Nội dung Xemina khoa học bằng tiếng Anh - Quý II (tháng 6/2018) Báo cáo:Cô Nguyễn Thị Vân Anh

Four environmental challenges of VietNam

The sustainability of Vietnam’s long­term growth is threatened by the en­vironmental problems that have built up. These hazards are expected to worsen at an increasing pace between now and 2035 as the current model of economic growth, industrialization, and urbanization further strains the country’s limited land, water, and en­ergy resources. One of the lessons of development is that the environmental quality of water and the air is import­ant not only for ecosystem health and the quality of life in general, but also for income growth. Four environmen­tal challenges stand out for the last of the longer-term gestation responses.

Deteriorating natural resources.

The nation depends on natural resources much more than most other countries in the region. This is most evident in employment, with more than half the labor force depending on agriculture. In the mountainous northwest and central areas, poorly planned expansion of agriculture has eroded soil and removed biodiverse natural forests, degrading the land. The soil erosion has, in turn, contributed to more frequent and severe flooding of lower-altitude farms and human settlements. A significant portion of the protective mangrove forests has been destroyed, resulting in estimated losses of US$34 million a year, while overfishing has seriously depleted nearshore fisheries resources, threatening the livelihoods of several hundred thousand people. Agricultural output has risen, but at the cost of increased land use and of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Without regulatory and institutional checks, the next 20 years are likely to see greater competition over scarce arable land, more conversion of forests for agriculture, and even faster depletion of these precious natural resources.

Deteriorating environmental quality.

The quality of land, water, and air has worsened considerably. Water pollution has reached serious levels, especially near Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Air quality has also declined due to growth in fossil fuel use for power generation, industrial energy, and transport. A high incidence of respiratory infections among children under age five is observed, due to poor air quality, and an estimated 4,000 premature deaths annually are related to coal-fired power generation. In urban areas, environ­mental pollution from urban and indus­trial wastewater has resulted in toxic waterways with impacts on economic production, and unknown — but likely severe — impacts on human health.


Threats from climate change.

Vietnam is among the countries most vulner­able to climate change given its loca­tion, share of population in low-lying deltas, and dependence on climate- vulnerable sectors. Forecast changes in precipitation, temperatures, and sea level all point to substantial risks in high-density and economically im­portant areas. The country’s response must consider the demographics, socio­economic context, political dimen­sions, and biophysical landscape when allocating resources and coordinat­ing land and resource planning and use, in a climate-resilient approach to development.

Rapidly growing energy consumption.

Energy use is growing faster than in any country in the region, led by elec­tric power. Reflecting current trends and policies, the share of coal for power generation will rise from 32 per­cent in 2014 to 54 percent by 2030. Around 60 percent of coal used for electrical generation will be imported. The intensity of energy consumption (the amount of energy used per unit of economic output) is also among the highest in the world, and inefficient energy use is one of the main reasons. The energy policies adopted over the next few years — on energy efficiency, renewables, natural gas, and coal — will largely determine the trajectory of the energy sector and of associated issues.


Making the right choices

Given the confluence of these four chal­lenges, Vietnam is at a juncture where the right choices can help it avoid the irreversible environmental degradation and major environmental remediation costs facing some other countries. A low-carbon growth path prioritizes in­vestments that take account of environ­mental costs and results in inclusive and resilient growth, and is a more sustain­able and affordable long-run option. It requires strong institutions to monitor and enforce plans, policies, and regu­lations for sustainable natural resource and environmental management; in­centives for sustainable investments (with private participation) that benefit the environment and the poor; and im­proved access and use of information for decision making, monitoring, and transparency and accountability.

Strong policies and institutions.

Much sustainable growth is about policies that address market failures and “get the prices right” by introducing tar­geted incentives such as environmental taxes, pricing environmental external­ities such as carbon, creating tradable property rights, and reducing inap­propriate subsidies. Such growth also requires reduced resistance to change with, for example, information on the economic value of environmental ser­vices provided by natural assets.

Vietnam needs well-coordinated public institutions that can correct the market failures related to the environ­ment, and can enforce regulations and standards. They are especially needed in the Mekong Delta, which is highly vulnerable to climate change and is in­stitutionally complicated, with planning and implementation across several min­istries and agencies with little coordi­nation of investment decisions by prov­inces. Institutions also need to ensure that agricultural promotion policies do not conflict with environmental goals. For example, some locations have sub­sidies to expand their fish-processing capacity or boat building while making efforts to conserve fisheries.

Climate-smart investments.

One move would be to accelerate the restructur­ing and equitization of SOEs in natural resource sectors, as well as in energy and heavy industry. This would also re­quire enforcing standards, such as food safety and biosafety in aquaculture or improved energy efficiency (especially on the demand side). The government can establish public goods and services to enable greater private involvement in such investments. Better pricing of energy products (particularly electric­ity) will improve the efficiency of their use while attracting greater private in­vestment. Private investment could be permitted in renewables other than hy­dropower. It will also significantly in­crease the proportion of electricity pro­duced for renewable sources through the development of hydro, wind, solar, and biomass, in conjunction with the expansion of cleaner natural gas.

Information systems.

Disclosure and harmonization of information must underpin effective management of nat­ural resources and mitigation of envi­ronmental pollution and land degra­dation. The systems must enhance the data and information used for manag­ing natural resources, and make the information understandable and ac­cessible to the broader public. Vietnam could accelerate the adoption of tech­nology in upgrading the environment- related information systems. But it must first update, scale up, and further harmonize the information platforms that already exist.

The net cost of sustainable and climate-resilient growth is usually modest in the long run. The up-front capital investments are often recouped through subsequent savings from low operating costs or new markets, and an improved skill base (if suited to the needs of the market economy). Most estimates indicate that investments to decarbonize energy systems often pay for themselves.

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