitive areas of the
coastal region.
Peru’s National System for Disaster Risk Management
(SINAGERD) is in charge of pre-and-post disaster
actions and is supported at the highest political
level.46 SINAGERD coordinates the participation and
responsibilities of different ministries, including the
Ministry of the Environment and the National Service
of Meteorology and Hydrology (SENAMHI, 2014).
SINAGERD is responsible for both climate-driven and
non-climate-driven disasters (such as frost due to El
Niño) (see Table).
SINAGERD has only recently been created and so is not
tested in responding to extreme climatic events. However,
it is performing an important role in implementing
evidence-based responses to risk scenarios.
Case study: legal framework for disaster risk management in Peru
Strategic Instruments for Risk Management Action
Multisectoral Plan for Frost and Extreme Cold Spells 2015
Law N° 29664 to create
Supreme Decree
N° 160-2015-PCM47
Multisectoral Actions Plan in the event
of the El Niño Phenomenon
Multisectoral Actions Plan for the
rainy season 2015–201648
Risk management policy matrix
Adaptation targets
Multisectoral articulation
Implementation tools
Mountain adaptation
Adaptation programmes
0: Absence; 1: Presence.
Andean forest policies analyses
Bolivia’s Joint Mechanism of Mitigation and
Adaptation of Integral and Sustainable Management
of the Forest and Mother Earth includes forests as one
of its goals (Pacheco Balanza, 2014). The document
does not, however, present specific strategies for
Andean forests. There is an opportunity to work
with the government, international organizations,
civil society and local populations to formulate
programmes for Andean forests in Bolivia.
Both Ecuador and Peru focus their strategies for
their Andean forest (and forests in general) on
climate change mitigation (e.g. reduced emissions
from reduced deforestation through the REDD+
initiative) rather than on adaptation.
Colombian Andean forests are within the legal
framework that protects flora (laws 299, 464 and
599). International agreements for timber use,
including penalties for illegal use of non-timber
forest products, also apply. In 2010, resolution 383
listed the threatened wild species, including tress,
across the country (Garavito et al., 2012).
Andean forests are part of the Páramo Programme
for the restoration and sustainable management of
Andean forest policy matrix
Adaptation targets
Multisectoral articulation
Implementation tools
Mountain adaptation
Adaptation programmes
0: Absence; 1: Presence.
Cloudforest vegetation and stream, Ecuador
the Colombian high mountain ecosystems. One of
the programme’s objectives was to expand research
on climate change in mountain ecosystems in order
to understand the ecosystem goods and services
provided; the structure and function of forest
ecosystems; ecological restoration; and vulnerability
to climate change. In addition to research, the
programme also included goals and activities
for conservation, mitigation, and adaptation of
páramos to climate change (Ministerio de Medio
Ambiente, 2002).
The Andean Forest Monitoring Network: a communication platform for
science and policy in the Andean countries (Red de Bosques Andinos)
Tropical mountain forests are fragile but contain
high biological diversity. In total these forests
host 45,000 vascular plants and 3,400 species
of vertebrates in just 1% of the Earth’s land
mass. However, high mountain tropical forests
are seriously threatened by climate change
and land use changes. Despite these threats,
knowledge about the effects of global change
on biodiversity in tropical mountain forests is
still poorly understood. It is therefore a priority
to establish and apply long term monitoring of
these ecosystems.
Hummingbird, Cocora Valley, Colombia
A workshop held in October 2012 in Lima,
Peru, brought together more than 40 scientists
and policy makers working on Andean forests.
Among the results of the workshop, it led to
the formation of the Andean Forest Monitoring
Network. The goals of the network include
stimulating scientific research on Andean forest
ecosystems by promoting collaboration among
scientists, and serving as a platform to facilitate
applied research and communication between
scientists and policy makers. Current members
of the network include scientists from Argentina,
Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Peru, USA, and
representatives of Ministries of Environment
and the national Climate Change adaptation
programs of Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and
Peru. The creation of the network, and the
development of its first two papers, was possible
thanks to the financial support of the Swiss
Agency of International Cooperation (SDC)
through the International Centre on Environmental
Monitoring (CIMA), the German Corporation
for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the
endorsement of the Andean Community General
Secretariat (SG-CAN).
The network has produced two important documents
for the region. The first is an extended protocol
to monitor biodiversity and carbon dynamics in
Andean forests (Osinaga et al., 2014). This protocol
was developed by the Institute of Regional Ecology,
National University of Tucuman, Argentina, and
has been revised by experts working in the Andes.
It describes methods to monitor ecological changes
over midrange and long periods of time. It focuses
on changes in the diversity and growth rates of trees,
shrubs and lianas; the cover of herbaceous species;
and the carbon content in forests. This protocol
is a useful tool for those interested in conducting
long-term ecological research. Moreover, its use
produces standardized data needed to understand
ecological processes.
The second document presents a meta-analysis of
the dynamics of trees and carbon in the region, the
first conducted in the region. Network members
contributed data from more than 60 monitoring sites
located from Colombia to Argentina. Some sites have
been monitored since the 1990’s. The initial results
indicate that warmer, wetter, and more seasonally
differentiated forests had higher turnover rates of
individual trees, and biomass. Most of these patterns
hold for both, tropical and subtropical forest sites.
Uyuni Salt flat, Bolivia
Institutional and stakeholder analysis
The following paragraphs identify Andean countries’
formal and informal institutions that are relevant for
climate change adaptation. The formal institutions
are explicitly integrated in relevant policy processes
through the national instrument for climate change
adaptation. The informal institutions are those
participating in the process but without holding
a formal policy responsibility. Moreover, involved
institutions are characterized as either public,
international or civil society organizations.
