Vietnam’s Updated Climate Goals Aim at Maximizing the Co-Benefits of Climate Action

Man installing a solar panel on a roof in Vietnam. Renewables provide job opportunities and have multiple other co-benefits.
Renew­ables cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of jobs in Viet­nam. © GreenID

Viet­nam has recent­ly incor­po­rat­ed a new sec­tion into its updat­ed Nation­al­ly Deter­mined Con­tri­bu­tion (NDC) under the Unit­ed Nations Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC) to empha­size the socio-eco­nom­ic co-ben­e­fits of cli­mate action for the coun­try.

The term ‘co-ben­e­fits’ refers to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly meet­ing sev­er­al inter­ests or objec­tives result­ing from a polit­i­cal inter­ven­tion, pri­vate-sec­tor invest­ment, or a mix there­of.

Sebas­t­ian Hel­gen­berg­er, Mar­tin Jänicke, & Kon­rad Gürtler (2019): Co-ben­e­fits of Cli­mate Change Mit­i­ga­tion. Ency­clo­pe­dia of the UN Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals

A first offi­cial cost-ben­e­fit analy­sis has high­light­ed a list of co-ben­e­fits that can help Viet­nam meet its socio-eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment goals as well as its SDG com­mit­ments.

Results of the cost-ben­e­fit analy­sis of imple­ment­ing mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures in the updat­ed NDC show that the socio-eco­nom­ic impact of imple­ment­ing the updat­ed NDC is gen­er­al­ly pos­i­tive. […] Invest­ment cap­i­tal (at 2014 val­ues) will increase com­pared to the BAU [busi­ness-as-usu­al] sce­nario, while employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties may be even greater. […] Eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty is like­ly to increase. The con­sumer price index (CPI) and infla­tion rate will slight­ly rise com­pared to the BAU scenario.Government of Viet­nam (2020): Updat­ed Nation­al­ly Deter­mined Con­tri­bu­tion (NDC), sub­mit­ted to UNFCCC on 11.09.2020

Gov­ern­ment of Viet­nam (2020): Updat­ed Nation­al­ly Deter­mined Con­tri­bu­tion (NDC), sub­mit­ted to UNFCCC on 11.09.2020

Viet­nam sub­mit­ted its updat­ed Nation­al­ly Deter­mined Con­tri­bu­tion (NDC) to the UNFCCC on Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2020, becom­ing the thir­teenth coun­try to do so up to now. The updat­ed NDC now takes the entire econ­o­my into account, includ­ing indus­tri­al process­es (IP) for the peri­od from 2021 to 2030 – an improve­ment on the pre­vi­ous NDC, where only four sec­tors were con­sid­ered: agri­cul­ture, ener­gy, waste, and LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry).

This was the cul­mi­na­tion of a com­pre­hen­sive three-year process led by the Min­istry of Nat­ur­al Resources and Envi­ron­ment (MONRE) with the active par­tic­i­pa­tion of all relat­ed line min­istries, and by research insti­tutes, think tanks and experts, devel­op­ment part­ners, non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, as well as oth­er non-state actors.

By 2030: up to 27% in relative emission reductions but only minor improvement in absolute terms

Using 2014 as a new base year with and an updat­ed nation­al emis­sions inven­to­ry, Viet­nam has com­mit­ted to reduc­ing its GHG emis­sions by about 7.3% com­pared to the busi­ness-as-usu­al (BAU) sce­nario by 2025, and has slight­ly increased its rel­a­tive mit­i­ga­tion tar­get for 2030 from 8% in its pre­vi­ous NDC to 9%. The NDC now sug­gests that this per­cent­age could be increased to 27% by 2030 with inter­na­tion­al sup­port, a mod­er­ate rise com­pared to the 25% tar­get set in the pre­vi­ous NDC.

