Climate Change and Development Context
Lao PDR is a landlocked country sharing its borders with five other nations. Located along the lower Mekong River, the country is rich with natural resources including fresh water, forest, and mineral resources. Its economy has expanded rapidly, with GDP growth of 8.2 percent in 2012.[i] The Government of Lao PDR has set targets for transitioning the country from a Least Developed Country (LDC) to a Middle-Income Country (MIC) by 2020[ii] while achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.[iii] However, fast-paced economic development has also resulted in deterioration of the stock of natural resources, as seen in the decline of forest cover in the country from 70 percent in 1943 to 41.5 percent in 2002[iv]. Whereas Lao PDR was a net carbon sink, rapid deforestation and forest degradation has turned the country into a net emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG).[v]
Climate change impacts threaten Lao PDR because 75 percent of its population depends on natural resources for their livelihood.[vi] The Government recognizes that the country’s future depends on natural resource conservation and ecological sustainability. Therefore, it prioritizes sustainable development by promoting actions that are responsive to a low-carbon economy, such as through the current National Socioeconomic Development Plan. The Government also continues to formulate policies and institutional frameworks to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters and mitigate transportation sector emissions.[vii]
Key National Institutions, policies and Initiatives
The National Steering Committee on Climate Change (NSCCC) was established in 2008. [viii] The committee is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and consists of seven cross-sectoral working groups, including agriculture, forestry and land use; energy; water resources; urban infrastructures; public health; economic development; and financial instruments. It is responsible for assessing climate change issues, particularly related to mitigation, and identifying priority actions for the National Climate Change Strategy and the integration of climate change issues into the National Socioeconomic Development Plan.
The National Environment Committee (NEC) chaired by Deputy Prime Minister is an interagency body providing policy guidance on natural resources and the environment, as well as approval for the National GHG Inventory.[ix]
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), established in 2011, is responsible for natural resources and environmental policies and plans. It identifies priority actions for climate change mitigation for which carbon finance through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or other flexible and pragmatic financing mechanisms should be sought.[x] The Water Resources and Environment Agency under MONRE serves as the national focal point for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Designated National Authority for CDM.[xi] The Department of National Disaster Management and Climate Change, also under MONRE, leads work on the National GHG Inventory.[xii]
The Department of Forestry, within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has developed the country’s REDD+ policy[xiii]. A REDD+ Task Force and supporting office was created in 2012, and comprises a number of technical working groups for REDD+, including on stakeholder participation and consultation, land-use and benefit sharing, and development of a measurement, reporting, and verification system.[xiv]
Policies and initiatives
The 7th National Socioeconomic Development Plan (NSEDP-7) is targeted to maximize the hydropower capacity and turn Lao PDR into the “battery” of the ASEAN Economic Community. It strives to achieve sustainable forest management in order to support a sustainable hydropower system. As such, the country plans to achieve 70 percent forestry cover by 2020.[xv]
The National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS), endorsed in 2010, envisions ”[a] secure future where Lao PDR is capable of mitigating and adapting to changing climatic conditions in a way that promotes sustainable economic development, reduces poverty, protects public health and safety, enhances the quality of Lao PDR’s natural environment, and advances the quality of life for all Laotians.” The NCCS encompasses a range of development strategies, including environment, forest, agriculture, water resource and energy development, and disaster management. The NCCS also serves as a framework for mainstreaming climate change in the NSEDP-7.
In addition, climate change has been integrated into several policies such as the National Environmental Strategy Management to 2020, Environmental Education and Awareness Strategy to 2020, National Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, Action Plan for National Forestry Strategy to 2020, and Water Resource Management Strategy.[xvi]
Lao PDR has also submitted its National Adaptation Programme of Action to Climate Change (NAPA) to the UNFCCC (2009).[xvii] The key sectors vulnerable to climate change that the NAPA identified are agriculture, forestry, health, and water resources. There are 45 priority project proposals that were also developed and submitted to the UNFCCC.[xviii]
[ii] Strategy on Climate Change of the Lao PDR (accessed 29 Nov 2013).
[iii] Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Progress Report for Lao PDR 2011 (accessed 29 Nov 2013).
[iv] Forest Inventory and Planning Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR
[vii] Lao PDR at the High-Level Segment Warsaw 2013 (accessed 29 Nov 2013).
[viii] Second National Communication
[ix] Second National Communication (accessed 29 Nov 2013).
[x] Strategy on Climate Change of the Lao PDR
[xi] Strategy on Climate Change of the Lao PDR
[xii] Second National Communication
[xv] Forestry Strategy to the Year 2020 of the Lao PDR (accessed 29 Nov 2013).
[xvi] Workshop on Climate Change and its Impact on Agriculture, Country Report: Lao PDR (accessed 29 Nov 2013).
[xviii] Second National Communication
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