UK’s holistic energy approach to support Vietnam’s ambition

April 20, 2022 | 14:34
Vietnam is implementing its strong commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. British Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward writes about how this significant move will help Vietnam reach sustainable development, with the United Kingdom extending its support to the Southeast Asian nation to realise its dream.
UK’s holistic energy approach to support Vietnam’s ambition
British Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward

Now is the time for ambitious goals to save our planet. Business as usual will not work. The latest report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has pointed out that the world will likely reach 1.5°C of warming in the next one or two decades unless we take immediate action. This would be catastrophic for Vietnam and many other countries. However, if we act now, the worst impacts of climate change can be averted.

The science shows that we must halve global carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to keep 1.5°C alive. That is why COP26 held in the UK last November was a big moment to look beyond what is feasible based on our past plans and create ambition for what will be feasible with new technology and political will.

Ten years ago, no-one in the UK would have thought it feasible to move from 4GW of wind power in our energy mix, to 24GW. But, the UK government set the ambition, and engineers rose to the challenge.

At COP26, we asked countries for ambitious new targets for carbon emissions reductions. Specifically, we asked countries to sign up for several initiatives: to phase out coal power and scale up clean power; to halt natural forest loss by 2030, to restore millions of hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands; to build on the number of existing initiatives globally to reduce absolute methane emissions; and to push for all new car sales in major markets to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

Every fraction of a degree makes a difference. If we do not act now, we will continue to see the worst effects of climate change. It is time for ambitious goals, and with global determination and collaboration, our ambitious goals can be both realistic and feasible.

Strong commitments

I am very impressed by the commitments set out by Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at COP26 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, with the headline commitment to join 80-90 per cent of countries globally who have now committed to net zero in 2050. More specifically, Vietnam has committed to a transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, to protect forests to reduce methane emissions. So there is a lot of work that we can do together.

Energy accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Vietnam, and so that 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 Vice Minister of Industry and Trade Dang Hoang An. Since the first council meeting in March 2021, we have been working to roll out short-term interventions. Our longer-term support covers the shift away from coal, financing the transition, and power grid improvements.

It is impressive to see the growth of Vietnam’s solar and wind sectors in recent years. With the enormous clean energy potential, we hope to see Vietnam adopt an ambitious Power Development Plan VIII that fully reflects this. We hope the plan will be in line with Vietnam’s 2020 resolution on the orientation of Vietnam’s National Energy Development Strategy to 2030, vision to 2045. Under the plan, there is a strategy 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 programmes to tackle climate change in the past few years. Bilateral support ranges from promoting green finance and energy efficiency, increasing urban resilience, accelerating green finance to support green buildings, and preserving biodiversity. The Private Infrastructure Development Group, through Infraco Asia, invested in a successful solar power project which created over 1,300 jobs and powered over 153,000 people annually.

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.

Call for reduced emissions

At a wider level, we encourage companies, cities, regions, 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, 730 cities, 3,000 companies, 620 educational institutions, 170 investors, and more have joined the race.

We also encourage joining the sibling initiative Race to Resilience. This helps to define the substantive criteria that setting resilience targets are required to collectively build the resilience of four billion people from vulnerable groups and communities around the world.

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 2020, which commit us to reducing emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels. This is the highest level of ambition for emissions 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 a 10-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. The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is the first such plan in the world, and for the first time, the UK government has taken a holistic approach to set out a credible and ambitious path for an entire sector.

In addition, the UK is the largest producer of offshore wind energy globally, and 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. That figure is now less than 2 per cent, and 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 Gareth Ward

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