The UN-Climate Change Conference COP26 (the 26th Conference of the Parties) is taking place in Glasgow, UK, between October 31 and November 12. The UK will be assuming the COP26 Presidency, in partnership with Italy.
The British Ambassador to Việt Nam Gareth Ward talks to Việt Nam News reporter Lê Hương about expectations on the conference and how Việt Nam can play a part in the cause to reduce climate change impacts.
British Ambassador to Việt Nam Gareth Ward. — Courtesy Photo of the embassy
What does the UK’s government expect from the event?
Well, 140 world leaders are participating in COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The main objective is to keep 1.5 degrees alive, which means to stop the world from heating 1.5 degrees more than the pre-industrial level. In order to do that, there are four key issues we need to resolve.
The first is about mitigation - that is, reducing the number of emissions that countries produce carbon and carbon dioxide and secondly, we need to support countries to adapt because the world is already heated up more than 1 degree, perhaps 1.2 degrees, and we can see the impact of that in many countries around the world, including Việt Nam, whether is through rising sea levels or severe weather incidents.
And the third area we want to work together is finance because developed countries recognise historically, we have produced most of the carbon emissions in the environment, so we should fund developing countries to help you transition more quickly.
And finally, it’s a negotiation on a treaty, so there are a lot of details of works to be done so that everyone can sign up the new measures so that we can have transparency and collaboration between countries and that we are all working in the same direction.
Could you tell me your opinion on the reduction of coal use in Việt Nam?
Việt Nam has a fast growing economy, and will need more electricity in the future. The question is what sources will that come from?
Within the past five years, Việt Nam has gone from being a net coal exporter to a net importer and coal is currently a leading source for power generation in Việt Nam.
Unfortunately burning coal is very bad for greenhouse gas emissions and for air pollution. Many countries have committed to moving away from coal – for instance in the UK coal provided less than 2 per cent of the energy mix by July this year.
Countries including Japan, South Korea and China have decided to stop providing financing for new coal power stations.
At COP26, the United Nations global climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November, all countries are being asked to commit to ‘no new coal power'.
Climate change is not just theoretical. In Việt Nam we can already see the impact of global warming which has reached around 1.2 degrees more than pre-industrial levels, for example, salination in the Mekong, flooding in major cities, and extreme weather events, all of which impact Việt Nam heavily.
The biggest contribution Việt Nam can make to the global effort to stop global warming is to move away from the old technology of importing and burning coal. Việt Nam can meet its energy needs through new technology and using its own clean resources. Việt Nam has huge potential in solar and wind power. International investors from the private sector will build this renewable capacity quickly if the right conditions are set.
To enable this, Việt Nam needs new grid infrastructure to increase its capacity to transmit electricity to where it’s needed. The international community wants to provide overseas development assistance to help Việt Nam upgrade its grid, and Việt Nam can become a leader in renewables.
The energy transition should be a priority for Việt Nam in the years ahead. It brings huge opportunities to create new jobs, and to attract new investment as supply chains shift and the global economy recovers. Moving away from coal towards renewable energy development is not only cost effective, but also offer tremendous potential to stimulate the wider economy. There are also major risks in continuing to build new coal, starting with air pollution and health. Dependency on imported coal, the risk of losing new investment and exposure to future carbon taxes are good reasons for the shift to a green economy.
What has your government done or will do to support Việt Nam in the process?
The UK has been supporting Việt Nam on energy transition and increasing access to finance for green projects. Together with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and many other development partners, the UK is leading COP26 Energy Transition Council with technical and financial support for energy transition acceleration to 15 countries including Việt Nam towards 2025.
We look forward to seeing continuous engagement with Việt Nam and assure our highest engagement to this important agenda.
Investors from the UK are showing significant interest in investing in renewable energy projects in Việt Nam, in both solar and wind power. They need the Government of Việt Nam to introduce long-term support policies as well as simplification of procedures for project implementation. VNS
According to a paper by E3G, an independent European climate change think-tank, Việt Nam is one of six countries in the world that are responsible for 82 per cent of coal use worldwide.
Furthermore, Việt Nam is part of an ever-shrinking group of countries that plans to expand its coal use in the coming years. The Eighth Power Development Plan (PDP8), submitted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade to the Government in October 2021, will see the current coal capacity of 21,000 MW increase to 40,899 MW by 2030; by 2045 it will be in the region of 50,000 MW.
This plan means that fossil fuels will account for 68-69 per cent of national electricity production by 2030.
The plan has raised concerns among experts, who want to promote environment-friendly energy and move Việt Nam up the list of green countries in the world.
The Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance (VSEA) has suggested that Resolution No 55/NQ-TW, issued on February 11, 2020 by the Political Bureau on the national energy development strategy by 2030, with a vision to 2045, should be used to develop renewable energy.
“Instead of cutting clean energy created by renewable energy sources and increasing electricity from coal, which cause pollution and various consequences, the sector should give priority to policies that develop sustainable renewable energy”, the alliance proposed.
The alliance noted that only with a “clear route to establish a competitive electricity market”, accompanied by uniform policies, can the young industry can grow in Việt Nam. Modern technology must be applied so that domestic enterprises can offer more varied services and make important contributions to national energy security strategy.
Lê Anh Tuấn, Deputy Rector of Climate Change Research Institute under the Cần Thơ University, urged Vietnamese leaders to consider the impact of using coal.
“Using more coal should be considered in a wider angle rather, than only in the context of technique or energy economy,” he said.
He explained that the EU has recently shown support on gas emissions taxes applied to imported goods.
“If our goods are produced using high level of gas emissions, then they will be charged higher tax when exported to EU,” he added.
In Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Brunei are leading the trend in cutting down coal.
With its Energy Transition Plan 2021-2024 launched in June 2021, Malaysia has been considered the first “no new coal” nation in the region. The country’s energy utility TNB has announced that it will not build any new coal-fired power stations. The existing plants will be retired in the 2030s when their contracts end. Myanmar will cancel all projects in 2019 and Brunei will not consider any new projects.
The European Climate Law has also come into effect, meaning the 27 members of the EU are obliged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent before 2030.
Most EU countries have planned or are considering a date to end using coal, between now and 2040.
The coal phase-out must be completed by 2030 to meet the EU’s 2030 and 2050 climate targets.
A study, titled “Phasing out coal in the EU’s power system by 2030” by the Agora Energiewende think-tank, has concluded that only a complete phase-out of coal will achieve the blocs 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gasses by 55 per cent. The phase-out will save one billion tons of CO2 at little additional cost to consumers.
“Coal should be replaced mainly by renewables, as only these can deliver the necessary greenhouse gas emission reductions. 38 GW coal capacities in Germany, Bulgaria, Czech, Poland, Romania and Slovenia must be replaced by 100 GW solar and wind power,” it says.
To ensure the security of supply, an additional 15 GW of capacity from gas-fired power plants is needed. But their utilisation will decrease over time: electricity from gas must drop by 15 per cent by 2030. New investments in fossil gas-fired power plants should be hydrogen-ready.
The study suggests a mixture of policies to achieve an EU-wide coal phase-out at the lowest possible cost.
This mix should consist of a tightened EU-Emission Trading System with national CO2 price floors; national coal phase-out plans and a rapid expansion of renewables. VNS