What is mitigation? The impacts of climate change are undeniable. Mitigation and adaptation actions must be taken to address these consequences. So, clarifying what mitigation and adaptation actually means is necessary.
Climate change adaptation and mitigation are two different but complementary strategies of dealing with climate change. The two terms are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably, but this is inaccurate. The two things are in fact very different from each other. This page discusses climate change mitigation in the Lower Mekong Countries (LMC); adaptation is addressed separately here.
Mitigation means taking action, primarily through reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and developing carbon sinks (or things that absorb carbon, such as forests), to potentially change the effects of climate change.1
As a region, the Lower Mekong Countries are low emitters of greenhouse gases. However, the impact of excess GHG emissions globally on the LMC is expected to be disproportionately high, for a number of reasons. The rural poor, highly dependent on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihoods, have already been impacted by shifting weather patterns and water hydrology. Further, the majority of the LMC’s urban areas are clustered around coastal zones, meaning that it is not only rural populations that will be affected by changing water hydrology and rising sea levels. SDG 13 on Climate Change indicates the consensus of the international community with regard to the impacts of climate change, while other SDGs, such as 2, 6, and 15, implicate climate change mitigation.
The EDGARv4.3.2 emissions dataset are calculated for the three main greenhouse gases per sector and country. For the energy related sectors the activity data are mainly based on the energy balance statistics of IEA (2014). The figures presented here represent total greenhouse gas emissions between (1990 – 2012) for the Lower Mekong Countries. Chart created by ODM June 2017. Licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0. View metadata.
Mitigation strategies aim at reducing GHG emissions, as well as developing carbon sinks. Strategies can be economy-wide or span one or many sectors, and can comprise of actions ranging from using technological innovations and shifting to low-carbon options, to improving energy efficiency, to behavior shifting and capacity building, to engaging in better planning and policy-making.2, 3
Deforestation and forest degradation account for a disproportionately high percentage of land-use emissions in tropical countries, with Myanmar, Lao PDR and Cambodia standing out in the LMC.4
So, mitigation strategies in LMC countries primarily focus on forest protection and management. Ecosystem-based mitigation is a strategy used to impact forests, focusing more on behavior shifting and capacity building to protect and enhance existing carbon sinks, such as the protection of community forests close to the Mekong River in two eastern provinces of Cambodia.
Aware of the impacts of climate change in the region, all five LMC have recognized the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and signed the Paris Agreement, and all but Myanmar have ratified this agreement. On mitigation, the Kyoto Protocol is the key international treaty, which all countries of the LMC have ratified and begun implementing with Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. The international community recognizes that developed countries are principally responsible for the current levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere, so developing countries do not have binding GHG reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.5 Other mitigation aspects of the UNFCCC are being implemented in the LMC, including the development of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) in Cambodia, Thailand, Lao PDR, and Vietnam6, 7 and REDD+ participation in all LMC.8
(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the Role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks in Developing Countries)
Under the UNFCCC, REDD+ is a voluntary mechanism focused on forests for developing countries reducing GHG emissions. REDD+ has three phases: developing a strategy, implementing a strategy, and monitoring and verification of implementation. After the results of implementation are verified, countries can begin receiving results-based payments, meaning that developed countries financially compensate the participating developing countries for the global benefits produced by their forest preservation efforts.
The LMC countries are all at different levels of participation in REDD+. Myanmar, having approved a REDD+ Readiness Roadmap in 2013,9 and Lao PDR with targeted support approved in 2015,10 are both in their initial stage of preparation in the first phase of REDD+. Thailand is in the same position and is expected to complete this stage in 201911, 12). In phase 2, Vietnam is implementing its strategy, with actions in 6 pilot provinces13 Cambodia is most advanced along the process, with a number REDD+ projects throughout the country and credits being sold as of 201614, 15
One of the keys to successful REDD+ implementation is strong governance structures and secure land tenure rights within the project sites. However, the REDD+ mechanism does not address land tenure security which, in the Mekong Region, is a main issue of conflict. Projects focused on effective community engagement in forest governance can be the key to this, as forest communities are intimately connected with forest lands both culturally and for their livelihoods. However, the reality is that even well-meaning projects exacerbate tenure security issues and negatively impact human rights. There are at least three examples of REDD+ connected community forestry projects in Cambodia, in Oddar Meanchey, Mondulkiri, and Siem Reap 16 and in Oddar Meanchey serious conflicts have arisen regarding conflict over land, including illegal encroachments, evictions, and bribery for access to forest.17 Simply meeting the requirements under an internationally recognized climate change mitigation mechanism is not the full answer to ensuring that effective and ethical mitigation actions actually occur.
- 1. UNFCCC Focus: Mitigation. Accessed 15 October 2017.
- 2. UNFCCC Focus: Mitigation.
- 3. UNEP Mitigation.
- 4. National REDD+ Strategies in Asia and the Pacific: Progress and Challenges. Asian Development Bank. (2010), ix.
- 5. UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol
- 6. UNFCCC 2015. Compilation of Information and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions to be Implemented by Developing Country Parties. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, January 19, 2015, 12-13; 55.
- 7. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “NAMA Registry.” Accessed June 7, 2017.
- 8. Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. REDD+ Participating Countries. Accessed 16 August, 2017.
- 9. Myanmar REDD+ Readiness Roadmap, UN-REDD+ Programme, 2013.
- 10. UN-REDD Programme, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, 2015.
- 11. Thailand FCPF Readiness Preparation Project, World Bank 2015.
- 12. Thailand’s FCPF First Report, FCPF Secretariat. Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (2017).
- 13. UN-REDD Viet Nam Phase II Programme: Operationalising REDD+ in Viet Nam. UN REDD Programme, 2013.
- 14. Seangly, P. and Kotoski, K. “Disney buys up carbon credits in Mondulkiri” The Phnom Penh Post, 25 July 2016. [Accessed 23/10/17].
- 15. Keo Seima REDD+ Newsletter, Wildlife Conservation Society and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. 2016.
- 16. Introduction to REDD+ governance in Cambodia: Briefing Paper of the Overcoming the Legal Barriers to REDD+ Implementation Project. Cambridge Conservation Initiative, 2013.
- 17. Frewer, T. “Cambodian villagers fall victim to UN forest scheme to reduce greenhouse emissions”. Asian Studies Association of Australia, Published on 4 October, 2015. [Accessed on 23/10/17].