Law 300 and the Patriotic Agenda constitute the
framework for adaptation measures in Bolivia. The
Plurinational Mother Earth Authority (APMT) and
the Ministry of Environment and Water are the
authorities responsible for climate change adaptation.
However, actions to address climate change are
of a multisectoral scale and implemented by the
respective sectoral institutions. As of today, there is
no national strategy or policy on climate change or
climate change adaptation. Civil society participation
in elaborating climate change adaptation policy
approaches appears to have declined in recent years.
In 2009, the Platform for Social Organizations for
Climate Change was formally created, to include
an alliance of 180 social movements, national and
international NGOs and other civic organizations.
The objective of this Platform was to represent the
needs of the groups most vulnerable to climate
change. However, this Platform shows no evidence of
recent activity.
Colombia has an intersectoral policy approach
to climate change adaptation involving a variety
of institutions. The responsibility rests on the
competent respective sector agencies and the
regional and local authorities rather than on the
National Development Plan (NDP), which lays out
SISCLIMA, the instrument for coordinating public
offices for adaptation action. One implication of this
decentralized approach is that SISCLIMA funds and
proposes programmes on agriculture adaptation,
whereas the competent ministry (in this case the
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
– MADR) is responsible for its implementation.
Nonetheless, SISCLIMA involves not only public
bodies but also civil society institutions such as
universities, indigenous communities’ representative
institutions, research centres, as well as companies.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) considers SISCLIMA a
strong policy framework for climate resilience
actions, with its ambitious design and wide
institutional network and linkages. It is equipped
with a coordination mechanism and each involved
office and unit has a specific role. For instance,
the Intersectoral Commission on Climate Change
(COMICC) manages SISCLIMA. It is also in charge
of proposing strategic action to the Financial
Committee. COMICC is assisted on sectoral
issues by consultative boards, two of which are
permanent: scientific- technical and technical-
political. The Financial Committee funds the other
committees’ activities, using advice received from
the COMICC. Other committees, such as sectoral,
territorial, international affairs, information and
climate change cross-cutting research, also have
working groups for designing cooperation, research
and evidence collection.
Colombia’s Climate Change Regional Nodes (NRCC)
support the design of territorial plans, which
envisage the participation of relevant stakeholders
(Departamento Nacional de Planeamiento, 2010).
The greatest challenge facing the successful
implementation of Colombia’s adaptation policy
is the lack of capacity to control and monitor the
effectiveness of measures carried out to address
climate change. In addition, having several
institutions responsible for sectoral actions does not
guarantee that capacities are at the same level.
Ecuador has also adopted an intersectoral approach
to climate change adaptation. This approach allows
for the participation of different public, private and
civil society actors through coordination networks
established between the responsible ministries and
autonomous decentralized governments (GADs).
These GADs are multi-level: region, province,
canton and parochial. The CICC is responsible for
intersectoral coordination. Moreover, this network
includes ministries and GADs for the design and
implementation of policies.
Case study: Objectives of the CICC
The CICC has the following objectives in the
context of climate change:
1.Leading and coordinating the execution of
policies relevant to climate change, the ENCC
and the agreements of the UNFCCC
2.Promoting research and technical input for
policy development
3.Coordinating the preparation and validation
of mitigation and adaptation parameters for
public budgeting projects
4.Enabling the participation, counselling and the
assembling of specific work groups
The CICC’s constitution authorizes it to establish
sectoral councils able to call on institutions to
undertake sectoral and intersectoral actions. The
actions are coordinated by a ministry and have
a technical secretary, full members, associated
members and guest members. Civil participation
is not formally included in the ENCC. However,
the ENCC emphasizes the relevance of considering
the opinion of civil society when implementing
adaptation actions at the local level.
MINAM is the institution responsible for climate
change adaptation and creates the National Strategy
for Climate Change (Ministerio del Ambiente,
2015). MINAM has a General Directorate of Climate
Change, Desertification and Water Resources
5.Supporting capacity-building, technical
counselling, specialization and diffusion of
6.Gaining additional financial and technical
support through international cooperation
7.Defining official positions and delegations for
international negotiations and
8.Coordinating, facilitating the preparation
of, and approving the national reports and
technical instruments for international
(DGCCDRH) that directly supervises climate
change policy. Though MINAM is a governing
body, it has to coordinate its actions on sectoral
issues with other ministries. For instance, to
address climate change impacts on fishing, MINAM
has to coordinate with the Ministry of Production.
Further, MINAM’s budget has to be approved by the
Ministry of Economy and Finance, though climate
change research and projects are also funded
by other sources such as through international
cooperation. The funds, however, support specific
projects (responding to a specific interest of the
concerned funding agency or country) for a specific
period of time.
Peru’s governing agency leads a National
Commission for Climate Change (CNCC). Within
this Commission, civil society and the government
exchange proposals and evidence to assess the
effects of climate change. CNCC has technical
groups formed by intersectoral entities addressing
several topics, including climate change adaptation.
Additionally, Peru’s subnational governments have
to include climate change considerations in their
development plans. In September 2014, 14 regional
governments agreed to draw up Regional Strategies
for Climate Change (RSCC), 23 had created Regional
Technical Groups for Climate Change, and one
formed a Regional Council for Climate Change and
elaborated an Implementation Plan for its RSCC
(Ministerio del Ambiente, 2015).
