UK pledges support on Vietnam’s path to reaching net zero on time

October 28, 2021 | 00:05
Vietnam and the United Kingdom are cementing ties in responding to climate change. British Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward talked with VIR’s Thanh Thu about this cooperation, with some advice for Vietnam to pursue a greener future.

An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming well below 2oC will fail unless greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reach net zero by 2050. What can governments do to limit global warming?

UK pledges support on Vietnam’s path to reaching net zero on time
British Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward

Despite the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, countries around the world have submitted 85 new commitments for carbon emissions reductions. Some of these have introduced more ambitious targets for 2030. We are making progress, but we still need much more, especially from countries with high emissions.

In the run-up to COP26, we hope to see those countries that have not yet done so announcing ambitious emissions reduction targets and long-term strategies to net zero by the middle of the century.

The 2020s are the decisive decade to get the world on track to halt temperature increases. Therefore, governments around the globe must make the big policy decisions required, including ending coal power, accelerating the rollout of electric vehicles, and tackling deforestation. Even as we seek to prevent catastrophic warming, we must also urgently adapt to current warming to protect communities and natural habitats.

Governments must mobilise both public and private finance to support the transition to net zero and climate-resilient economies. Developed countries must provide new finance and publish a clear plan to deliver the $100 billion goal between now and 2025. Developing countries should make the most of the financing available to support climate actions, especially for energy transition.

Finally, governments must work together to accelerate climate action. We are looking for leaders’ support for important joint announcements at COP26: the leaders’ pledge for nature, global coal-to-clean power transition statement, statement on public support for the clean energy transition, the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors, and others.

Vietnam’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) notes that by 2030, the country will reduce its GHG emissions by 9 per cent – which could rise to as much as 27 per cent with international support. Is this target feasible?

I believe Vietnam could go much further than 9 per cent. The IPCC report highlighted that we must cut global emissions, starting immediately, to net zero by mid-century to keep the target alive.

I was pleased to hear Vietnamese State President Nguyen Xuan Phuc say that Vietnam’s goal is to “greatly reduce coal-based power generation” at the US Climate Summit in April. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has similarly set out his commitment to combatting climate change during recent visits to Hanoi by the COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

Ahead of COP26, the UK hopes Vietnam will announce a net zero target for the middle of this century. This can be reflected in an updated NDC capturing new domestic commitments and a pathway to net zero, and the UK stands ready to work with Vietnam towards that goal.

How is the UK supporting Vietnam in the battle against climate change?

Energy accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Vietnam, and so should be the focus of attention. We are working with wider stakeholders to support the acceleration of energy transition in Vietnam through the COP26 Energy Transition Council, which I have been pleased to lead with Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Dang Hoang An.

Since the first council meeting in March, we have been working to roll out short-term interventions. Our longer-term support covers three main work streams – the shift away from coal, financing the transition, and power grid improvement.

It is impressive to see the growth of Vietnam’s solar and wind sectors in recent years. With enormous clean energy potential, we hope to see Vietnam adopt an ambitious new Power Development Plan that fully reflects this. We hope the plan will be in line with Vietnam’s ambition to phase out coal and more significant incentives for renewable energy investment.

The UK and other donors are ready to deliver technical support through our Rapid Response Facility to support Vietnam in this direction.

The UK has been supporting Vietnam through official development assistance to tackle climate change in the past few years. Bilateral support ranges from promoting green finance and energy efficiency (the ASEAN Low Carbon Energy Programme), increasing urban resilience, accelerating green finance to support green buildings, and preserving biodiversity.

The Private Infrastructure Development Group, through Infraco Asia, has also invested in a successful solar power project which created over 1,300 jobs.

What should Vietnam do to pursue a greener and more sustainable future?

Each and every one of us can contribute to protecting the planet. Small actions in daily life can help make a big change, such as choosing to install and use renewable energy sources, using natural sunlight, driving clean transport including electric vehicles, saying no to single-use plastics, and choosing natural, environmentally-friendly products. In business, you can invest in projects designed to boost resilience and clean growth and apply a sustainable approach.

At a wider level, we encourage companies, cities, regions, and financial and educational institutions to join the Race to Zero, a UN-backed global campaign helping to set up net zero targets by 2050 or earlier with credible short-term plans to achieve them.

Over 30 regions, 733 cities, more than 3,000 companies, 625 educational institutions, over 170 investors, and more have joined the race thus far. We also encourage joining the sibling imitative Race to Resilience. This initiative helps to define the substantive criteria that are required to collectively build the resilience of four billion people from vulnerable groups and communities all over the world.

What has the UK been doing to demonstrate its climate credentials?

Over the past three decades, the UK has driven down emissions by 44 per cent – the fastest reduction of any G7 country – and set some of the most ambitious targets in the world for the future.

The UK set its own new targets in December last year, which commit us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels. This is the highest level of ambition for emission reduction in that period of any major economy.

The UK was also the first major economy to put into law that we will reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We have set a clear course to achieve our climate change ambitions through Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan and comprehensive decarbonisation strategies.

An example is the recently published Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which sets out how we intend to reduce emissions and forge a realistic pathway to net zero by 2050. It is the first such plan in the world, and for the first time, the UK government has taken a holistic approach to setting out a credible and ambitious path for an entire sector.

The UK is the largest producer of offshore wind energy globally. We have committed to ending direct government support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas. In 2012, 40 per cent of our electricity came from coal, and that figure is now less than 2 per cent. We will have completely phased out coal power by 2025.

However, there is much more to be done. The UK is committed to working with Vietnam and other countries to exchange experience, learn, and support each other to achieve the global goal of protecting our planet.

By Thanh Thu

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