Sitting in the hot seat at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) since 2016, Minister Tran Hong Ha admitted he has a lot of preoccupations as the environment is not only a matter for today, but also for future generations. Moreover, this is an area that is not easy to change overnight, because environmental management is highly dependent on the participation of other economic sectors, Minister Ha shared.
“We have identified the model of green growth, green economy, and circular economy, and stepped up the application of IT in management and administrative procedure reform. The steady progress of the industry has changed from being passive and responsive, to actively researching and making policies more suitable to the market mechanism so that environmental resources can become an important economic sector,” the minister said.
In 2021, the MoNRE continued to make strong and clear changes in state management of natural resources and the environment with great contributions to the overall socioeconomic development results of the country.
The minister also said that through many important conferences organised by the United Nations, green economic recovery and energy transformation have become inevitable trends of the times. “That was especially confirmed by the active commitments of world leaders at the recent COP26 climate summit,” he said.
Vietnam’s commitment has sent a strong signal to the international community about its high determination in responding to climate change, opening up opportunities to take advantage of the shift of global finance for less developed areas as well as opening up many opportunities for cooperation on low-emission growth, promoting circular economic development and climate change adaptation.
The strong commitment to action at COP26 is one of the milestones that marked the MoNRE’s role in 2021 as the ministry coordinated with ministries, authorities, and partners to prepare careful content for participating in the conference, updating the nationally-determined contributions to send to the COP Convention Secretariat, and calculating and forecasting emission reduction scenarios up to 2050.
According to Minister Ha, with many policies and decrees, the management of environmental resources has changed from passive and spontaneous to a stage of preparation in a methodical and synchronous manner in terms of mechanisms and policies. Awareness of all levels and branches, especially people’s awareness of the environment, has been improved.
“We are in a country that is heavily affected by climate change. On the one hand, we must reduce the causes of change, but on the other, we must do a good job of monitoring climate change. Environmental resources are related to the people and we mainly rely on it for economic development. Therefore, it is necessary to resolve the balanced relationship between bringing this resource into development and conservation and harmonisation between needs,” Minister Ha said.
In all economic problems, the environment must be taken into account, and the costs of development must include the cost of environmental protection. “Our country’s economy needs to transform from a brown economy to a green, circular economy,” he explained. “That way, design, manufacturing, and service activities can prolong the life of a material, eliminating its negative impact on the environment.”
The ministry has submitted to the government and the prime minister 12 decrees, 21 circulars, and several resolutions. The whole industry has also reviewed 440 documents related to land, natural resources, construction, and real estate business as well as identified 40 documents with inconsistent, inadequate, contradictory, or overlapping contents. On that basis, it is proposed that the government amend the regulations within its competence and resolve the overlapping and conflicts in the amended draft Law on Land.
“We are determined to lead by understanding and listening to the people. I hope that this law will be completed in 2022 or within my term of working,” the minister said.
More to achieve
Back in 2016 in the early part of Ha’s ministerial term, a series of environmental incidents occurred in many different projects and locations, particularly the Formosa incident that drew lessons for the MoNRE as well as demonstrated the transition policy from passive to active management.
“In order to solve the problem of economic development and sustainable environmental protection, the first thing needed is a change in the way of management,” the minister said. “Experience is necessary to set up management tools for large projects. This requires management agencies to research and learn from global experience to have a better capacity to adjust policies. Next, we must review policies related to resource management in order to proactively respond to climate change. Environmental protection needs to change, of which prevention is key.”
Last year, the MoNRE completed targets assigned by the National Assembly. The percentage of daily-life solid waste collected and treated in urban areas reached nearly 95 per cent, which was higher than the target assigned of 89 per cent.
The report from the MoNRE added that the satisfaction index of land and environmental procedures in 2021 increased by 4.14 per cent compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, administrative procedures fell by 7 per cent; paying informal fees when carrying out administrative procedures on land decreased by 4 per cent; the percentage of people concerned about the environment dipped from 8.85 per cent in 2019 to 4.03 per cent; and the number of petitions and complaints decreased by 28 per cent in the past year.
Despite many achievements in the field of environment, Minister Ha still has many things to ponder. “Natural resources are national assets. So how do we make sure to use this in the most effective way? This requires a lot of investigation and evaluation to be able to achieve sustainable development,” the minister said.
He added that, despite many efforts, extreme climate change is placing a burden on the natural resources and environmental industry, especially for those specialising in hydrometeorology in the rainy season. “It requires us to further improve the quality of forecasts and warnings. It is more important to assess the impact of climate change, thereby ensuring adaptive planning rather than passive and responsive. This is a huge concern for me,” he said.
For 2022’s target, the MoNRE deeply grasps the idea of discipline, responsibility, innovation, integration, and efficiency, while being determined to implement digital transformation, strong institutional innovation, inspection and supervision, and being active in environmental diplomacy while promoting the development of a circular, green economy.