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Multiple ICAT Assessment Guides used to implement NAMA in Mexico

29 September 2022

The implementation of a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) for landscape regeneration in Mexico was coordinated at a subnational level by the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, a national NGO, and the provincial government of Querétaro. The NAMA initially involved subnational government-led actions for the regeneration of forests and the implementation of planned grazing in twelve states. 

An introduction to the project

Because the NAMA involved actions in both the forest and agricultural sectors, Grupo Ecológico decided to apply both ICAT’s Forestry Assessment Guide and its Agriculture Guidance to assess the greenhouse gas impacts of the NAMA and prepare an assessment report for each sector. The NAMA involved pilot activities already implemented in five states as well as plans to scale-up and replicate the activities in other states. Therefore the  greenhouse gas impact reports included both ex-post and ex-ante assessments.

One of the objectives of the assessments was to estimate the potential of the NAMA to contribute to achieving Mexico’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for the forest and agricultural sectors, or to make these goals more ambitious. Additionally, Grupo Ecológico decided to apply the methodology of the ICAT Non-State and Subnational Action Guide for assessing overlaps, adding impacts and comparing ambition for the NDC target year for 2030. This was included as an additional section within the two greenhouse gas impact assessment reports.

Another objective of the assessment was to evaluate the potential of the NAMA to achieve transformational change within the forest and livestock grazing sectors. Therefore Grupo Ecológico also decided to apply the ICAT Transformational Change Methodology, which was used to prepare a third assessment report.

Finally, Grupo Ecológico obtained a third-party technical review of the three impact assessment reports, applying the ICAT Technical Review Guide to do so.

Assessing the greenhouse gas impacts of forest policies

The subnational actions for the regeneration of forests involve payments for ecosystem services to forest owners in exchange for the removal of cattle and other degradation factors from their forests. To assess the greenhouse gas impacts of pilot activities using the approach described in the ICAT Forestry Assessment Guide, Grupo Ecológico initiated local studies in conjunction with the Postgraduate College of Agricultural Sciences, and with the support of the U.S. Forest Service and the State Secretariat of Sustainable Development. The studies included sampling of regenerating forest parcels following the removal of cattle, as well as sampling of control sites still subject to cattle grazing. The aim was to seek to develop local emission factors for forest carbon capture resulting from natural regeneration. Initial results from these studies were used for the assessment of greenhouse gas impacts in the forest undergrowth, and it is expected that the studies will provide emission factors for other strata in the future.

To be consistent with national reports, data from the local study were complemented by the emission factors from Mexico’s most recent national communication and biennial update report submitted to UNFCCC. In some cases, emission factors were also extrapolated from annual growth increments reported in state forest inventories or by state forestry departments.

Guidance for assessing the greenhouse gas impacts of agriculture policies

Grupo Ecológico studied the regeneration of soils as an intermediate effect of planned grazing, focusing on the greenhouse gas impact of increased carbon dioxide removals from soil carbon sequestration. To do so, the group used Section 6.1 of the ICAT Agriculture Guidance for the identification of intermediate effects, potential greenhouse impacts and the development of a causal chain. 

In addition, the planned grazing policy also resulted in an intermediate effect of increased grass production, which allowed ranchers to increase herd size for additional profits, a sustainable development impact of the policy.  However, this increase in herd size led to increased methane emissions from enteric fermentation. Increased emissions of nitrous oxide and methane from increased manure production were also identified as having potential greenhouse gas impact, but this was determined to be insignificant and therefore was not quantified as part of the assessment.

Using Tier 1 methods of IPCC 2006 guidelines to estimate baseline emissions, it was determined that the great majority of ranchers have been using traditional grazing management practices resulting in at least moderate soil degradation for more than 20 years, and would continue to do so in the absence of the policy, thus resulting in a constant baseline for soil carbon. For enteric fermentation, a study of changes in herd size in the participating states over the past 10 years indicated an annual increase in herd size of approximately 1.3 per cent, which was used to develop a simple trend baseline for enteric fermentation emissions.

For the policy scenario, planned grazing was considered to be better managed resulting in the use of corresponding IPCC 2006 stock change factors for changes to soil carbon stocks during a transition period of 20 years. For the ex-ante estimation of enteric fermentation emissions, expert opinion from a planned grazing educator was used to estimate a 50 per cent increase in herd size over a period of 10 years.