Peru hosted the UNFCCC COP20 in December
2014, which put climate change and mountains on
the national agenda and empowered civil institutions
working on it. Currently, there is activism for climate
change awareness in the population; particularly
among young people. Some indigenous organizations
participated in the COP and have undertaken
various actions to build capacity and adopt climate
change adaptation measures. Furthermore, there are
high expectations for the adaptation goals proposed
in the INDC, which include increasing water
availability; reducing the negative impacts of climate
change on agriculture and fisheries; increasing forest
resilience through sustainable land management
and taking a landscape perspective; and reducing
vulnerability and increasing resilience to climate
change effects on health.49 The National Adaptation
Plan – the national instrument for implementing
these goals – is expected to be elaborated soon;
however, funding has not been secured to complete
the activities needed.
Gender issues
Mitigating the negative effects of gender inequalities
is not adequately addressed in the climate change
adaptation policies of the Andean countries. Though
gender norms and sex-specific issues may be explicitly
mentioned in some policies, Andean countries have
not systematically included gender considerations
in adaptation policies; thus, overlooking rampant
inequalities. Ecuador includes mention of gender
inequality in policies prioritizing sectors and
actions through the ENCC, including prioritizing
groups according to age, gender, and poverty levels,
although the procedures to achieve this criterion in
practice are not explained. Meanwhile, states such
as Peru and Colombia have ministries (e.g. Peru’s
Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion)
responsible for including people who are vulnerable
due to gender norms. Nonetheless, awareness of the
importance of gender relations for adaptive capacity
is more developed within civil society, where NGOs
promote the incorporation of a gender perspective
throughout the government.
Salt evaporation ponds, Maras, Peru
Indigenous people
Indigenous people have interacted with climatic
variability and change in the Tropical Andes
Mountains over millenniums. In the process, people
have developed essential knowledge about the local
climate and environment (Melo Cevallos 2014; Llosa
Larrabure, et al., 2009). This knowledge is increasingly
acknowledged and included in policy instruments
and practices for adapting to climate change (Torres
et al., 2014). Peru’s ENCC states that actions should
be implemented with an intercultural perspective
that is appropriate to their indigenous populations’
collective rights. Colombia’s Joint Programme
for Ecosystem Integration and Adaptation to
Climate Change in the Colombian Massif aims to
generate adaptive capacity in rural and indigenous
communities by truly acknowledging these
populations as citizens with rights and knowledge,
respecting their way of life, and exchanging
experience (Ministerio del Ambiente y Desarrollo
Sostenible, 2015). It is also relevant to emphasize
the changes brought about by COP20 which, by
increasing the number of stakeholders involved in
the process, included increasing the representation
from indigenous organizations in the discussion and
final agreements. The importance of strengthening
the knowledge of indigenous people on climate
change to facilitate adaptive capacity, in addition
to removing other barriers, such as discrimination
and poverty, was further stressed in the 2015 Paris
Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015).50
Locals in a market in Pisac, Peru
Gap analysis
Bus travelling on road through landslide terrain in Peruvian Andes
Comparative analysis of available policies
Following the review of the impacts of climate
change on natural and human systems (Chapter 2)
and analysis of existing policies (Chapter 3), this
chapter identifies existing adaptation policy gaps,
but also opportunities, relating to country and
sectoral policies on water; ecosystem functions and
biodiversity; food; health, and energy. A selection of
regional cases illustrating adaptation measures and
policies are also presented.
The analysis of national and sector policies shows
that one potential gap is that policies are not designed
for easy integration with other instruments, which is
further complicated when policies are from another
sector. Because adaptation has just started to receive
more attention in policy circles over the last few
years, there is little experience on how to vertically
integrate adaptation instruments and measures from
national to local levels, and whether to do this across
and/or by sector (Hoffmann, 2015). This early stage
of adaptation policy development explains, in part,
why they are still absent in some sectors, and why
existing instruments have not included performance
indicators. Generally speaking, the policies analysed
have been found to be based on sectors’ needs,
whereby key climate risks identified under Chapter 2
have not guided policy design.
Analysis reveals that there is little specific mention
of mountains in the sectors’51 policies and few
specific policies for mountains. However, certain
instruments do have a mountain specific scope.
For example, in Ecuador the páramo are defined as
fragile ecosystems in Ecuador and included as such
in different policies. In addition to the perceived
ecosystem itself (i.e. mountains). Another possible
explanation is that mountains become objects for
policymakers only when impacts visibly affect urban
centres, lowlands or productive activities important
for the Gross National Product [including “damaging
extractive industries”]).
Though mountains in the region are not specifically
acknowledged as policy “objects/subjects of interest”,
more analyses are needed of the multiple impacts of
climate change on mountain ecosystems and sectors.
For instance, changing water availability within
mountains may have significant impacts on health,
energy, and several productive sectors, which in turn
will feed back on adaptive capacity and exposure of
mountain social-ecological systems. Further, these
impacts will hinder economic development from the
national to the local levels, and cause livelihood and
economic losses at the local levels.
Farmers, Venezuela
remoteness of mountains, this neglect could be due
to several factors. These could include the perception
that mountains do not have unique problems or that
the problems are already being addressed by nonmountain-specific approaches (Ariza et al., 2013).
The difficulty in defining mountain ecosystems
(including their boundaries) hinders using them as
units for policy design, even when there is political
interest in such ecosystems. Policies may also be
more focused on urban and/or lowland areas and
there might be greater interest in protecting an
ecosystem’s functions and services rather than the
Although extreme weather events and their direct
impacts (e.g. through floods and landslides)
on populations do grant them attention from
policymakers, this is mainly in the form of emergency
ad-hoc measures and disaster risk management/
reduction, while adaptation policies to prevent such
losses or increase resilience remain sectoral-based.
