Timor-Leste submits its National Adaptation Plan to the UNFCCC

Timor-Leste submitted its National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to the UNFCCC Secretariat as part of the country’s robust response to climate change in the medium to long-term in March 2021. Despite the on-going global pandemic, this is the result of considerable efforts of the country to advance its adaptation planning with the support from the GEF-funded joint-UNDP UNEP National Adaptation Plan Global Support Programme (NAP-GSP).

Timor-Leste launched its National Adaptation Plan process in 2019. The National Directorate of Climate Change under the Secretary of State for Environment and the UNDP Country Office organized field visits to the local villages or - “sucos” to assess the vulnerabilities that would inform the NAP. The most vulnerable sucos are located in the western part of the country. According to Timor-Leste’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), one third of the land in Timor-Leste is at high risk of erosion and approximately half the land is at risk of degradation and fertility decline. Climate projections forecast an increase in rainfall intensity in Timor-Leste, which will exacerbate soil erosion, landslides, and local flooding.

Following the vulnerability assessments, Timor-Leste held a national consultation workshop with sectoral stakeholders from line ministries (i.e. Public Works, Agriculture and Fisheries, Health, and Finance) and the National Directorate of Disaster Risk Reduction under the Secretary of State for Civil Protection. In June 2020, Timor-Leste produced an initial NAP document and held a validation workshop, and subsequently the government validated the plan in September 2020.

The NAP was drafted to align and be compatible with the overall development trajectory of the country and will prioritize economic diversification by supporting other sectors, such as agriculture. All priorities outlined in the NAP have been compiled with existing priorities established in the National Adaptation Programme of Action, INDC, and the Green Climate Fund financed country programme. The priorities were grouped into seven sectors (infrastructure, biodiversity and ecosystem adaptation, health sector, agriculture sector, water sector, disaster risk reduction and tourism) and then sequenced into “priority programs.”

When considering the baseline conditions that shape risk, vulnerability and adaptive capacity in Timor-Leste, the NAP has a high consideration for traditional laws and customs. Tara Bandu is a traditional law governing the management of natural resources. Tara Bandu is a community-organized natural resource management system based on traditional sociopolitical structures at the village level. Tara Bandu prohibits the burning of forests, the cutting of trees, collection of forest products, agricultural harvests, hunting and fishing, and other activities in a forbidden zone for a defined period of time. The NAP recognizes Tara Bandu as an important entry point for engaging communities and conducting bottom-up resilience building activities.

Formulating and submitting a NAP to the UNFCCC represents a key milestone for Timor-Leste’s development and validates its plans to adapt critical sectors to climate change impacts. Timor-Leste is one of the first Least Developed Countries to submit a NAP before the COP26 in 2021.