The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is a chance for Vietnam to show its commitment to addressing climate change. Despite the country’s long-term dependence on fossil fuels, Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Minh Chinh claimed that the challenges would not stop Vietnam from committing to reducing CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.
Vietnam will begin construction on the 1,230 MW Vung Ang II coal-fired power plant in the central province of Ha Tinh this December.
Hoang Trong Binh, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the company commissioning to build the plant, reported that the main shareholders of this project are Mitsubishi Corporation and Korea Electricity Corporation (KEP) and the plant is expected to start operations by the third quarter of 2025.
This $2.2 billion project is controversial. Vietnam is pushing for bold commitments to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide, while at the same time reducing its own dependence on fossil fuels.
According to the new power plan project, Vietnam will not build any new coal-fired power plants between 2026 and 2030. However, for the 2020–2026 period, the country will still construct 15 additional coal power plants with a total capacity of 18,000 MW.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s visit to the United Kingdom to attend COP26 shows that he intends to address global climate change challenges.
Speaking to the Vietnamese community in the UK, the prime minister said that as a responsible member of the international community, Vietnam must give a strong commitment to fight climate change despite the difficulties.
The important question, according to Pham Minh Chinh, is how Vietnam could have developed its economy had it not built coal-fired power plants, given the country’s limited hydropower capacity.
The prime minister noted that the life cycle of a coal-fired power plant is 10 to 20 years. When converting to a new energy source, a roadmap is required setting out the contracts that must be entered into with investors and employees, he said.
Currently, more than 100,000 people work in the coal industry, all of whom will be affected by the country’s new climate policies.
“But it is not because of such challenges that Vietnam will not make commitments to the international community or provide a roadmap toward 2050 to bring emissions to zero,” Minh Chinh added.
In 2020, the Government of Vietnam updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), slightly increasing its commitment to a 9% reduction in emissions by 2030 using internal means. According to its conditional target, this could be increased to 27% by 2030 with international support.
According to the Paris Agreement, Vietnam has a binding obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) starting from 2021. To fulfill this obligation, like all other signatories to the Paris Agreement, it must identify the sources of emissions and the annual emissions from each source to implement the most suitable solution.
Since the Paris Agreement was adopted, Vietnam has been proactive in fulfilling its obligations to respond to climate change. The government started to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) on Climate Change Adaptation for the period 2021–2030.
The overall goal is to reduce vulnerability to and the risk of the impacts of climate change by strengthening communities, economic sectors, and ecosystems, as well as by promoting the integration of climate change adaptation into the country’s overall planning system.
In 2020, Vietnam also passed a new Law on Environmental Protection, which includes stricter regulations on air, water, and solid waste pollution.
The law also creates a new carbon market in the country, an instrument to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by selling emissions reductions. This can be done through reforestation initiatives or renewable energy projects.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) has been developing a draft decree regulating emissions reductions under the new Law on Environmental Protection.
This includes regulations on the roadmap for the development of the domestic carbon market and on the implementation of credit exchange projects, both domestically and internationally. Authorities expect the carbon market to be fully operational by 2028.
The aforementioned policies are expected to strengthen Vietnam’s commitment to act on climate change. They also pave the way for the country to expand its renewable energy potential and switch to a low-carbon development model in the post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
The UK Ambassador to Vietnam, Gareth Ward, once said that “70% of emissions come from the energy industry. That’s mostly from electricity generation”.
Therefore, he added, if Vietnam could accelerate the transition from coal to renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, the country would be making a significant contribution to global efforts.
With its new carbon pricing scheme, Vietnam also aims to reap additional benefits from trade with the European Union and potentially improve its image globally, authorities said.