There are a variety of national plans and policies in Lao PDR that aim to respond to climate change and contribute to the sustainable development of the forestry sector. Climate change has been streamlined into the National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) 2010-2015, which includes climate change mitigation as a development target. The Strategy on Climate Change of Lao PDR provides the most detailed overview of the country’s aims in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The strategy, approved by the Government in 2010, identifies seven priority areas for action, including land use change and forestry (LUCF), which is identified as the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It highlights the sequestration properties of forests, identifying the potential for the forestry sector to contribute to climate change mitigation while providing simultaneous environmental co-benefits (DOE, 2010).
The Forestry Strategy to the Year 2020 (FS 2020) is the country’s guiding policy for the development of the forestry sector. It lays out the country’s forestry sector objectives, consistent with the NSEDP and the National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES), which both include goals to increase national forest cover to 65% by 2015 and to 70% by 2020. It has been reported that forest cover has increased to around 50%, equivalent to 17 million hectares, although this figure includes reforested areas and plantations (Vientiane Times, 2013a). There are concerns that targets for increased forest cover may be difficult to meet due to insufficient funding for national reforestation programmes, poor cooperation between different sectors, increasing competition for other land uses and development activities and persisting unsustainable forest and land management practices (Vientiane Times, 2013a; 2013b). A transition from unsustainable land management practices to more productive, less land-intensive approaches would achieve a significant increase in forest cover largely by way of natural regeneration alone.
It is important to note that as FS 2020 was approved in 2005, prior to the official inclusion of REDD+ within international climate change negotiations, it contains no reference to reducing emissions from forestry as a climate change mitigation mechanism. It has therefore been agreed that FS 2020 will be amended to include REDD+ and other emerging initiatives. The Forest Resources Inspection Strategy Action Plan (Law Enforcement Strategy 2020), in support of FS 2020, is a strategic document for the development of the Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI), which was established as the main government response for law enforcement in the forestry sector. The Law Enforcement Strategy 2020 recognises the challenges REDD+ presents and sets out the necessary actions to be taken within DOFI to meet these challenges and support effective implementation of REDD+.
Other national plans also emphasise the importance of the forestry sector as a means of climate change mitigation. The Agricultural Master Plan 2011-2015 and the Agricultural Development Strategy 2011-2020 highlight the importance of sustainable forest management and the potential for carbon market mechanisms, such as REDD+, to allow the country to capitalise on the ecosystem services provided by its forests.
Finally, the Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP), approved by the Secretariat of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in 2011, gives details of the country’s plans for REDD+, including proposed activities, and the schedule and costs of preparing for REDD+ implementation. Activities include capacity building, consultations, development of the REDD+ strategy and national systems for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) and the national reference emissions level (REL).
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT (DOE). 2010. Strategy on climate change of the Lao PDR. Available here. [Accessed October 2011]
VIENTIANE TIMES. 2013a. Forestry cover target could be out of reach. Vientiane Times, February 14, 2013. Available here. [Accessed June 2013]
VIETIANE TIMES. 2013b. Reforestation efforts suffering from limited budget. Vientiane Times, May 23, 2013. Available here. [Accessed June 2013]