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Proactively developing, implementing, inspecting and supervising the implementation of programs and plans to respond to climate change in each period
5/6/2017 8:45' Send Print
Proactive response to climate change. Image: nhandan.com.vn

Climate change is considered to be one of the most critical challenges ever to face humankind in the 21st century and a hindrance to social progress. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), climate change will create five major risks to development, including: 1. Reduction of agricultural productivity; 2. Reduction of water resource security; 3. Increased extreme weather phenomena, especially in coastal areas; 4. Ecological depletion; 5. Increased risks of disease.

Therefore, proactively responding to climate change is a particularly important activity that redefines non-traditional security structures, such as food, energy and water resources, contributing to sustainable development. Countries and non-governmental organizations around the world have approached climate change issues with an array of responses, from policy formulation to resource mobilization and implementation linkages. Most of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have developed for themselves one or more climate change scenarios in different ways: while developed countries concentrate efforts on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mitigation, developing countries tend to prioritize climate change adaptation measures.

Being one of the countries heavily affected by climate change, Vietnam has been proactively and actively researching, developing and implementing programs and plans to respond to climate change through the following phases:

Phase one: Start-up and international integration in response to climate change (before 2008)

To mitigate the negative impact of climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of GHGs at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. The UNFCCC divides countries of the world into two groups: Group 1 - Annex I Parties - developed countries and countries with economies in transition - are those which emit large volume of greenhouse gases, causing climate change and Group 2 - non-Annex I Parties, including developing countries. The principle of the UNFCCC is that all parties must participate in protecting the climate system for the common good of humankind on the basis of equity and in accordance with "common but differentiated responsibilities.”

The Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change was adopted by the UNFCCC Parties in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. The Kyoto Protocol requires each developed country and economy in transition to reduce its total emissions from GHG sources over the commitment period according to assigned amount.

In the context of international integration, while recognizing the impact of climate change, Vietnam ratified the UNFCCC in 1994 and the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. As a non-Annex I Party of the UNFCCC, Vietnam has actively implemented the common obligations of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

At the same time, Vietnam has step by step contributed to international organizations and forums on climate change, especially it sent government-level negotiation delegations to the UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP). Based on the results of the COP, Vietnam has proactively researched and prepared premises for the development of a national regulatory system for monitoring, management and policies.

Phase two: Developing and establishing basic institutions and policies on climate change (from 2008 to 2013)

This stage was marked by the issuance of the Government Decree No. 25/2008/ND-CP of March 2008 according to which the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) was assigned the national coordinating agency to implement the Kyoto Protocol and other international treaties relating to climate change and the national focal agency for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. In March 2013, the Government, in Decree No. 21/2013/ND-CP, officially assigned MONRE to be the regulatory body for climate change.

At that stage, the Government focused on developing and establishing institutions and mechanisms on climate change from central to local levels. By 2012, the National Committee on Climate Change was established and chaired by the Prime Minister. The establishment of the National Committee on Climate Change is a step forward in directing, leading and intersectoral coordination on climate change. Accordingly, the National Committee for Climate Change is the advisory body to assist the Government and the Prime Minister in research, recommendation, direction, regulation, coordination and supervision of important and interdisciplinary issues, national programs and strategies on climate change, directing and coordinating the implementation of national strategies and programs on climate change, as well as international cooperation on climate change.

In order to advance response to climate change, in December 2008, the Prime Minister approved the National Target Program to Respond to Climate Change. The program constitutes a new legal framework for climate change response in Viet Nam, setting out points of view and guiding principles on climate change in Viet Nam, and at the same time, developing many policies and plans on climate change, including:

1. In 2009, for the first time the scenario of climate change and sea level rise for Vietnam was made public; the Support Program to Respond to Climate Change was approved.

The climate change and sea level rise scenario for Vietnam was developed and made public for the first time, showing more clearly and vividly risks of climate change and sea level rise in Vietnam through extreme climate phenomena which help agencies and organizations have a proper understanding of the issues and serve as a basis for making plans and actions.

The Support Program to Respond to Climate Change (SP-RCC) is an initiative of the Government of Japan (JICA), France (AfD) and Vietnam to respond to climate change through policy dialogue. This is a new and highly effective model for responding to climate change between a developing country and its development partners and donors. Through the SP-RCC, Vietnam has accessed to abundant resources from the international community in terms of experience, technique, technology and finance to expedite actions in response to climate change nationwide.

2. In 2011, the National Strategy on Climate Change was adopted

The Strategy identifies risks and challenges of climate change to Vietnam's development, such as weather extremes, sea level rise, dried up water sources, converting from using fossil fuel sources to sustainable renewable energy sources, shifting to the low carbon mode of production for integration, and enables Vietnamese goods to penetrate international markets.

Faced with these risks and challenges, the Strategy does not exaggerate the effects of climate change, but has taken into account positive aspects of climate change to grasp opportunities it brings about, focusing on opportunities to change development thinking; finding patterns and modalities for low carbon, and sustainable development, and environmental protection; approaching new emerging mechanisms to capitalize on financial support and technology transfer from developed countries; enhancing the role and position of Vietnam in the region as well as in the world by becoming a responsible member in responding to climate change and protecting the climate system of the earth.

3. In 2012, the National Action Plan on Climate Change and the National Action Program on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions were approved.

To implement the National Strategy on Climate Change, gradually achieve the objectives and tasks set out in the Strategy, the Prime Minister issued the National Action Plan on Climate Change in the period of 2012-2020 including specific programs, projects, programs and tasks to be implemented in the 2012-2020 period, and assigned specific responsibilities and roadmap for implementation.