Finally, there is a clear disconnect between the
scientific community and the transfer and uptake of
scientific knowledge in policymaking. This gap is an
opportunity for collaborative work among scientists,
public and international agencies, civil society, and
mountain populations (who are among the most
vulnerable to social, political and climatic changes).
Mérida city, Venezuela
to manage water-related risks in a changing climate,
IWRM needs to be extended with respect to the risks
of climate change (Mulligan et al., 2010; Döll et al.,
2015). This extended approach incorporates knowledge
generation about potential risks and opportunities,
implementing adaptation measures and building
water management infrastructure. The countries have
implemented institutional arrangements for addressing
water-related risks, though their effectiveness has not
yet been tested.
Current and projected changes in precipitation,
floods, droughts, and glacier melt all bring with them
a number of key climate-related risks (identified
in Chapter 1), including conflict and political and
social unrest over water supply, decreased quality
and quantity of water supply, and reduced capacity of
mountains to provide water for drinking, sanitation,
industries, mining, agriculture and energy.
All Andean countries have developed policies
to tackle floods and droughts. These policies are
developed by different sectors depending on the
impacts. For multi-sector responses, reactive logic
over prevention generally prevails. For instance, the
transport and housing sectors normally respond
when floods destroy infrastructure (e.g. bridges,
roads and towns), while measures from the energy
sector address the effects of flooding on power
plants. The agricultural sector responds when floods
damage crops and livestock. Similarly, when floods
affect drinking water or people’s health, then it is
the health sector that responds. Additionally, floods
are also considered disasters and are attended to
by each country’s risk management agency. The
occurence of a strong ENSO in 2015/16 has triggered
responses ranging from cleaning the basins to
flood management programmes, from finishing the
school year early to prevention campaigns. Peru also
dropped the idea of hosting the Dakar Rally, alleging
possible impacts of El Niño in early 2016.
The water management policies of the tropical Andean
countries are chiefly guided by the Integrated Water
Resources Management approach (IWRM) (Garcia,
2008; Mulligan et al., 2010; Boelens, 2008) although
Increasing water flow and/or precipitation in some
areas of the Tropical Andes may be beneficial if the
appropriate policies are in place. Policies should
promote research to understand impacts of a
wetter climate, and inform the creation of enabling
conditions to take advantage of such new conditions.
Unstable water supply and soaring demand are
leading to water conflicts. This represents an
opportunity for forward-looking planning, which
promotes a development model drawing on adaptive
institutions for addressing conflicts and on land uses
that are less demanding on water resources.
Puya clava-herculis bromelia, Ecuador
this is not the only approach used.52 IWRM promotes
the coordinated management of water, land and related
resources, to maximize economic and social welfare
equitably and without compromising the sustainability
of vital ecosystems (UNEP, 2009). However, in order
Policy gaps
• Insufficient institutional coordination capacities
among sectors threatened by water-related risks.
• Limited budget for early warning systems and
rehabilitation measures.
• Policies and measures are biased towards urban areas.
• Lack of mountain-specific focus.
Loss of ecosystem functions and biodiversity
Globally and also within the Tropical Andes countries,
biodiversity policies are more aligned with the goals
and strategies of the Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) than of the UNFCCC. For example, biodiversity
policies are mainly aimed at conserving species and
landscapes threatened by human activities e.g. land
use. However, biodiversity policies are increasingly
acknowledging the threats of climate change to species,
ecosystems and ecosystem functions.
based approaches to adaptation to climate change
(EbA), which links the conservation, restoration
and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem
services with climate change adaptation.
Policy gaps
• Adaptation policies have generally not yet included
actions to prevent climate change impacts on
ecosystems and biodiversity (although Peru, for
example, has included EbA within its INDCs).
• Systematic and functional linkage of CBD and
UNFCCC programmes and strategies.
• Insufficient protection of the full range of ecosystem
services contributing to human well-being. This
is more acute in the case of services provided
by mountains, probably based upon the little
recognition of both the services themselves and the
role played by their inhabitants in their maintenance.
• Insufficient recognition of protected areas on
sub-national levels as important instruments for
climate change adaptation.
Climate change is modifying the ranges of species’
habitats and ecological niches, whereby species
are moving to new locations or disappearing when
suitable conditions no longer exist. In this context,
protected areas may not be covering what used to be
habitats and landscapes of endangered species. It is
also possible that such species have moved beyond
the area’s boundaries. This represents an opportunity
for linking conservation and climate change while
revising the location and function of protected areas.
Protected areas – and more specifically, mountain
protected areas – have been identified and are
increasingly recognized, as instruments for climate
change adaptation policies (Dudley et al. 2010;
Hoffmann et al. 2011). Considering the long-term
impact of climate change, it may be worth exploring
how protected areas ought to be selected and
designed, bearing in mind that species’ ranges and
habitats will continue to shift due to climate change.
Furthermore, there is increasing global recognition
of the links between biodiversity and climate change
and the opportunities provided through ecosystem-
Flamingos, Uyuni Salt flat, Bolivia
Health policies in the region that explicitly address
climate change effects are generally guided by the
perspective of disaster risk reduction. Extreme events
are prevalent in the mountains and thus are important
for mountain communities, but climate change will
also affect health more broadly, such as by affecting
economic development and nutrition. In the tropical
Andean countries there are also increasing efforts to
understand the effects of climate change on vectorborne (e.g. malaria, Zika, dengue) and respiratory
diseases (e.g. asthma and respiratory tract infections).
