Research Report

CLIMATE POLITICS IN THE LOWER MEKONG BASIN: NATIONAL INTERESTS AND TRANSBOUNDARY COOPERATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Rane Baadsgaard Lange
Kurt Mørck Jensen
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2013
Pages: 46
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep13297
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 7-8)

    Climate change is predicted to intensify concerns over water security within or between countries in international river basins (Nordås and Gleditsch 2007; Michel and Pandya 2009; De Stefanoet al. 2012). Projected impacts have the potential to disturb hydro-political balances and aggravate existing tensions and conflicts between countries. In the Mekong Basin, climate scenarios project a warmer, wetter and more varying climate (Mekong River Commission 2009). The scenarios are likely to present economic and political challenges for riparian countries in terms of the needs for adaptation at both the national and the regional level. This is a difficult issue for the...

  2. (pp. 9-13)

    We apply a political economy approach to understanding the climate strategies of governments in the Lower Mekong Basin and the political capital they invest in climate policy-making and implementation. We build our approach on a series of studies focusing on the political economy of national and transboundary water governance (Molle 2008; Mollinga 2008; Swatuk 2008; Zeitoun and Allan 2008; Cascão and Zeitoun 2010; Jensen et al. 2012; Jensen and Lange 2013). The approach puts stakeholders, political discourse, economic interests and power at the centre of the inquiry.

    We use four indicators of political priority regarding climate change to structure the...

  3. (pp. 14-17)

    The body of climate-related studies of the Lower Mekong Basin has been growing steadily at both the regional and national levels in recent years. Establishing a climate scenario is a complex exercise rife with uncertainties. Differences in choice of climate and hydrological models, carbon emission scenarios, socio-economic methods for impact modelling, and vulnerability assessments and data availability all affect the results. This creates inconsistencies between different studies in terms of the magnitude and distribution of climate change impacts in the Mekong region. However, they present a similar overall trend in climate change which is briefly summarized here (Eastham et al....

  4. (pp. 18-21)

    Policy-makers in Laos face an obstacle in terms of detailed climate scenarios being virtually non-existent for the country (International Centre for Environmental Management 2009). The country’s NAPA and the ‘Strategy on Climate change’ build their risk assessments on global or regional climate studies instead (Water Resources and Environment Administration 2009; 2010). Climate changes boil down to a slight temperature increase, more variable precipitation and more extreme weather events (summarized in Table 1 above). However, supported by a donor-sponsored study, and contrary to the official regional scenarios, the national climate strategy portrays Laos as one of the most vulnerable countries in...

  5. (pp. 22-26)

    Climate scenarios for Thailand predict a temperature increase of 1-2 degrees, longer hot seasons, more precipitation in the wet season and less in the dry season (see Table 1 above). Increasing climate variability may create more floods and drought. In the coastal regions, rises in sea level will cause inundation and salt water intrusion. These impacts are unevenly distributed among country regions. However, national climate scenarios build on downscaled global climate models, which create uncertainties and ‘cause the main bottleneck to research and development on V&A [vulnerability and adaptation] in Thailand’ (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment 2010a: 62). Thai...

  6. (pp. 27-31)

    Vietnam is among the countries in the world that is most exposed to climate hazards due to its downstream and coastal position (International Centre for Environmental Management 2009). Climate scenarios project a sea level rise that will inundate large parts of the Red River and Mekong Delta, pollute ground water resources and alter coastal ecosystems. Climatic changes in the north-west Pacific may also increase the frequency and intensity of typhoons. Temperature increases vary across the country, as does precipitation, but variability between wet and dry seasons is predicted to increase. The vulnerability of the Mekong Delta figures prominently these scenarios...

  7. (pp. 32-34)

    Climate politics in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam result in rather different national priorities being assigned to climate adaptation. These different priorities influence regional climate politics in the Lower Mekong Basin.

    The impacts of climate change in international rivers cross borders by nature. This implies that increased adaptive capacity in the basin as a whole needs to build on transboundary cooperation. From a normative and scientific perspective, climate change adaptation efforts in international river basins therefore require transboundary water management institutions (Goulden et al. 2009). Furthermore, climate adaptation – or the absence of adaptation – in one country may affect other...

  8. (pp. 35-38)

    The three case countries display considerable disparities in terms of the political priority to climate change as summarized in Table 2. The three governments formally adhere to the global discourse on the necessity of climate adaptation. UNFCCC institutions and global climate funds are important generators of political attention. Governments have translated scenarios and impact studies into policies and strategies relevant for their national development context. However, the lack of any human and institutional capacity to deal with complex climate scenarios and development planning is a recurring problem in all countries, particularly in Laos.

    Climate change is largely a donor-driven agenda...

  9. (pp. 39-41)

    Based on these conclusions, we suggest a set of strategic considerations to determine external development partner support for climate policies and climate action in the Lower Mekong, and possibly also in other regions.

    In spite of uncertain scenarios, it is necessary to understand future climate risks and vulnerabilities in a wider development context. External partners should therefore carefully assess climate change in the context of the evolving political economy of development in each Lower Mekong country. A political economy analysis of climate change serves to identify strategic points of convergence where high-priority development strategies intersect with climate mitigation or adaptation...