This information was then used with the other parameters of the IPCC 2006 guidelines Tier 1 methods for the ex-ante estimation of net greenhouse gas impacts from soil carbon and enteric fermentation. A monitoring plan was then developed to monitor these variables during NAMA implementation.

Integrating the impact of non-state and subnational mitigation actions into national projections and plans

Grupo Ecológico used Section 9 of the ICAT Non-State and Subnational Action Guide to assess the potential contribution of the NAMA to sectoral NDC goals established by Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), as well as goals indicated in Mexico’s most recent national communication to the UNFCCC. 

For the forest sector, the evaluation found existing national goals to which the NAMA could contribute such as:  zero net deforestation at the national level, reduced deforestation and increased reforestation in natural protected areas, and increased carbon stocks in forests managed for commercial wood production. 

The local protocol for subnational actions is designed to regenerate forests that are not subject to commercial wood production, for example forest parcels in areas of poverty and marginalization where vegetation types, high biodiversity values, access issues or other factors make forests not suitable for commercial wood production. For this reason, it was determined that the subnational actions of the NAMA did not overlap with the national goals but complemented them. Thus, the assessment report concluded that the subnational actions of the NAMA could be an important additional strategy to help Mexico achieve its NDC mitigation goal for the forestry sector.

For the agriculture sector, the evaluation found planned grazing was identified by INECC as a conditional mitigation measure included in the NDC. The assessment report found the NAMA subnational actions for the implementation of planned grazing could contribute 52 per cent of the theoretical potential indicated by INECC for this conditional mitigation measure and 41 per cent of the current mitigation goal for the entire sector in the year 2030. This provided strong evidence that this mitigation strategy had the potential to increase Mexico’s NDC ambition for the agriculture sector.

Assessing the transformational impact of policies and actions

The initial decision of Grupo Ecológico to apply the ICAT Transformational Change Methodology was prompted by it submitting a funding proposal to an international donor that was interested in catalyzing transformational change to move towards sustainable low-emissions. With limited prior experience with the theory and literature of transformational change, Grupo Ecológico found the process of evaluating the potential for transformational change with the ICAT guidance document to be a learning experience. It helped to improve the design of the NAMA, and to articulate the potential of transformational change of the NAMA for supporters and donors more clearly.

Concrete examples of resulting improvements to NAMA design were: 

  • Defining a specific objective for the regenerative management including a reorientation of the system of government programmes, technical support, incentives, and finance mechanisms for the target sectors; 
  • The formation of a critical mass of public decision makers, NGOs, educators, technicians and producers committed to regenerative management; 
  • The incorporation of a public awareness campaign in key cities; and 
  • A new integrated landscape management orientation with greater emphasis on intersectoral coordination and clustering interventions geographically in high-priority landscapes. 

Supporting the review of the impacts of policies and actions

To gauge the impacts of the NAMA, assessment reports were prepared following the key recommendations of the forest, agriculture, non-state and subnational action and transformational change guidance documents of ICAT. The assessment of greenhouse gas impacts was based on both forecasts and actual results from pilot activities already implemented. 

Some of the pilot activities of the NAMA were implemented as part of a project of Grupo Ecológico with financing of the Multilateral Investment Fund of the InterAmerican Development Bank. Therefore, Grupo Ecológico decided to seek the technical review of the assessment reports in conjunction with the final evaluation of the project. To do this, it was necessary to put together a technical review team with the combined experience and qualifications necessary to evaluate the results of the completed project as well as the assessments of greenhouse gas impacts and transformational change potential.

A request for proposals was sent to Mexican members of the UNFCCC roster of experts, greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies accredited by the Entidad Mexicana de Acreditación, verification bodies accredited under the forest offsets programme most frequently used in Mexico, and other organizations with greenhouse gas quantification and sector expertise. 

Proposals for the combined third-party project final evaluation and technical review of ICAT assessment reports were received from three accredited verification bodies, a team from the UNFCCC roster of experts and an additional organization with a combination of greenhouse gas quantification and sectoral expertise. All the proposals received involved highly qualified evaluation teams. In the end, a technical review team was selected with a combination of greenhouse gas quantification experience, broad sector transformation expertise and experience with the pilot project donor. 

Multiple ICAT Assessment Guides used to implement NAMA in Mexico

Photo by Michaela on Pixabay

The following ICAT assessment guides were used in this project:

Forestry

Agriculture

Non-State and Subnational Actions

Transformational Change

Technical Review