As the fourth IPCC report (Field et al., 2012) notes,
climate change will generally exacerbate alreadyprevalent diseases and will threaten people who are
already vulnerable to health problems. Latin American
countries have in general made significant progress in
expanding health-care coverage (Atun et al., 2015).
However, remote and poor communities are still
disproportionally lacking health care. This increases
the risk from climatic changes in addition to other
health risks affecting vulnerability to these changes.
Policy gaps
• Lack of mountain-specific health policies for
addressing climate change impacts and general
lack of access to health care in poor and remote
• Insufficient cross-sectoral coordination and
vertical integration (from the national to the local
level) on targeting vulnerable groups with health
care and development measures that take account
of climate change.
• Insufficient research generated about the indirect
effects of climate change on health. For instance,
climate change impacts on water availability may
result in higher rates of infectious diseases due to
strained sanitation systems. The effects of climate
change on agriculture and nutrition may also
impact on health.
Woman weaving, Cajamarca, Peru
People’s health may reflect impacts of both extreme
events and climate change. Thus, there is an
opportunity for multisectoral work on adaptation to
improve peoples’ health.
Food (agriculture)
Farming in the high Tropical Andes is dominated by
small-scale family farms in communities with few
other economic opportunities and limited adaptive
capacity (Wymann et al., 2013). Adaptation measures
in these areas must also address wider social factors,
such as poverty, education, and urbanization. Some
farmers could see diminishing crop yields, which
would negatively affect their nutrition and general
economic situation. This is due to the numerous
effects of climate change, including changes in
hydrology, temperature, precipitation, ecosystem
degradation and changing pests. However, certain
crops are positively affected by climate change,
which could improve the situation of other farmers.
Combining technical capacity with traditional
knowledge on climate change is necessary to ensure
that highland communities can adapt to these
changes and improve their economic situation.
Tropical Andean countries emphasize different
adaptation approaches to changes in agriculture.
However, in a general, the specific problems
facing highland farmers are not afforded attention.
Colombia combines the reduction of risk for crop
failure with strengthening competitiveness for
export: it is implementing adaptation policies
while investing in research and innovation.
Ecuador focuses on securing its food sovereignty.
An important component of sustainable food
sovereignty is the capacity for quick response when
crops are threatened by extreme climatic events.
Ecuador’s government institutions working on
agriculture stress the importance of food sovereignty
and extreme events. Policies on the latter reflect
a focus on short-term climatic variation, but
lack a long-term perspective on climate change.
Similarly, Peru emphasizes preventing impacts of
extreme events and crop failure. Bolivian policies
stress the relationship between resilience and food
sovereignty. The country has developed and is
implementing an insurance scheme against climate
hazards for agricultural productions (National
Institute for Agricultural Assurance).
Policy gaps
• Lack of policies targeting climate change impacts
on mountain agriculture. For instance, upward
migration of crops and ecosystems, and its effects
on croplands, overlying pastures and high Andean
• Lack of overarching programmes and a long-term
perspective on cross-sectoral coordination for
agricultural adaptation to climate change.
• Lack of efforts to improve the science-policy
interface in order to facilitate the formulation of
evidence-based policies.
• Inadequate coordination between national
and subnational levels: the interventions have
missed opportunities for constructive feedback,
experience sharing, and economies of scale.
• Inadequate
the consequences for food production of
outmigration from rural mountain communities,
as well as potentially positive impacts on mountain
agricultural systems.
• Lack of efforts to strengthen knowledge about
climate change in mountain communities and
to integrate climate science with traditional and
local knowledge.
Ongoing concerns on climate change impacts
represent an opportunity for studies to generate
knowledge on impacts on agriculture and
mountain ecosystems. Moreover, this knowledge
would uncover the need for policies targeting
specific vulnerabilities, diminishing exposures and
increasing adaptive capacities. Mountains territories
have important resources for national economies
(e.g. minerals, water). Intersectoral dialogue may
bring the opportunity to include other resources (e.g.
agroecosystems, land, knowledge) in these studies.
Moreover, links with other sectors would allow a
more comprehensive understanding of mountain
ecosystem dynamics under climate change and
socioeconomic pressures.
Woman collecting dried potatoes, Peru
Energy (hydropower)
The Andean countries are highly dependent on
hydropower: hydroelectric energy represents an
average of about 64% of total energy supply across
the Andean countries (CEPAL, 2011), of which
52% is generated within the mountain region
overall, but with large variation between countries
(CONDESAN, 2012). The mountain regions
harbour the majority of the hydropower dams of
the seven countries. However, there are very few
studies on the future impacts of climate change on
hydropower generation.
Each country adopts a different approach to addressing
adaptation in the energy sector. Policies in other
sectors, such as water resource management, also affect
energy production. Colombia is planning to diminish
its energy vulnerability through a comprehensive
approach, which combines improving efficiency,
diversifying sources and conserving watersheds and
ecosystems. Ecuador’s energy policy indirectly relates
to hydropower because of its focus on diminishing
the country’s dependency on fossil fuels: hydropower
will thereby gradually increase its share as an energy
source. Bolivia is planning large hydro schemes in the
Andean foothills (El Bala) and the Amazon lowlands
(Cachuela Esperanza, Riberao). Peru’s perspective is
the optimal use of energy resources, and improving
infrastructure. Thus, the country advocates the
efficient use of energy to mitigate GHG emissions
and promotes climate change adaptation measures.
Further, Peru is starting to diversify its energy mix to
diminish its dependency on natural gas, promoting
renewable energy sources including forms other
than hydropower such as wind farms, solar and
biomass power plants.53 Many economical activities
with significant potential (such as hydropower) and
that depend on ecosystem goods and services will be
negatively affected by climate change.
