Safeguard F Detail

This term ‘reversal’ as used in this safeguard is specific to REDD+. Viet Nam defines the risk of reversals as either:

  • the possibility of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, achieved through the implementation of REDD+ policies and measures, increasing in the future; or
  • the possibility of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere, through the implementation of REDD+ policies and measures, being released back into the atmosphere in the future.

There are many potential causes of reversals, which can be both anthropogenic (such as logging) and natural (such as fire or pest outbreaks).

Viet Nam has made a number of political commitments to address deforestation and increase forest cover, including as a means to mitigating climate change. Viet Nam’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to tackle climate change[1] commits to increasing forest cover to 45% by 2030, and the National REDD+ Programme (NRAP)[2] mirrors this objective.

The Land Law (2013) provides conditions and criteria for changing land use purpose; changing the land use purpose from forest land to other types of agricultural land and non-agricultural land is subject to the Prime Minister’s approval for areas of Protection Forest and Special Use Forest greater than 20 ha, and to the People’s Council’s Resolution for areas  of Protection Forest and Special Use Forest less than 20 ha[3]. The Forestry Law (2017) requires that forest planning should be based on 30- to 50-year vision, and that changes to forest purpose must be in line with the Forest Protection and Development Plan and Land Use Plan, must have approval from the regulatory agency, must have an associated and approved investment project, and must include a plan for offset planting[4].

The Forestry Law (2017), explicitly prohibits the conversion of natural forests (except in cases of nationally important projects, national defence projects, or other critical projects approved by the government)[5]. Projects proposing land/forest use changes are subject to environmental impact assessment, which would highlight the need for very high-level approvals for even small areas of forest land use change.[6] These controls contribute to addressing the risks of reversals.

The National Assembly makes decisions on changing forest land to non-forestry purposes in cases of more than 50 ha, and approves changes in forest type based on proposals by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). MARD makes proposals on changing forest type. MARD also leads the coordination of forest surveys and leads the establishment of the National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS).

Provincial People’s Committees may make decisions on change of forest land to non-forestry land up to 20 ha for Special Use Forests/Protection Forests and up to 50 ha for Production Forests. Provincial People’s Committees also coordinate forest surveys in their provinces. Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Forest Protection Departments report on forest status as part of their Provincial Forest Monitoring Systems.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment is responsible for developing legal guidance on social and environmental impact assessment, and is responsible for their appraisal and approval for national and multi-province projects. Provincial Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment are responsible for appraisal/approval of environmental impact assessments within their respective localities


[1] Prime Minister’s Decision No. 2053/2016/QD-TTg.

[2] NRAP 2017, Decision No 419/QD-TTg dated 5/4/2017. Annex: Policies and Measures for REDD+ implementation for period of 2017 – 2020

[3] The Land Law (2013), Articles 57 & 58.

[4] The Forestry Law (2017, effective 1 January 2019), Articles 9 & 19-20.

[5] The Forestry Law (2017, effective 1 January 2019). Article 14.

[6] Government Decree No. 18/2015/ND-CP; MONRE Circular No. 27/2015/BTNMT.

Actions to address the risks of reversals in Viet Nam include the following:

  • Analysing the risk of reversals of emission reductions/removals.
  • Selecting and designing REDD+ policies and measures taking into account the risks of reversals. This may involve consideration of the long-term financial and ecological sustainability of planned policies and measures, legal and regulatory frameworks, and potential changes in environmental conditions and the comprehensive analysis of the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation;

Designing and operating a National Forest Monitoring System to contribute to detecting and providing information on reversals;

Environmental and social co-benefits and risks of the National REDD+ Programme (NRAP) policies and measures were assessed in 2017, and co-benefit enhancement and risk mitigation measures suggested[1]. This includes a number of risks related to potential reversals, such as:

  • Ongoing loss of natural forests, high carbon value forests or forests that perform other important ecosystem services may occur;
  • Investments, incentives and potential higher markets prices in agriculture could make crop production more effective or attractive, and contribute to deforestation over the long term or at scale;
  • Forest land allocation and collaborative forest management approaches could lead to adverse effects on forest protection and legitimise unsustainable use of forests and forest lands;
  • Non-timber forest product business models could result in over-exploitation and/or degradation and/or deforestation (e.g. spread of bamboo across other types of natural forest); 
  • There are risks of fire and pest/disease outbreaks in plantations;
  • Lack of maintenance or abandonment of coastal forests plantations on lands that are classified as protection or special-use forest;
  • Inundation in Melaleuca forests may lead to detrimental impacts on biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Green credits mechanisms could be used to support non-sustainable investments, with negative impacts on forests and/or emissions.

Measures suggested during this assessment to enhance the co-benefits of REDD+ and reduce risks related to reversals include the following:

  • Conservation and protection of natural forests should be prioritised in land use planning processes, applying strategic environmental assessment in land use and sectoral planning, and ensuring that decision-support tools for REDD+ incorporate biodiversity and ecosystem service values;
  • Green financial mechanisms should include clear environmental safeguards such as criteria and procedures for screening proposed investments, conducting due diligence checks and monitoring;   
  • To reduce forest conversion to agriculture, a monitoring and traceability system should be developed, complemented by strengthening the monitoring and enforcement of land use plans in priority hotspots of commodity-driven deforestation;
  • Inventories should be conducted on the baseline status of forests to be allocated, as well as studies to understand tenure arrangements, poverty, forest dependency/use and vulnerability. Participatory mapping and consultations on forest land allocation and co-management options should be carried out, including where possible promoting allocation to community groups;
  • Access to credit and other livelihood support should be improved, such as on/off farm livelihood improvements allowing households to invest more resources in natural forest protection and restoration;
  • Non-timber forest product business models and associated practices should promote natural forest protection and enhancement; screening procedures should be developed in order to eliminate inappropriate investments;
  • Practical guidelines for afforestation/reforestation and plantation management at site-level should be developed, including site/species selection, plantation design, pest control, fire prevention, etc.;
  • Sustainable forest management practices and certification for plantations should be promoted through access improvement to advisory services.
  • Detailed studies and consideration of impacts on biodiversity and the wider ecosystem from interventions which affect water levels as well as impacts resulting from construction activities should be conducted and included in Melaleuca sites management plans.

The national guidelines for the development of Provincial REDD+ Action Plans also provide direction on environmental and social benefit and risk assessment of the REDD+ policies and measures set out in these plans[2]. Assessments of environmental and social benefits and risks of REDD+ policies and measures in specific sub-national locations have also been carried out through the Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) during the development of the FCPF Emission Reductions Program (ER Program) in the North-Central Coast Region of Viet Nam[3], and through the assessment of Environmental and Social Considerations for the Project for Sustainable Forest Management in the Northwest Watershed Area (SUSFORM-NOW) funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The ER Program in the North-Central Coast Region of Viet Nam has identified risks of reversals and design features to mitigate these risks[3]. The key risks identified include: fire, pests and diseases, illegal logging, unplanned agricultural expansion of industrial crops and subsistence agriculture, small-scale and large-scale infrastructure development, and climate change (due to changes in temperature and precipitation and increase in frequency and intensity of extreme events). Mitigation strategies to address these risks include: participatory land-use planning through the ER Program’s Adaptive and Collaborative Management Approach (ACMA); support for non-expansion of dams and roads in forest areas; improved accountability and ‘ownership’ over forest areas through collaborative management; and improved technical support and appropriate site and species selection for tree plantations. The ER Program will also create a buffer into which emission reductions from the ER Program can be deposited to cover future Reversals in the ER Program Accounting Area, and which is managed on behalf of the Carbon Fund.


[1] NRAP 2017, Decision No 419/QD-TTg dated 5/4/2017. Annex: Policies and Measures for REDD+ implementation for period of 2017 – 2020

[2] MARD Decision No. 5414/2015/QD-BNN-TCLN on the approval of guidelines for the development of Provincial REDD+ Action Plans.

[3] Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Carbon Fund. Emission Reductions Program Document (ER-PD). Date of Submission: 5 January 2018

The design of Viet Nam National REDD+ Programme (2017)[1] and the policies and measures within it, has included processes to help reduce the risks of reversals, including assessment of the direct and indirect drivers of deforestation and degradation, clearly linking policies and measures to these drivers, and incorporation of measures to reduce risks of reversals in the selection and design of policies and measures.

As part of the revision of the NRAP (2017), a study was carried out in 2016 to identify the various strategic considerations for REDD+ implementation [2]. This included analysis of priority drivers and barriers to address, and design of a preliminary set of policies and measures linking them clearly to the various drivers and barriers to achieving the five activities under REDD+. The analysis focused on understanding the direct and indirect drivers and barriers causing forest and land use change, including consideration of a broad range of social, political, and economic factors, and how these factors are inter-linked.