On greenhouse gas emissions reduction: with the initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, at that stage, Vietnam was ranked the sixth in the world in terms of CDM projects recognized and registered by the International Executive Board (EB) on CDM and ranked the 9th in the world in terms of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) granted by the EB. Compared with countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam ranks the 2nd in the number of CDM projects recognized by the EB, and ranks the first in the number of CERs granted by the EB.

On afforestation, forest restoration and protection projects: Vietnam has also made great efforts in forest protection, afforestation and restoration. A reforestation program of 5 million hectares has been implemented, increasing forest coverage and forest areas. Vietnam is one of the countries actively which participate in the implementation of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Program through reduction of deforestation and forest degradation, sustainable forest management, conservation and increasing forest carbon stocks (REDD+).

Phase Three: Implementation (from 2013)

This stage was marked by Resolution No. 24-NQ/TW of June 6, 2013 of the 7th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 11th Tenure on actively responding to climate change, strengthening resource management and environmental protection.

This is a landmark resolution in responding to climate change in Vietnam. The resolution sets out the general viewpoints and objectives in actively responding to climate change of the entire political system, points to global challenges of climate change to countries, including Vietnam which are most severely affected. It also identifies opportunities to transform the economic growth model towards sustainable development. Based on analysis of opportunities and challenges, the Resolution also sets the direction and delegates responsibilities to realize immediate and long term key tasks in response to climate change, resource management and environment protection.

In implementing Resolution No. 24-NQ/TW of the Party Central Committee, the Government has vigorously promoted actions to actively respond to climate change, specifically:

In international sphere

First, the Paris Climate Change Agreement. At COP 21, the high-level delegation led by the Prime Minister of Vietnam made efforts to promote a new global agreement on climate change. At this event, the Prime Minister announced Vietnam's commitment by pledging to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 8% by 2030 and possibly 25% if it receives effective support from the international community. This shows the political will of Vietnam to join hands with the international community to respond to climate change, aiming at green and clean development for future generations, contributing to the successful implementation of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development adopted in New York in September 2015.

Given efforts of both Vietnam and other parties, the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement was signed by 195 nations. This is the first international legal document that identifies responsibility of stakeholders in responding to climate change. The agreement went into effect on November 4, 2016. Viet Nam has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) on October 31st, 2015 to the United Nations, demonstrating its endeavor to contribute to respond to global climate change.

To implement the obligations of the Paris Agreement, on October 28, 2016, the Prime Minister approved the Plan on Implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement under Decision No. 2053/QD-TTg. The adoption of the Plan demonstrates Vietnam's determination to together with the international community to implement the Paris Agreement to respond to global climate change. The Plan contains 68 priority tasks, covering all areas relating to climate change and following the five pillars: 1. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; 2. Adaptation to climate change; 3. Preparation of resources; 4. Establishment of a transparent system; 5. To build and perfect institutions and policies for the period of 2016-2020 and 2021-2030 of Vietnam.

Second, the joint crediting mechanism. Vietnam is currently promoting the implementation of the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM). In order to strengthen the state management of the implementation of the JCM, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment formulated and issued Circular No. 17/2015/TT-BTNMT of April 6, 2015 regulating the development and operation of the JCM within the framework of Vietnam and Japan cooperation, in accordance with the technical guidelines of the Joint Committee and the laws of Vietnam.

At the national level

First, activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although Vietnam is one of the countries not obliged to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, but to contribute to environmental and climate system protection, the Government of Vietnam has issued and implemented many policies relating to greenhouse gas emissions, gaining positive results. They are:

- On greenhouse gas inventory: establishing the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory System and conducting national greenhouse gas inventories for the basic years of 2005 and 2010 under the guidance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Major domestic sources of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks in energy sector, industrial process, agriculture, land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), and waste have been assessed and classified to provide the basis for the proposal and implementation of greenhouse gas emissions reduction/absorption.

- On JCM: Vietnam has had 4 projects registered and funded by Japan.

- Some other activities are also being implemented, such as research and development of regulations on roadmap and methods for Vietnam to participate in global greenhouse gas emissions reduction; regulations on measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) for greenhouse gas emissions reduction in Vietnam, the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), and creation of a carbon market in the country.

Second, climate change adaptation activities. Vietnam has maintained that adaptation to climate change must be realized with focus and targets, responding to immediate impacts and potential long-term impacts. Adaptation to climate change must be linked with sustainable development in a systematic, comprehensive, interdisciplinary, interregional manner to ensure gender equality and eliminate hunger and reduce poverty.

Results achieved in the implementation of climate change adaptation in related programs, strategies and plans are as follows: As of May 2014, more than 80 policy and law activities on climate change adaptation were conducted, of which more than 30 policy activities concentrated on six basic objectives: capacity building on water resources management, coastal integrated management, natural resource management, enhancing the resilience of infrastructure, enhancing climate resilience of branches and sector, and ensuring food security.

In parallel with policy formulation, the Government has also paid particularly attention to consolidating infrastructure to respond to climate change. At this stage, many urgent and essential projects to deal with immediate and long-term impacts of climate change have been prioritized, initially bringing about remarkable results in natural disaster prevention and social security stabilization.

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This article was published on Communist Review No 894 (April 2017)

Tran Hong Ha, PhDMember of the Party Central Committee, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment