Crafting a climate policy revolution

Vietnam Investment Review

Climate change is moving faster than humanity, and humanity is struggling to stop it. Every part of the world, including Vietnam, is still not doing enough nor moving fast enough to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption. Caitlin Wiesen, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam, writes about a need for a climate ‘doi moi’ to Vietnam’s future and prosperity.

Every day, in every part of the world, including Vietnam, it is clearly visible that we are off course and still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption, according to the UN secretary-general.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC confirmed that climate change is running faster than we are and that we are running out of time as all countries’ current national pledges made through Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) actually set our planet towards a global average temperature increase of 3ºC or more.

The report provided a glimpse of hope that it could still be possible to limit global warming to 1.5ºC to avert major adverse impacts, but this will require urgent and far more ambitious actions to cut emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. This will require taking unprecedented transformative and systemic action in all aspects of society and economy.

Against this backdrop, the UN Secretary-General is convening the Global Climate Summit in New York on September 23 and has asked world leaders to share their concrete plans – not speeches – on how they will enhance their NDCs by 2020, in order to reduce the impacts of climate change. These impacts are undermining the progress on the Sustainable Development Agenda, threatening to reverse many of the gains already made, and is ultimately threatening global prosperity, including here in Vietnam.

For Vietnam to achieve global ambitions, the country needs to fully embark on a climate ‘doi moi’ as fundamental as the economic equivalent. This climate policy revolution would help transform the economic model, to one that prioritises the transition to clean energy, green investments, circular economy, resource productivity, and nature-based solutions, and that takes a holistic and inclusive approach of engaging government and society.

By accelerating the deployment of renewable energies, Vietnam can take advantage of the declining cost of wind energy and solar photovoltaic power generation and rapid technological innovations. With that at hand, the country can significantly improve energy savings which in turn helps improves productivity by reducing energy consumption per unit of output. The transition to higher penetration of renewable energies in the power mix and better energy efficiency would not only reduce GHG emissions but also increase energy security for Vietnam, given its increasing import of coalfor electric generation.

Moreover, the adoption of circular economy principles will help improve productivity through reducing materials and resources as well as waste because waste from one sector can be used as input in another sector. Already there are many cutting-edge technologies that Vietnam can adopt. The key sectors that accelerate transformation toward a circular economy include: agriculture, construction, manufacturing, logistics, and plastics. Enhanced engagement between the government, the private sector, and consumers will support the development of a tailor-made approach to circular economy best suited for Vietnam.

Nature-based solutions are a long-term effective, cost-efficient, and globally scalable approach for climate action, with the potential to remove up to 12 gigatonnes of GHGs per year, build climate resilience and adaptation in various sectors and regions, and add an additional $2.3 trillion in productivity growth to the global economy, while supporting vital ecosystem services.

Vietnam’s natural environment and biodiversity hold great potential to reduce GHG emissions as forests and marine andcoastal ecosystems are naturally occurring carbon sequestration sinks and also are imperative for adaptation strategies and for providing important ecosystems resources that support local livelihoods.

This is apparent in the coastal regions where the Vietnamese government and the United Nations Development Programme are working with local authorities and communities to plant and regenerate 4,000 hectares of coastal mangroves that will not only build resilience of communities to increased flooding from storms but will also lead to a carbon sequestration of an anticipated 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The next 10-year Socio-Economic Development Strategy of Vietnam and the eighth Power Development Plan provide pivotal opportunities to trigger the transformation needed today towards a green and efficient economy, powered by clean energy.

Vietnam can embark on an institutional and policy reform to enhance national and regional integrated planning, budgeting, investments processes to reduce fragmented investments, as well as enhance synergies of actions and coordination both horizontally and vertically, shifting away from traditionally siloed approaches. Achieving climate mitigation targets will require shared efforts among all ministries and localities, including key sectors of energy, industry, transportation, construction, and agriculture.

The country also needs to enhance risk-informed planning and development through full integration of vulnerability and risks into strategies and plans, enabled by the establishment of comprehensive information systems of climate risks, vulnerabilities, and natural disasters. Lessons from highly integrated planning and management approaches should be used to facilitate integrated planning with climate change adaptation and mitigation components in other regions such as the Red River Delta or the Central Highlands.

With regard to innovative climate finance, Vietnam can leverage the immense amount of international and domestic private sector finance available through introduction of innovative financing tools. This includes developing the green and blue bond market for raising long-term capital for climate change mitigation and resilience-building actions, gradually adjusting environmental taxes, and develop a domestic carbon market.

Vietnam can advocate at the global level to redefine international development support rules to allow lower-middle-income countries like itself to borrow at concessional rates for all climate change mitigation actions.

All members of society, from everyday citizens to private sector enterprises, have an important role in a climate ‘doi moi’ and must actively participate and be engaged in this transformation to a low-carbon society.

Citizens, as consumers, must demand these products and also change their behaviour and actions to be more suitable with low-carbon lifestyles, through reducing their waste, employing low-carbon transportation options, and changing social norms about the environment.

The private sector has a special role in a climate ‘doi moi’, it can make transformational change in sustainable production processes to produce environmentally-friendly products. The climate responsible businesses and enterprises have increasing invested in green and clean products such as solar energy technology, and electric vehicles.

As 2020 is already on our doorstep, and the crucial year of 2030 for massive reduction of GHG emissions globally is not far away, Viet Nam must do more and do it faster. Now is the time for Vietnam to fully put into practice a comprehensive climate ‘doi moi’ to ensure a future that is green, inclusive, and prosperous for all Vietnamese.

The UNDP in partnership with UN sister agencies stands ready to support the government in this critical transition.

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