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Viet Nam implements green growth: an appropriate approach in international integration
24/10/2014 21:23' Send Print
Illustration image. Source: us.123rf.com

Green growth is an objective imperative of the current time

Many research results have shown that human activities have increased the concentration of dust emissions, caused greenhouse effect and global warming, resulted in climate change and sea level rise, and threatened life on earth. For the existence of the planet and mankind, old growth model has been replaced by green growth model. Since early years of the last decade of the 20th century, scientists warned that the living environment was being destroyed and put forth a series of response measures. Among them are “non-waste production”, “recycling disqualified products”, “green agriculture”, and “ecological agriculture.” International organizations and many countries have joined in with an array of programs, forums, initiatives for environment protection, prevention of climate change, hence the coming into being of green growth and its proactivity.

In 2010, the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP16) organized in Cancun, Mexico demanded “integration of green growth in economic activities” and expected that this approach would contribute to effective response to climate change and other crises. The 1st Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) was co-organized by the Danish, South Korean and Mexican Governments in the middle of October 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark with an aim to promote green growth through public-private partnership between governments and businesses. In 2012, the Rio Earth Summit 2012 demonstrated the trend of “great unity” in response to challenges that threaten the survival of the planet and humankind, and called for support to marginalized regions in all continents. There had never been such a broad consensus like the Rio Earth Summit 2012 on green growth - where climate change challenges and sustainable development met. All of the 30 specialized agencies of the United Nations coordinated by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and leading nations of the global green wave such as Japan, China, South Korea, Germany and Scandinavian countries advanced a joint message “The world community should quicken the transition to global green economy to save the planet and humankind.”

In Asia, at the “East Asia Climate Forum” organized in Seoul, South Korea in 2009 where countries in the region discussed development of green growth strategies, and creation of opportunities for Asian nations to share experiences and policies concerned. The “Seoul Initiative on East Asian green growth” was approved at the Forum. High-level leaders of East Asian countries also discussed options to promote green cooperation to ensure food and energy security.

In October 2010, the Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) officially proposed the initiative of Asia-Europe Meeting Green Growth Forum. Several ASEM members have taken lead in implementing green economy, most prominent are strategies of the European Union, China, Japan, South Korea and Viet Nam which have considered green growth as development orientation for their countries in the future.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit concluded in 13 November 2011 in Hawaii, United States, APEC leaders unanimously approved the Honolulu Declaration identifying that APEC should resolve regional environmental and economic challenges by gearing towards green and low carbon economy, strengthening energy security and creating new sources for economic growth and employment. APEC agreed to draw up a list of environmental (green) goods by 2012 and reduce tariffs on these goods by the end of 2015; beside removal of non-tariffs barriers including regulations on localization of environmental services and goods. To achieve green growth objectives, APEC has taken measures, such as 45% reduction of aggregate energy intensity by 2035 as compared to 2005 and integration of development strategies on low carbon emissions into economic growth plans through the project “Low-carbon Model City.”

Green growth in Viet Nam

Over the past period, Viet Nam’s economy has developed extensively based greatly on highly intensive exploitation of natural resources which leads to low efficiency, exhaustion of resources and serious environmental pollution. While the “brown economy” has exposed numerous weaknesses, environment friendly economic branches have not yet developed, and the country has to respond to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Viet Nam has fully recognized the importance of green growth and decided to select the green growth strategy. As far as external relations are concerned, Viet Nam has made certain contribution to green growth, actively participated in many international conferences on this topic. Especially, Viet Nam hosted the Asia-Europe Cooperation Forum on green growth with the theme “Joint actions towards green economies” in October 2011 to seek cooperation mechanisms and share experience on green development among nations. On 25 September 2012, the Prime Minister approved the “Strategy on green growth in the period of 2011-2020 and vision to 2050”, confirming the viewpoints, strategic goal and three strategic tasks: 1. Reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity and promote the use of clean and renewable energy; 2. Green production; 3. Green lifestyle and sustainable consumption. As Ms. Pratibha Mehta (Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Ha Noi) put it this was as a great success of Viet Nam which was the first developing country to launch the green growth campaign.

