|Government leaders, scientists, and businesses are all agreed on the task at hand, but talk is not enough, Photo: Shutterstock |
Ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP26, Vietnam as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) initiated a meeting last week on sea level rise (SLR) and implications for international peace and security.
Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, permanent representative of Vietnam to the UN, said that of the people hardest hit by SLR globally, more than 70 per cent live in Asia. Vietnam’s Mekong and Red River deltas are among the areas most vulnerable to SLR.
“Thus, Vietnam considers climate change, SLR, and its impact on security and development one of its high priorities during its UNSC non-permanent membership in 2020-2021,” said Quy.
He said that Vietnam’s initiative is aimed to create a forum for all countries to raise their viewpoints and concerns over SLR, while creating consensus on the significance of UNSC discussions on this issue.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate showed that 680 million people who live in low-lying coastal areas will be directly affected by SLR.
More than 70 territories throughout the world are or are likely to be indirectly affected by SLR. Another large number of territories may be indirectly affected, for instance, by the displacement of people or the lack of access to resources. This will cause grave aftermath to all sectors in the global economy.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will be among many leaders from nearly 200 countries who will meet in Glasgow for the COP26 climate talks from October 31 to November 12. It is expected that Vietnam will make a bigger commitment at the event on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reforming the country’s energy structure.
At CO26, the nation will meet to strengthen actions against global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement, amid extreme weather events worldwide.
One of the key issues debated at COP26 will be SLR. For Vietnam, over the past 50 years, average temperature has increased about 0.5-0.7oC, and the sea level has risen about two centimetres.
With its long and densely populated coast, the World Bank has ranked Vietnam among the top five countries likely to be most affected by climate change. A high proportion of the country’s 98 million people and economic assets are located in coastal lowlands and deltas, which are subject to frequent typhoons, floods, droughts, and landslides.
The energy sector is responsible for more than half of the country’s GHG emissions, followed by agriculture, industrial processes, and waste.
As one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, Vietnam’s government prioritises climate adaptation. Although the country is currently a modest GHG emitter, it is keen to address growing emissions. The climate change strategy, approved by the prime minister in 2012, focuses on climate change adaptation in the initial phase and also emphasises that, for an effective climate response, GHG emission reduction must be carried out simultaneously.
Vietnam’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution from September 2020 states that the country will reduce its GHG emissions with its own domestic resources by 9 per cent by 2030, and by up to 27 per cent with international support. Vietnam also aims to improve adaptation efficiency through strengthening state management and resources; enhance resilience and adaptive capacity of communities, economic sectors and ecosystems; and reduce disaster risks and minimise damage.
COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma said that in 2015, the world signed the Paris Agreement, an international deal to tackle the climate crisis. “That agreement commits us to limit global temperature rises to well below 2 degrees, aiming for 1.5, because science tells us that would avoid the worst effects of climate change.”
According to Sharma, every fraction of a degree makes a difference. An average global temperature rise of 2 degrees would see hundreds of millions more people affected, and twice as many plants and three times as many insect species losing vast swathes of their habitat. “We know that climate change is already damaging the livelihoods of millions in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam,” Sharma said.
However, since the 1.5 degree target was set, the world has not done nearly enough, and our planet is heating up. There are still melting glaciers, crop degradation, villagers forced from their homes. If this situation continues, these effects will get worse, and fast.
“We must put the world onto a path to driving down emissions, until they reach net zero by the middle of this century. This is imperative to keeping 1.5 degrees within reach. So we need countries to come forward with clear targets to reduce emissions. This means near term 2030 emissions reductions targets consistent with net zero by the middle of the century. And these targets must be based on science, so that net zero is not just a vague aspiration, but a concrete plan. I hope that Vietnam can raise its ambition and announce a peak date for emissions before Glasgow,” Sharma stressed.
“I call on all countries, including Vietnam, to step up efforts on these goals, because COP26 is our last hope of keeping 1.5 degrees alive, our best chance of building a brighter future; a future of green jobs and cleaner air,” he urged.
Vietnam has proposed that the British government continues to support the country with finance, technology, and experience in transforming to a low-carbon economy and improving its ability to adapt to climate change.
Vietnam and the COP26 have vowed to call for increased climate action in the lead up to the summit and agreed on the importance of further action after the event.
Both sides recognised the global efforts required to maintain momentum ahead of COP26 to tackle the urgent threat of climate change. They agreed that it is vital for the world to act to limit average temperature rises to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, to avoid the worst effects of climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement. To achieve this, the COP president-designate underlined the importance of all countries committing to achieving net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
The UK will intensify its support to Vietnam’s energy transition, including speeding up the development of its renewable energy sector. Both nations welcomed recent announcements on reaching net-zero emissions across the region, and Vietnam confirmed its intention to reach the target as early as possible based on further international support.
Vietnam also reaffirmed its continuing policy of transitioning from a “brown” economy to one based on green, renewable energy with low carbon emissions and a roadmap suitable to the country’s development needs and capacity. This should be accompanied by adequate technological and financial support from developed countries including the UK.
“The UK reiterated its determination to support Vietnam in its efforts on climate change, particularly adaptation and energy, through bilateral and multilateral frameworks to help deliver this target, including the Green Climate Fund and the COP26 Energy Transition Council that are aligning international support with Vietnam’s needs,” reads a joint statement reached during Sharma’s visit to Vietnam recently.
PM Chinh stated, “Vietnam is always proactive and responsible towards cooperating with and implementing international commitments regarding climate change and SLR. Our country is also willing to work closely with the UK and other partners to ensure the success of the conference.”
On September 23, President Nguyen Xuan Phuc proposed that the United Nations should establish a comprehensive database system on multi-dimensional impacts of SLR in support of global response policy formulation.
“The devastating impacts of climate change are evident on every continent. The consequences may well erupt into geopolitical tension and instability, damaging peace, security, development and prosperity of states and nations,” PM Phuc said.
He suggested that people’s interest, especially that of vulnerable groups, needs to take centre stage in order to harmoniously address the inseparable relationship between security, development, and humanitarian activities.
It is also necessary to continue to safeguard the sovereignty, key role, and resilience of nations in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
“We also need to step up international cooperation to supplement and coordinate resources to effectively realise the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and other key international treaties,” he added. “Vietnam is determined and strongly committed to take climate action, and develop a green, sustainable, and low-carbon economy as pledged at the COP21.”
Tran Hong Ha - Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
The earth is facing the most serious challenges caused by issues surrounding climate change, environmental pollution, changes in the ecology, and especially the aftermath of COVID-19. It is high time these issues for recovery of nature and the ecological system are considered high on the agenda of forums regarding diplomacy, politics, and the economy.
In addition, we must be of the same mindset and awareness about climate change, ecological collapse, environmental pollution, and the ongoing pandemic.
Alok Sharma - COP26 President
Vietnam is incredibly important within ASEAN. It is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, and is becoming a big industrial hub in the world. But at the same time, Vietnam is also one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
A 2oC rise in global temperature would result in 40 per cent of the Mekong Delta being flooded. This would affect the lives and livelihoods of 17 million people and of course result in tremendous economic impact.
At this point, it is vital for all countries to transition to clean energy. Around 70 per cent of Vietnam’s emissions are generated by the energy industry, making the transition away from non-renewables important. In the UK we have shown this is possible, and in less than 10 years we have reduced coal in our energy mix from 40 to less than 2 per cent. It will be phased out completely by 2024. It is possible to have a clean energy transition and we will work with the Vietnamese government to support them on that road.