Development of a protocol for the planning, management and implementation of adaptation measures in land use planning at the level of Local Governments

Costa Rica

This Technology Transfer Advances Costa Rica's

  • Nationally Determined Contribution to use land use planning as a tool to decrease long-term vulnerabilities of its population, enhance its food security and the resilience of its infrastructure. The NDC also includes a committment to have a land use plan in every city and coastal area by 2020,  which considers vulnerabilities to climate change and measures for increasing adaptation and mitigation


Costa Rica has, for a number of years, recognized the urgent need for appropriate national land-use planning to ensure that land is used in accordance with its capacity and to guarantee the sustainable use of natural resources and urban growth. This planning must minimize the environmental impacts of human activity, reduce the risk of disasters, demonstrate resilience to climate change and provide participatory tools for informed decision-making. The issue of land-use planning in Costa Rica is of direct relevance to local governments, as they are constitutionally designated as autonomous regional bodies with responsibility for municipal/canton-level public structures, and for the administration of interests and services within that area. To fulfil this mandate, legal and technical frameworks have been in place in the country since 1968 to determine the land forms and uses present in a given geographical area.

The tool used for this purpose is known as a Land-Use Plan (Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial – POT). It aims to organize, plan and ensure the sustainable use of geographical spaces in terms of their human development, environmental protection and natural resources. In order to comply with this definition and these principles, the Government passed Executive Decree 32967 in 2006, officially setting out the methodology for incorporating environmental aspects into the regulatory plans and any other type of land-use planning. This methodology has since established a mechanism whereby the State ensures that all POTs incorporate actions aimed at minimizing the environmental impact of various human activities (urban planning, industry, agriculture, conservation, etc.) into their land-use and zoning proposals.Although this tool has resulted in elements of sustainability being included in land-use planning, from the outset there has been a gap in terms of the necessary evaluation and analysis of threats such as climate change within land-use planning. Consequently, now that climate change has been scientifically proven and its impacts are being felt locally on a daily basis, Costa Rica has no mechanism or protocol enabling it to address climate change by developing and implementing adaptation measures within land-use planning processes.

SETENA (the State body with responsibility for validating the environmental sustainability of POTs) therefore wishes to rectify this situation by updating the current protocol (i.e. E.D. 32967) to include climate change as a factor that must be evaluated by local governments during land-use planning processes in Costa Rica. The aim is to identify adaptation measures that are consistent with the country-level guidelines being proposed as part of the climate change adaptation plans and policies.

Assistance Requested

The assistance that MINAE-SETENA is requesting of the CTCN is aimed at developing the necessary technical and scientific basis that will enable climate change to be incorporated and assessed within land-use planning processes (both terrestrial and marine environments). This will involve the SETENA Department for Strategic Environmental Assessment (DEAE), which is directly responsible for assessing the environmental component of all proposed POTs in Costa Rica. Technical assistance is specifically required to:

  • Create the necessary technical and technological capacity within the DEAE to develop the technical basis required to guide local governments in assessing and identifying climate change adaptation measures within land-use plans.
  • Coordinate processes with key actors, such as the country’s public institutions and productive sectors, to support the production of a protocol that will enable local governments to implement climate change adaptation measures in POTs.
  • Exchange experiences with other countries where the issue of climate change adaptation is being implemented in local land-use plans.
  • Organize consultation and validation workshops on the intended protocol with key actors (productive sectors, academics, public institutions).

Relevant Technologies and Approaches

  • Land use planning

Expected Benefits

Being able to produce the necessary tools that enable climate change impacts to be included and assessed in land-use planning processes will constitute a major step forward for Costa Rica in the process of implementing effective adaptation measures. Direct impacts will include the INDCs for the next 15 years that Costa Rica will present to the world at the forthcoming COP. The protocol will, specifically, contribute to the adaptation processes that need to be jointly implemented by local governments and various sectors: energy, agriculture, health, infrastructure, biodiversity and water resources. These are all largely dependent on the spatial management and planning undertaken for these activities in the country.

In addition to the priority sectors for work on adaptation measures, Costa Rica will also now have an ally in the local governments, with whom it will implement more detailed actions than those provided for in the National Adaptation Plan. This will contribute directly to measures related to disaster risk reduction, public infrastructure adaptation, environmental health, capacity building (technology transfer) and to the increased awareness and knowledge of climate change that need to exist among the population, along with community-based adaptation processes (meeting basic needs). Finally, the implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation processes will be facilitated by the fact that the protocol assesses the impact of climate change on the biodiversity present in areas that are under the administration of local governments.



Date of submission
Geographical scope
Costa Rica
Budget range

Project details

Cross-sectoral enabler
Governance and planning
Final type of assistance
Decision-making tools and/or information provision
Request NDE
Climate Change Directorate (DCC), Ministry of Environment and Energy
Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center
Oiko Logica S.L.
This technical assistance advances the following Sustainable Development Goals