How­ev­er, com­pared to the pre­vi­ous NDC, in the updat­ed ver­sion green­house gas (GHG) the ambi­tion lev­el is only seem­ing­ly raised: Accord­ing to a recent analy­sis by the Cli­mate Action Track­er (CAT), in terms of absolute emis­sions Vietnam’s NDC update only rep­re­sents a minor improve­ment on the pre­vi­ous NDC. This crit­i­cism is based on the fact that in its update Viet­nam assumes busi­ness-as-usu­al emis­sions by 2030 that CAT con­sid­ers to be way above cur­rent pol­i­cy pro­jec­tions. With an over­in­flat­ed BAU sce­nario, CAT argues that it will be eas­i­er for Viet­nam to achieve its envis­aged emis­sions reduc­tions with­out mak­ing any addi­tion­al effort. For this rea­son, CAT judges the emis­sion reduc­tion tar­gets in Vietnam’s updat­ed NDC to be “crit­i­cal­ly insuf­fi­cient” as they are thought to be con­sis­tent with glob­al warm­ing of over 4°C.

Updated NDC suggests multiple co-benefits of decarbonizing the energy sector

The syn­er­gies between cli­mate change adap­ta­tion, mit­i­ga­tion and socio-eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment are high­light­ed in the text of the updat­ed NDC and also informed the process of set­ting tar­gets and pri­or­i­tiz­ing actions in the NDC review:

Actions tak­en in dif­fer­ent poten­tial sec­tors can enhance syn­er­gy with socio-eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment in dif­fer­ent ways. For exam­ple, in the ener­gy sec­tor, mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures that can pro­vide syn­er­gy with socio-eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment at high to very high lev­els include wind pow­er, solar pow­er, pow­er-sav­ing light­ing, and effi­cient cool­ing.

Gov­ern­ment of Viet­nam (2020): Updat­ed Nation­al­ly Deter­mined Con­tri­bu­tion (NDC), sub­mit­ted to UNFCCC on 11.09.2020

All sec­tors in Vietnam’s updat­ed NDC are thought to pro­vide socio-eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits in one way or anoth­er. Mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures with­in the ener­gy sec­tor are con­sid­ered very promis­ing with a rat­ing of high to very high in terms of syn­er­gies with socio-eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. In par­tic­u­lar, wind pow­er, solar pow­er, and oth­er ener­gy effi­cien­cy mea­sures are expect­ed to yield poten­tial socio-eco­nom­ic co-ben­e­fits. The decline in coal imports will help increase Vietnam’s ener­gy inde­pen­dence as well as encour­ag­ing a turn to pre­vi­ous­ly untapped domes­tic sources of ener­gy like solar and wind and enhanc­ing the country’s ener­gy secu­ri­ty.

The ener­gy mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures pro­posed in this NDC are also expect­ed to con­tribute to socio-eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment by sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment of new indus­tries, cre­at­ing favor­able con­di­tions for invest­ment, strength­en­ing assem­bly and main­te­nance ser­vices, etc. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, devel­op­ing mit­i­ga­tion tech­nolo­gies in the pow­er sec­tor, includ­ing renew­able ener­gies, will lead to more green jobs, high­er incomes, and greater eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty.

Investing in climate action, investing in Vietnam’s future

Accord­ing to the updat­ed NDC, the invest­ment costs of achiev­ing the uncon­di­tion­al com­mit­ment (a 9% emis­sions reduc­tion com­pared to BAU by 2030) are esti­mat­ed at about USD 24.7 bil­lion. Accord­ing to a recent com­mu­ni­ca­tion by MONRE, these invest­ments would need to be more than dou­bled, to USD 56 bil­lion, to meet the con­di­tion­al tar­get of a 27% emis­sions reduc­tion com­pared to BAU by 2030. This is a tall order for a low­er mid­dle-income coun­try, espe­cial­ly giv­en the recent neg­a­tive effects of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic.

