Environment & Energy: In-depth

Man fishing in river
Lao PDR has the highest per capita water supply in Asia. Photo: UNDPLaoPDR/Philippe Pernet

Summary

Natural resource-based economic growth – mining, timber, hydropower, and industrial crop plantations – is putting new pressures on the environmental assets on which rural communities traditionally depend. Deforestation is severe, and unsustainable land and water use are rising. Concerns about land security for Lao families and rural communities are also increasing, with potentially serious implications for poverty, equity and the vital access to natural resources.

Environmental degradation combined with rising climate variability have resulted in increasing natural disasters – floods, droughts, erosion, landslides and pests. The high dependence of most rural people on agriculture and surrounding natural resources, together with continued gaps in adaptation to changing climatic conditions, likewise make the country highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. A need exists to strengthen human and financial capacities to manage natural resources, particularly at community level, and effectively enforce relevant laws.

UNDP supports growth that does not harm the environment. A core challenge thus is to strengthen people’s participation in the management of forests, watersheds and wetlands, as well as to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people benefit from environmental investments and revenues in Lao PDR. Our work focuses on three priority areas: encouraging all national development planning to recognize links between environmental harm and poverty; strengthening the response to climate change; and improving environmental governance and promoting community-based natural resource management. 

A core challenge thus is to strengthen people’s participation in the management of forests, watersheds and wetlands, as well as to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people benefit from environmental investments and revenues in Lao PDR.

Current Focus

Recognizing the links between environmental harm and poverty

Our Poverty-Environment Initiative is part of a global programme, and represents a joint effort led by UNDP and UNEP to help the Government increase the proportion of quality investments with the most benefits for all people and the least impact on the environment. This begins with support to the selection of appropriate investors and consideration of poverty-environment linkages in formulating economic and development policies. Moreover, this is supplemented with development of national capacities to negotiate deals to ensure compliance with environmental frameworks, as well as practical management tools and systems to help achieve these goals.

Strengthening the response to climate change

UNDP has provided strategic guidance to the Government to develop a comprehensive and consolidated response to challenges related to climate change. It has assisted the Government in developing Lao PDR’s First National Communication on Climate Change to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and is currently providing support to the Second National Communication. It also has assisted with development of the National Adaptation Plan of Action. These important documents, together with the National Strategy on Climate Change constitute the backbone of the Government’s policy framework for preventing and responding to climate change.  

Improving environmental governance and promoting community-based natural resource management

Lao PDR’s national legal framework related to environmental management is well-developed and relatively recent. In collaboration with the Government, UNDP has conducted a national self-assessment of capacity needs with regard to implementation of important global environmental conventions by Lao PDR. We also are implementing a follow-up project to the self-assessment, aiming to strengthen capacities at national and local levels for more effective implementation of legislation related to land degradation, biological diversity and climate change.