The NRAP 2017 includes a number of policies and measures which can contribute to addressing the risk of reversals, including: the promotion of integrated land-use planning, strengthening of forest law enforcement (including of offset planting obligations which helps to address reversals), and strengthening and continuously improving the National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS). In addition, the assessment of co-benefits and risks related to reversals led to the identification of a series of measures to reduce these risks and enhance co-benefits. These have been considered and incorporated into the design of the NRAP and its policies and measures (see F2.1.2).


 [1] NRAP 2017, Decision No 419/QD-TTg dated 5/4/2017. Annex: Policies and Measures for REDD+ implementation for period of 2017 – 2020

[2] Richard McNally, Vu Tan Phuong, Nguyen The Chien, Pham Xuan Phuong, Nguyen Viet Dung (2016) Issues and options: support for the revision of Viet Nam’s National REDD+ Programme (NRAP), 2016-2020;

Viet Nam has systems for monitoring land use, land and forest cover change[1]. The National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS) will be the main source of information to monitor the implementation of REDD+ policies and measures and contribute to reducing the risks of reversals.   The Forest Management Information System (FORMIS), the Government’s information system for the forestry sector, which constitutes the NFMS in Viet Nam, is expected, in the fullness of time, to provide information on Cancun safeguards (A – policy coherence), (C - knowledge and rights of local people and ethnic minorities), (E – natural forest, biodiversity, and social & environmental benefits), (F - reversals), and (G - displacement), in line with Viet Nam’s safeguards approach.

Viet Nam’s NFMS consists of three main elements[2]:

  • National Forest Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment Program (NFIMAP): Based on a series of Prime Minister’s Decisions, NFIMAP has been implemented by the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI) since 1991, in 5 year cycles, up to 2010. A National Forest Inventory and Statistics (NFIS) Project (see below) was implemented during the 2011-2016 cycle. The Program uses remote sensing in combination with ground surveys to monitor forest resources changes. Data from a systematic sample plot system were also collected in each cycle. The NFIMAP is currently under review for improvement and is expected to start again in 2016-2020.
  • National Forest Inventory and Statistics (NFIS) Projects: Also based on Prime Minister’s Decisions, several NFIS Projects have been carried out, including in 2011-2016. In the latest NFIS Project, there are two stages in generating the forest cover maps: (i) “Forest survey stage” - interpretation of remote sensing imagery in combination with ground surveys; (ii) “Forest statistics stage” - the forest inventory maps are used as inputs to overlay with the cadastral-based forest owner boundary maps to generate “forest statistics maps”). The forest statistics maps are printed out for each forest owner for verification and revised as necessary, i.e. using a participatory method. During the forest inventory stage, a system of sample plots is inventoried to estimate the mean volume stocks for each forest type. These sample plot data can also be used to estimate the mean carbon stocks in the above-ground pool for each forest type.
  • Annual Forest and Forestry Land Monitoring and Reporting Program (Program No. 32): This Program has been conducted by the Forest Protection Department since 2001 following the Directive No. 32/2000/CT-BNN-KL dated 27/03/2000[3]. Based on forest baseline maps of the latest NFIS Project, forest rangers collect information on changes in the communes under their responsibility, and then update these changes in a database. These updates are usually based on reports from forest owners and do not require remote sensing imagery or field surveys. Data are then aggregated through the Forest Protection Department system from commune to district to province up to the central level. The Program has generated a dataset on area of forest and forestry land, broken down by drivers, forest owners, forest functions, and administrative units. However, this dataset still has some limitations, including: (i) lack of data on forest stocks; and (ii) the data on area changes cannot be tracked spatially as they are not associated with maps.


[1] The Forestry Law (2017, effective 1 January 2019), Articles 32-36; Government Decree No. 23/2006/ND-CP, Articles 38-41; MARD Circular No. 34/2009/TT-BNNPTNT; MARD Circular No. 78/2017/TT-BNNPTNT.

[2] Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Carbon Fund. Emission Reductions Program Document (ER-PD). Date of Submission: 5 January 2018

[3] Directive No. 32/2000/CT-BNN-KL dated 27/03/2000

Description of outcomes of implementation of these processes: - Incidences of reversals recorded/reports submitted/management steps taken

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Table/figures from the REDD+ Information Portal on total net emission reductions/removals

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