A number of studies (e.g. Fearnside, 2002; Fearnside,
2005) have shown that large scale hydro in the Amazon
lowlands result in higher GHG emissions than
conventional power plants, due to the combined effects
of forest land destruction and additional methane
production during normal operation. Out of some
151 dams proposed for the Amazon system, over half
are expected to disrupt or sever the river connectivity
between the Andean highlands and headwaters and the
Amazon lowlands (Finer and Jenkins 2012).
Tominé Reservoir, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Energy demand currently outstrips supply in the
region. The Andes have huge potential for generating
hydropower to meet the energy supply. Despite
the climate impacts, hydropower will remain an
important source of energy production in the Andes.
However, managing it properly will require forward-
looking adaptation measures including conservation
and management of (transboundary) watersheds
and ecosystems, as well as the climate-proofing of
relevant infrastructure. The focus on hydropower
in Andean watersheds highlights the importance of
protecting the remaining Andean forest ecosystems,
which supply almost 50% of the water budget of
existing dams (Sáenz and Mulligan, 2013). Policies
are needed to support the diversification of the overall
energy mix, promote investment (public and private)
in this sector and also regulate its socioeconomic and
environmental impacts on mountain systems.
Policy gaps
• Adaptation policies in the energy sector require
updated vulnerability studies of hydropower
provision per basin, whereby adaptation measures
are prioritized for the most vulnerable basins. Studies
on the impact of climate change on future water
availability are needed, and have to be incorporated
already in the planning and design phases of projects.
• Lack of awareness of impacts of increasing
hydropower generation on mountain ecosystems.
For instance, there will be increased pressure and
impact on mountains from energy-demanding
regions and sectors, which will potentially increase
ecosystem degradation and further exclude the
local population.
• While focusing on climate change impacts on
hydropower plants, there is insufficient data and
information about the impact of these plants on
mountain social-ecological systems (e.g. people,
landscape, water bodies, fishing).
• There is insufficient political support for
comprehensive diversification of energy sources.
Are the responses forward-looking?
The Andean countries ideally ought to address both
climatic variability – such as seasonal and year-toyear variability, and both slow and fast onset events
of climate change. With regards to climate change,
fast onsets of climate change encompassing extreme
events and most disasters events find themselves
more on the government radar than slow onset
events, because of their short-term nature. Slow
onset events, such as longer droughts or the loss of
soil moisture, do not impact in a short time frame
and are therefore more difficult to grasp. Moreover,
these impacts may occur over a longer time frame
than the political cycles; thus, actions to address
climate change may not render political benefits in
the short term or contribute to re-election.
adaptation measures on mountains. Moreover,
existing policies do not fully integrate flexible
approaches such as resilience and adaptive systems,
which would increase the countries’ capacity for
responding to climate change. However, climate
variability and socioeconomic impacts are
acknowledged through responses to extreme weather
events. The governments’ disaster risk management
offices usually lead these responses, though they are
implemented with the sectors mainly through special
programmes due to the emergent nature of the event.
Policies vary between countries and also between
sectors (within a country), though some patterns
are worth mentioning. IWRM is a fairly common
approach in the countries of our study and can
be seen as forward-looking because it aims to
integrate different water uses by considering
the water flows needed by the ecosystem (for a
critical perspective on IWRM see Boelens, 2008).
Although IWRM may not specifically address
mountains, these ecosystems are considered crucial
for the functioning of and service provision in the
Health policies exemplify the dynamics of the
temporal perspective and the need for a long-term
perspective. For example, Colombian health care
policies are forward-looking because they are focused
on the impacts of disasters on health (short term),
while assessing the interactions between changing
climate and vector-borne diseases (midterm) and
expanding the coverage of the health system to
include diseases related to climate change (long
term) (McMichael et al., 2006).
In general, the lack of performance indicators in policies
makes it impossible to assess their efficiency and
effectiveness. Nonetheless, some adaptation policies
in the analysed Andean countries have set adaptation
goals and targets, showing some rather slow progress.
The national and sectoral policies that have been
analysed in this report do not specifically include
Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City of Colombia
catchment area and, therefore, for all watersheds.
The IWRM perspective has aspects for improving
the adaptive capacity and diminishing exposure
to climate change. This includes, for instance, the
understanding that watershed sections (upper,
mid and lower) are interconnected through flows
and feedbacks of water, chemicals, sediments and
organisms. Additionally, the emphasis on multilevel management offers institutional flexibility for
responding to extreme climate events, adapting to
long-term climate change, and including elements
of adaptive governance of water.
to specific sectors and vice versa, climate change
impacts on ecosystems remain largely unattended.
Though risks tend to be addressed by sectoral
actions, some risks may be shared by more than one
sector: for example, water risks are shared by health,
agriculture, energy and environment, among other
sectors. As for mountains, many sectors could be
involved, depending on the particular risk. In this
scenario, forward-looking policies should strengthen
institutional arrangements at all levels, involving
public, private and other social actors from the
regional and local levels in policy implementation.
In addition to the temporal scale, we must consider
the institutional scale in assessing whether policies
are forward-looking. In so doing, we can evaluate
whether policies include paths and evidence for
achieving results in climate change adaptation. In the
Andean countries analysed, most national policies for
adaptation to climate change are in the initial phases,
distributing responsibilities (and hopefully funding)
among sectors. Also, even if the scientific evidence
was incorporated into policy design, policies are not
addressing mountains as a policy target yet, which
limits its capacity to be forward-looking. Moreover,
it seems that countries have chosen the multisectoral
policies path (which is commonly favoured in
environmental management, although an integrated
approach would be preferable) towards climate
change adaptation, which requires institutional
coordination, resources, leadership and vision for
effective performance. It is too soon to know how the
chosen path will respond to abrupt changes, which
require effective rapid responses, and long-term
changes, which require dynamic and flexible policies
adjustable to uncertainty and changing conditions.
The effects of many of the identified risks are
amplified by prevalent non-climatic problems (e.g.
poverty, marginalization). Thus, a forward-looking
institutional approach would link adaptation
policies and non-climatic policies through plans for
subnational units, which are known in some countries
as territorial management plans. Additionally, when
these plans are scaled up to the national level (e.g.
Colombian National Adaptation Plan) they offer
broad scope for adaptation policies to be included in
specific territories. Moreover, territorial plans may
address problems, which may later positively impact
on the adaptive capacity of ecosystems. Moreover,
an effective climate change adaptation policy would
have to understand the coupled sector-ecosystems
interactions, vulnerabilities and feedback. This
understanding is a step towards managing risk
reduction and adapting to climate change.
The mismatch between sectors’ actions and climate
change effects on ecosystems is a policy gap. In
other words, because ecosystems do not correspond
Climate change will increase the frequency
and intensity of extreme weather events, with
future scenarios indicating increasing severity of
climate change impacts in the Andean countries.
Furthermore, the ever-expanding integration and
interdependency within the region may increase the
trans-boundary impacts of climate change. Therefore,
instruments of regional integration should consider
strategies for collaboratively addressing largescale events (e.g. El Niño), including observation,
monitoring, data and lesson sharing, and investment
schemes for improved adaptation and resilience
to climate change at the regional level. Regional
institutions that play an active role in understanding
climate impacts - such as the International Research
Centre for El Niño (CIIFEN) - and academia should
play an active role in collaboratively addressing and
understanding these large-scale events.
Increasing urbanization of Andean cities and
expanding economic activities will continue to
drive demand for energy and other resources and
services. Therefore, in the long-term, mountains
may gain further strategic importance in supplying
hydropower and other services to cities and lowlands.
Additionally, in a scenario of increased vulnerability
of countries’ energy supplies to climatic variability
and change, establishing a regional energy network
across the Andes could help provide a redundant
energy supply.
Bogota, Colombia
The policies of the Andean countries analysed in this
report fall short in terms of their inclusion of both
mountains and adaptation to climate change. Though
mountains hold strategic resources (e.g. water, food,
minerals), the development models promoted in these
countries have favoured urban areas, flat regions, and
lowlands. It has also been noted that the few mining
regulations may hinder policies towards conservation
or sustainable mountain development. Moreover,
mountains are home to indigenous populations that
have historically been marginalized and excluded
from access to and control of their resources.
Ongoing policies are overlooking the synergic effects and
feedback between climatic and non-climatic processes
on mountains. For instance, some risks emerging from
these effects but not yet addressed are food insecurity,
biodiversity loss, population displacement, diminishing
provision of ecosystem services, and changing water
availability. In addition, the impact of these risks and
their effects on the adaptive capacity and resilience of
local communities are not considered, which in turn
may increase their vulnerability.
The risk of glacier lakes outburst floods (GLOF) has
not been addressed in this Outlook because these
are present mainly in Peru and Bolivia (to a lesser
degree). However, the recently created National
Institute of Research on Glaciers and Mountain
Ecosystems in Peru illustrates an institutional
arrangement that can address risk of GLOFs but also
tackle the understanding of mountains impacts and
adaptation to climate change.
Bottlenecks affecting adaptation-related policies
are often caused by limited institutional capacity.
This translates as rare coordination between sectors
whose activity areas overlap, and little integration
between national and local activities. This little
integration may be worse if the authorities belong
to rival political parties. The small budget for
adaptation and mountains leads to bottlenecks and
is indicative of the little priority given to these areas
in the political agenda. At the local level, there is
salient insufficient technical capacity to understand
climate-crop relations and climate change impacts
on agriculture. Furthermore, the network of
meteorological stations has little coverage and low
density, particularly in the mountains. This hinders
the generation of knowledge on local weather
to inform policies. However, the Initiative for
Hydrologic Monitoring in the Andean Ecosystems
aims to improve data coverage and sharing to
inform policymaking. This initiative still needs to
be linked to national meteorological services to
achieve major impact.
Finally, the policy analysis also shows the uneven
development of policies among sectors. While sectors
such as water seem to have some policy instruments,
the health and energy sectors in mountains are less
prepared for adapting to climate change. Though
this chapter does not aim to explain such unequal
attention, it is worth mentioning in order to promote
the sectoral exchange of information and lesson
sharing, as well as to stimulate research to analyse
such differences.
Methodological limitations
National and sectoral policies initially reviewed
were those accessible by Internet. Later, government
officials provided inputs in a workshop held in Lima.
They also responded to a survey, and sent additional
documents. This Outlook has benefited from these
and other officials’ comments on sectoral and
adaptation policies in the Andean region.
Gathering the relevant information for a proper,
comprehensive and exhaustive assessment has had
some shortcomings in relation to data, information
and institutions:
• Lack of data (or access to it) and information
about benchmarks, performance indicators,
implementation stage, outcomes and bottlenecks
of existing policies.
• Limited institutional capacity to provide updated
information about policies’ status.
• Inadequate monitoring and evaluation system.
• Lack of adequate intersectoral collaboration.
