Assessing climate adaptation in Mexico

IIED has undertaken a series of 'light touch' case studies to show how some countries are developing adaptation M&E for learning systems. This study looks at Mexico. 

Article, 30 October 2019
Assessing climate adaptation: aligning frameworks
A series of case studies showing how countries are developing adaptation monitoring, evaluation and learning systems
A beach that has been washed away

Hurricane damage on the Yucatan peninsula. The region's tourist infrastructure is especially vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme weather events (Photo: hmerinomx, Creative Commons via Flickr)

At the 2017 United Nations climate change conference México became the first country to include climate adaptation goals and actions in its statement of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). Underlying this is the México General Climate Change Law (2012-18).

The general law describes climate adaptation effectiveness as: decreasing the vulnerability of human populations, ecosystems and infrastructure; minimising risks and damage now and into the future; identification of vulnerability and of adaptation capacity in the transformation of ecological and social systems; establishing mechanisms to address immediate climate change effects; and, to foment and facilitate food security.

The general law states that climate change adaptation will be based on diagnosis, planning, measuring, monitoring, reporting, verification and evaluation instruments. To do this, adaptation progress and performance needs to be understood at local, state and national scales. 

The general law also provides a policy framing for adaptation monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Article 26 states that citizens’ participation is a principle of both the formulation and M&E of adaptation programmes. Article 27 states that government agencies should establish an information system that includes data on key indicators of vulnerability of: human settlements; islands, coastal zones and deltas; and climate sensitive economic activities. The same article provides for biodiversity protection, adaptation and management.

What’s interesting about this case study? 

Unconditional commitments

 México’s NDC has unconditional adaptation commitments. These include:

  • Increasing the population’s adaptive capacity
  • Reducing the vulnerability of 160 most at risk municipalities
  • Strengthening actions to protect and restore ecosystems and reach zero deforestation, and
  • Establishing prevention and early warning systems across the whole country for extreme weather events. 

The national adaptation policy (NAP) currently under development will define how the NDC commitments will be implemented.


The national climate change institutional system includes a wide range of organisations: Climate Change Council, the Inter-secretarial Commission for Climate Change (CICC), the National Institute for Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), several federal entities, the association of municipal authorities and the national Mexican Congress. 

INECC coordinates the evaluation of climate change (mitigation and adaptation) through a technical secretariat. The diagram below presents the configuration of institutions involved in the climate change system.

The CICC works with the national statistics institute to define what information will be incorporated into the climate change information management system. An adaptation working group supports CICC to coordinate actions and investments of public bodies relevant to the NAP. Currently there are more than 100 registered institutional initiatives in México with adaptation as a principal objective. 

There are 88 institutional initiatives that contribute to the national climate adaptation portfolio at the sectorial level. Half of these focus on environmental management and the remainder are managed by members of the CICC working on planning, law, infrastructure, early warning systems, finance and research.

México has proven capacity to generate relevant and robust monitoring data on development sectors. There is a shared vision for adaptation, including objectives and challenges,  at the federal level. Work is being undertaken to identify and define adaptation indicators. These will be used diagnose, plan, monitor, measure, report, verify and evaluate adaptation progress. The NAP will guide the development of the adaptation M&E system.

Adaptation monitoring and evaluation

At a national level Mexico is investing in ways to identify and develop methods and tools (both qualitative and quantitative) to support climate adaptation M&E for different regions of the country that can be implemented by public authorities and private and civil society stakeholders. The main aim is to learn about adaptation.

The diagram below sets out how INECC and the adaptation working group in Mexico see the climate adaptation process and the role of monitoring and evaluation.

M&E criteriaM&E criteriaM&E criteriaClimate adaptation monitoring, evaluation and learning systemEmpower key actorsMonitoring and evaluationSystematise learning and good practiceAssess costs and benefits of adaptationProblem identificationAnalyse relevance of measuresDesign M&E indicatorsDefine territory for analysisSocio-economic and environmental analysisAdaptation approachAdaptation design ImplementationVulnerability evaluationAdaptation process

Adapted from a presentation by Karina Ruiz Bedolla

INECC is responsible for collating information on climate adaptation supported by the different part of the federal government, and manages the national climate vulnerability atlas. INECC also coordinates the multi-dimensional measurement of institutional capacity for managing climate adaptation.

Looking at climate adaptation from the bottom up

The Yucatan Peninsula in Southeast Mexico is considered to be highly vulnerable to climate change. The peninsula has high population density and expensive tourism infrastructure in the coastal areas. The main climate change impacts are predicted to be: temperature increases in the air and  upper layers of the oceans, accelerated sea level rise, greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, acidification of the ocean, increase in the incidence and spread of diseases caused by vectors, alterations to agroclimatic systems and fishing. 

Three states have jurisdiction over the territory – Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche. Under the General Climate Change Law, each state must set out a plan for climate action with specific mitigation and adaptation actions.

The states began coordinating their climate response as early as 2010. Each state prepared a PEACC and agreed to work together on REDD+, a climate change fund, and to generate adaptation strategies. In 2016 they signed the Sustainability Agreement for the Yucatan Peninsula (ASPY), which has specific activities and goals for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Specific programmes relevant to adaptation that are operating across the three Yucatecan states are: 

  • REDD+ implemented by CONAFOR (national forestry commission): a rural development mechanism and not as a mitigation strategy
  • Risk management and disaster prevention, UNDP: this programme operates in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco as well as on the Yucatan Peninsula, and
  • Natural Protected Areas Resilience. (UNDP, CONANP, TNT): working in buffer zones of natural protected areas, taking an ecosystem and landscape management approach including mangrove conservation and waste management.

The M&E systems used by these initiatives vary considerably. Most follow the frameworks laid down by the coordinating organisation and follow conventional models for assessing log-frame guided achievements in terms of activities and outputs. 

We found no links between the M&E systems of different initiatives with the same shared adaptation objectives. We also did not find links to state government instruments or institutions

UNDP projects use the MESMIS framework for evaluating sustainability. This selects, transforms and aggregates economic, environmental and social indicators for sustainability analysis. 


From the information gathered with key informant interviews and review of secondary sources, a series of challenges to linking local adaptation with national frameworks in Mexico have been identified. These include:

  • The technical complexity of climate adaptation imposes methodological challenges on M&E and information management systems
  • Continuity of senior staff in state-level agencies with the mandate for climate adaptation varies widely between state authorities
  • Adaptation-related projects by non-state actors have moved into this vacuum, but there is little co-ordination, and
  • Municipalities that include important economic development sectors are sometimes working independently of government programmes. Meanwhile other more marginalised populations are not included in adaptation initiatives.

Lessons learned

Mexico has invested pro-actively in policies and supporting instruments such as M&E and information management systems for climate adaptation. Federal level inter-institutional arrangements have been established. 

Climate adaptation is technically complex, and coordination of public and private sector organisations is necessary for coherent implementation of adaptation programmes. 

Awareness and interest in climate adaptation require institutional support and incentive structures to engender action toward effective adaptation M&E. 

At the local level there is a diversity of initiatives that are climate adaptation relevant. These initiatives potentially represent a groundswell of action that contribute to national level adaptation objectives. But due to the fragmented nature of progress assessment and reporting it is difficult to know how these local initiatives perform and aggregate.   

The task of linking local level adaptation actions to state then national frameworks for the purposes of diagnosis, planning, measuring, monitoring, reporting, verification and evaluation is difficult. If it can be achieved it could be very useful.

This work is part of the Partnership on Transparency in the Paris Agreement initiative managed by GIZ.