How­ev­er, giv­en the mul­ti­ple co-ben­e­fits addressed by the updat­ed NDC, these invest­ments can be con­sid­ered as an invest­ment in a future-ori­ent­ed econ­o­my for the Viet­namese peo­ple. Accord­ing to a study con­duct­ed by the IASS COBENEFITS project, replac­ing coal-pow­ered plants with solar or wind will more than dou­ble the num­ber of jobs per aver­age megawatt (MW) pow­er gen­er­a­tion capac­i­ty. In the 15-year peri­od from 2015 to 2030, solar and wind are expect­ed to cre­ate 3.5 jobs and 2.8 jobs respec­tive­ly per aver­age installed MW capac­i­ty, com­pared to just 1.4 jobs/MW in coal-based pow­er gen­er­a­tion. Sim­i­lar stud­ies have been recent­ly pub­lished on the pos­i­tive impacts on people’s health and rur­al devel­op­ment.

Employ­ment Co-Ben­e­fits of decar­boniz­ing Vietnam’s pow­er sec­tor (COBENEFITS 2019: www.cobenefits.info)

Such a trans­for­ma­tion­al invest­ment in a low-car­bon econ­o­my will not only con­tribute to stay­ing with­in the tem­per­a­ture lim­it set by the Paris Agree­ment and advanc­ing the var­i­ous SDGs, but will also ensure a green recov­ery post COVID-19 in the medi­um term. Fur­ther­more, by iden­ti­fy­ing strate­gic tasks aimed at improv­ing adap­tive capac­i­ty, enhanc­ing resilience, and reduc­ing cli­mate-induced risks, the adap­ta­tion com­po­nent in the updat­ed NDC can also con­tribute to achiev­ing Vietnam’s sus­tain­able devel­op­ment strat­e­gy.

Giv­en the scope of the required ini­tial invest­ments, inter­na­tion­al cli­mate part­ner­ships like the Inter­na­tion­al Cli­mate Ini­tia­tive (IKI) of Ger­many and inter­na­tion­al cli­mate finance can serve as a cat­a­lyst, help­ing Viet­nam to seize the iden­ti­fied oppor­tu­ni­ties and make the Paris Agree­ment a suc­cess for the plan­et and peo­ple.

NDC Co-Benefits Communication: Rallying domestic support and creating global momentum for climate action

By includ­ing a chap­ter on the socio-eco­nom­ic co-ben­e­fits of cli­mate poli­cies in its updat­ed NDC, the Gov­ern­ment of Viet­nam has high­light­ed the mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits of ambi­tious cli­mate action. To ensure that Vietnam’s progress will be assessed for the next nation­al report­ing on the NDCs, mon­i­tor­ing and report­ing struc­tures and process­es in rela­tion to socio-eco­nom­ic co-ben­e­fits should be estab­lished. This would lay the foun­da­tion for eval­u­at­ing and, if need­ed, broad­en­ing the activ­i­ties nec­es­sary to real­ize ambi­tious renew­able ener­gy tar­gets and cre­ate an enabling envi­ron­ment for the range of avail­able co-ben­e­fits.

Apart from reveal­ing poten­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties and ral­ly­ing domes­tic sup­port for cli­mate action, address­ing co-ben­e­fits in NDC-relat­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions can spark imi­ta­tion and con­tribute to cre­at­ing a glob­al momen­tum for build­ing strong alliances for ambi­tious and ear­ly cli­mate action.

Fur­ther read­ing:

Authors: Minh Anh Nguyen*, Sebas­t­ian Hel­gen­berg­er**

* Research Fel­low, Inter­na­tion­al Cli­mate Pro­tec­tion Fel­low­ship Pro­gram fund­ed by Alexan­der von Hum­boldt Foun­da­tion, cur­rent­ly affil­i­at­ed with the Insti­tute for Advanced Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Stud­ies (IASS) ** Project Direc­tor COBENEFITS, Insti­tute for Advanced Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Stud­ies (IASS)