• National and sectoral policies implemented on
the same territory are sometimes difficult to
differentiate. Thus, overlapping policies have
different priorities, time schedules, resources
employed, and discourses used. This reveals the
challenge presented by a joint national climate
change adaptation goal.
• The little recognition given to mountains and
adaptation within the countries’ agenda.
Miraflores, Nor Yuayos-Cachos, Peru
Andean Climate Change Interamerican
Observatory Network Project
Assessments of Climate Change Impacts and
Mapping of Vulnerability to Food Insecurity
under Climate Change to Strengthen
Household Food Security with Livelihoods’
Adaptation Approaches
ANDESCLIMA Climate Change and Environment in the
Social and Economic Cohesion Sector
Plurinational Mother Earth Authority –
Andean Community
Convention on Biological Diversity
Community of Latin American and Caribbean
Inter-institutional Committee on Climate
Change – Ecuador
International Research Centre for El Niño
International Centre on Environmental
National Commission on Climate Change –
Intersecretarial Commission on Climate
Consortium for Sustainable Development of
the Andean Ecoregion
20th session of the Conference of the Parties
to the UNFCCC
Directorate General for Climate Change,
Desertification and Water Resources – Peru,
Ecosystem-based Adaptation
ECLAC (CEPAL) Economic Commission for Latin America and
the Caribbean
National Strategy for Climate Change –
El Niño-Southern Oscillation
Autonomous Decentralized Governments
Gross Domestic Product
Global Environment Facility
Greenhouse gas
National Policy for the Integrated Environmental
Management of Land – Colombia
German Corporation for International
Law 300
Glacial Lake Outburst Flood
Global Observation Research Initiative in
Alpine Environments
Integrated Environmental Assessment
Implementation of Climate Change
Adaptation Methods – Peru
Initiative on Hydrological Monitoring of
Andean Ecosystems
National Institute for Research on Glaciers and
Mountain Ecosystems – Peru
National Pilot Programme for Climate Change
Adaptation – Colombia
Intended Nationally Determined
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
International Union for Conservation of
Integrated Water Resources Management
Latin America and Caribbean
Framework Law of Mother Earth and Holistic
Development for Living Well
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development – Colombia
Ministry of Environment and Sustainable
Development – Colombia
metres above sea level
Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism
for the Integral and Sustainable Management
of Forests and Mother Earth
Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation – Peru
Ministry of Environment – Peru
Ministry of Health – Peru
Ministry of Health and Social Protection –
National Adaptation Programme of Action
National Development Plan – Colombia
Non-Governmental Organization
Regional Nodes on Climate Change
Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Climate Change Adaptation Programme –
Presidency of the Council of Ministers
Pacific Decadal Oscillation
Plan for Territorial Development and
Climate change adaptation and disaster risk
management plan for the agriculture sector
– Peru
National Plan for Climate Change
Adaptation – Colombia
Project for Adaptation to the Impact of
Rapid Glacier Retreat in the Tropical Andes
– Ecuador
Forum for Climate and Global Change
Representative Concentration Pathways
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and
Forest Degradation
Regional Strategy for Climate Change – Peru
National Water Secretariat – Ecuador
National Service of Meteorology and
Hydrology – Peru
National Service of Natural Protected Areas
– Peru
General Secretariat of the Andean
National Policy on Disaster Risk
Management – Peru
National Climate Change System – Colombia
Territorial Approach to Climate Change
The Mountain Institute
Union of South American Nations
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization
United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change
National Disaster Risk Management Unit –
*Translated to English where necessary
1. UNEP’s (2002) definition of mountainous environment includes
any of the following: Altitude of at least 2,500 m; Altitude of at
least 1,500 m, with a slope greater than 2 degrees; Altitude of at
least 1,000 m, with a slope greater than 5 degrees; Altitude of at
least 300 m, with a 300 m elevation range within 7 km.
2. Venezuelan mountain adaptation policies are not considered
in this chapter because of limited availability of specific
information central to the objectives of the assessment. This
in no way indicates that adaptation policies are not important
in these areas to protect essential services provided by
Venezuelan mountain environments and its inhabitants.
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6. https://www.adaptation-fund.org/about/
7. “Sub-regional” level is defined as a limited number of countries
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Strategic Sectors and Production, Employment and
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26. Translated by the authors from: Plan de Acción de Adaptación
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The authors wish to acknowledge the programme on Sustainable
Mountain Development for Global Change (SMD4GC) at the
University of Zurich, which is funded by the Swiss Agency for
Development and Cooperation (SDC) for its role in producing
the climate change maps. We also thank our colleagues from
the global Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EBA) in Mountains
Programme (funded by the German Government (BMU) and a
joint effort between UNDP, UNEP and IUCN) for the use of their
photo-library and support to the case study.
iStock/Devasahayam Chandra Dhas
Musuq Briceño
Tina Schoolmeester
Tine Rossing (Mountain EbA Project)
Karen Podvin (Mountain EbA Project)
Musuq Briceño
Peter Prokosch
Jefatura RPNYC (Mountain EbA Project)
iStock/Cristie Guevara
Tina Schoolmeester
Alvaro Beltran (Mountain EbA Project)
iStock/Rafal Cichawa
NASA Earth Observatory
Musuq Briceño
Wikimedia Commons/Elbuenminero
iStock/Bartosz Hadyniak
Musuq Briceño
Carlos Diaz Huertas (Mountain EbA Project)
iStock/Bartosz Hadyniak
iStock/Patrick Gijsbers
iStock/Holger Mette
iStock/Holger Mette
iStock/Devasahayam Chandra Dhas
iStock/Jenny Leonard
iStock/Devasahayam Chandra Dhas
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