Implementing the National Strategy on green growth, over the past time, cities like Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho have taken lead in developing plans to make the cities green - clean - beautiful towards green growth and sustainable development. Concretely, Ha Noi worked out the “Program of Action to implement the National Strategy on green growth”, Ho Chi Minh city developed the plan “To make the city green”, Hai Phong city invested 350 million dong on the initiative “Greening Hai Phong”, Da Nang city provided 7 billion dong to build “Environmental city” and Can Tho city launched the program “Developing green urban in close association with response to climate change.” Together with the 5 cities mentioned above, Quang Nam province has piloted green growth since 2010 and was chosen to host the 2011 ASEM Forum on green growth. Though Viet Nam’s National Strategy on green growth has been implemented, the concept of green growth is relatively new to people. Results of short interviews with students, post-graduates, businessmen, public employees and civil servants in August 2013 in Ho Chi Minh city were alarming. Out of 105 interviewees, 57 respondents were not concerned and confident to answer the question “What is green growth?”; 48 provided inaccurate answers on the concept of green growth and often mistook the concept with “Sustainable growth” or “Green economy”; 74 did not know that Viet Nam had developed the National Strategy on green growth; 31 did know but did not study it thoroughly and hence had no knowledge of its contents; 101 maintained that green growth was implemented by the Government, local administrations and investors and they were only the beneficiaries; and only 4 affirmed that they would voluntarily contribute efforts to green growth. The 7th Plenum of the 11th Party Central Committee maintained: “Over the past period, attention has been paid to response to climate change, disaster prevention, resource management and environmental protection which has resulted in initial important changes and results. However, response to climate change has been passive and confused; unprecedented natural disasters have occurred causing losses in life and property; resources have not been effectively and sustainably managed, exploited and used and some resources have been overexploited, thus degraded and exhausted; environmental pollution has been on the rise, and serious in some places; efforts taken to overcoming consequences of war on environment have been slow; biodiversity has been degenerated, ecological balance has been threatened extensively thus causing negative impacts on socio-economic development, and people’s health and life….”

Solutions to promote green growth in the context of international globalization

Though there are difficulties in implementing the strategy on green growth, it is necessary to affirm that green growth for Viet Nam is a completely correct choice which conforms to the trend of the time for sustainable development. Given the objectives: “Green growth, as a means to achieve a low carbon economy and to enrich natural capital, will become the principle direction in sustainable economic development; reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased capability to absorb greenhouse gas are gradually becoming compulsory and important indicators for socio-economic development” set out by the Government in the Strategy, in the coming time Viet Nam should take concerted measures, focusing on the following major groups of solution:

First, renovate communication, education and awareness raising methods on green growth. Concretely, gradually “green” curricula and courses and syllabuses to train human resources for green growth. Right from the primary education level, pupils should be provided with knowledge on climate change and encouraged to take actions contributing to reduction of climate change impacts for the protection of the planet and themselves. In higher educational levels, in-depth syllabuses on this topic should be developed or integrated in subjects relating to climate change, sustainable growth and green growth. Not only theory but also practices are taught so that students can carry out practical and concrete activities to protect environment, save energy, classify wastes by source, care for and protect trees. At university level, knowledge on green supply chain, green value chain, code of ethics for business, social responsibilities and sustainability should be introduced to related subjects. Students’ scientific research and career-starting projects should be directed to green growth. Gradually develop plans and programs to train managers from Central to local levels on green economy, green growth, sustainable development, particularly on advanced measuring methods to evaluate national green economy’s asset.

Second, continue to complete firm legal framework and successfully implement the Strategy on green growth. Development of the Strategy is a success but the Strategy can only be of value when it is well implemented and controlled. Over the past period, Viet Nam has expedited plans in 6 localities. However, those plans have been dogmatic, general and of low feasibility. For example, the plan to green concrete ground is a mere imitation of experience from foreign country where greening concrete ground is done only after greening earth ground. Whereas in Viet Nam greening concrete ground is done on areas which were already laid with concrete or greening concrete ground in the inner city while laying concrete on orchards in the outlying districts. It is better to build good plans to grow trees where needed, select trees and nurse saplings to help the country develop sustainably.

South Korea is recognized by the world for its effective implementation of green growth and has gained valuable lessons in the implementation process. Viet Nam can learn from their experience to apply in an appropriate manner. To well implement the strategy on green growth, the South Korean Government has promulgated and successfully carried out several plans such as the comprehensive plan on climate change mitigation, stimulus package, new growth engines and development strategy, comprehensive policies on green technology research and development, the five-year plan on green growth (2009-2013) and especially the Framework Action on Low-Carbon Green Growth. Meanwhile, functional agencies such as the Committee for Green Growth under the President, and the Research Institute on Global Green Growth were established. South Korean policy systems have been developing from macro strategies to policies of each branch, locality and each stage with concrete contents quickly finalized.

Third, boost international cooperation for green growth. Globalization has opened up many opportunities for Viet Nam to promptly and effectively promote green growth. To capitalize on these opportunities, Viet Nam should strengthen its cooperation with international organizations and leading countries in green growth to share information, research and learn experience to adjust the National Strategy on green growth, build plans on green growth for localities, ministries and branches in a scientific and appropriate manner; intensify international cooperation, contribute to completing the legal framework for green growth so that they can come into effect at the earliest possible time; take advantage of support from international organizations, nations and transnational groups to well implement the green growth strategy and train human resources for green economy through training programs of trainers, exchange of learners, develop training programs, courses, research and invest in equipment and infrastructure of training institutions.

This article was published on Communist Review No 862 (August 2014)

Prof. Doan Thi Hong Van, PhD, University of Economics Ho Chi Minh cityKim Ngoc Tuan, Wuppertal University, Federal Republic of Germany