|A worker monitoring a steel-making machine in Thái Nguyên Province. Steel mills would be made subject to the fees should the draft become law. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Nguyên|
HÀ NỘI — The draft decree drawn up by the Ministry of Finance, which imposes fees on gas emissions, has prompted a flurry of commentary from experts.
Lê Thanh Hải, Head of the Institute for Environment and Resources, Việt Nam National University of HCM City, said the idea of using economic incentives to drive gas emissions is a step in the right direction.
However, the devil lies in the details. The lump-sum part of the fees, which is set at VNĐ3 million (US$126) per year per facility, could trigger dismay among small facilities as it disregards the fact that they are likely to release less gas into the atmosphere than large ones.
The discrepancy between observatory data and environmental realities is another matter of concern for the institute head, given the limited number of observatory organisations in the country. Hải said the disparity would be pronounced in instances where emissions occur sporadically.
Võ Đình Long from the Institute of Environmental Science, Engineering, and Management, Industrial University of HCM City, said the fees would help improve the environmental consciousness among gas-emitting facilities and serve as a supplementary source of funding for environmental efforts.
However, the scope of the draft, Long said, should be expanded to encompass quarries, which are major contributors to air pollution with their emissions of stone dust and particles.
He also called for a rise in the fee levels to capture the true extent of damage the facilities cause to the environment. Current levels are believed to be insufficient to offset their environmental impact.
"We could learn from the fee systems in other countries to design a better one for our own," Long said.
Meanwhile, Hoàng Dương Tùng, former Director-General of the Việt Nam Environment Administration, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said the scope of the draft is too broad and should be narrowed down to facilities with environmental permits.
"Those without environmental permits should be exempt from the fees for now," Tùng said.
He also said the lump-sum part of the fees should be applied only to facilities with low gas emissions whereas the per-unit part to those emitting higher quantities.
New incentives should factored into the fees to encourage the use of the Best Available Techniques that have been specified in the Law on Environment Protection.
Đỗ Duy Thái, chairman of Pomina Steel JSC, was at odds with the fees. He said it was not the right time to introduce new fees, given that the business community was in distress amid the global economic downturn.
"The fees should not be implemented until the economy recovers and companies get back on their feet," Thái urged.
The chairman also claimed that all steel mills operated by Pomina had made the grade environmentally and the corporation had always been eager to pay new fees for the sake of the environment.
However, environmental watchdogs, on their part, should be more transparent about how the fees would be used and to what extent they would contribute to the government's efforts to protect the environment. — VNS