Post-COVID recovery: Việt Nam on the right track but more rigorous changes needed

February, 26/2022 - 09:07
Việt Nam has been on the right track towards the goals of cutting carbon emissions and phasing out coal mine plants but will need more vigorous financial and institutional changes to deliver a green, sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

A solar energy farm in the foot of Núi Cấm Mountain in the southern province of An Giang. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ  NỘI — Việt Nam has been on the right track towards the goals of cutting carbon emissions and phasing out coal mine plants but will need more vigorous financial and institutional changes to deliver a green, sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

International experts, think tanks and government officials discussed solutions at a high-level conference hosted both online and in-person by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) yesterday in Hà Nội.

The conference was held as Việt Nam stands at a critical juncture, seeking to rebound from COVID-19, which has dampened the economic growth, and meet the commitments of carbon neutrality and transition to clean energy at COP26.

In his opening remarks, Deputy Prime Minister Phạm Bình Minh said in the backdrop of unprecedented impacts caused by the pandemic, countries will have the opportunity to review issues and implement policy and measures to safely adapt to the pandemic, transition to the new growth models, pursue a green and circular economy, among others, to achieve more inclusive and sustainable recovery.

“The issue for the Vietnamese Government in the post-pandemic era is not simply pursuing recovery but how to pursue recovery,” he said.

“With bold commitments made at COP26, the Vietnamese Government has had a clear answer, which is to pursue green and inclusive rebound.”

He added that Việt Nam will actively partake in global trends such as reopening, socio-economic development, green transition and digital transformation.

The deputy prime minister said it will be an extensive transition that requires Việt Nam to focus on improving its institutions and policies and enhancing the efficiency and competitiveness of the economy.

“The transition also poses a challenge in tackling social impacts, as workers have not been equipped with a know-how and a capacity to participate in a new working market with higher demands and requirements,” he said, noting that the lack of finance, technology and capacity is also a problem that needs to be addressed.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor of Columbia University, and a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, said addressing climate change issues and the transition to the green economy will bring job opportunities and long-term sustainable growth for countries and Việt Nam needs to act now to be able to meet its commitments of carbon neutrality by 2050.

“I see addressing climate change as providing opportunities for growth and creating more dynamics in the economy. Climate change has potential for promoting growth and creating jobs,” he said.

 “Việt Nam is one of the few developing countries that has been stepping up and made commitments in carbon neutrality and elimination of coals, fuels.”

“Việt Nam’s approach is the right one. It’s better to be in the advanced guard in the transition to a green economy.

“The economy of the future is going to be the green economy. By moving more quickly toward that green economy, Việt Nam is taking an important step in advancing its own interest and rapid and sustainable growth.”

“The world and every country are facing multiple crises, including the health, climate, inequality crisis. For developing countries, this is a special challenge as this comes on top of the imperative close the gap they have in standards of living with countries,” Prof. Stiglitz said.

The professor said Việt Nam should grab the opportunity to make a sustainable and inclusive economy that is attractive to investment, which is now driven by geopolitics.

“This is the special moment of opportunity for Việt Nam as we are confronting a changing geopolitical arena.

“Việt Nam has the opportunity to create a more dynamic sustainable inclusive society and economy that has competitive advantages that will attract investment from all over the world and put it in good stead for the decades to come,” he said. 

Workers inspect a solar plant in An Giang Province. — VNA/VNS Photo

Prof. Stiglitz said the country must act now to realise its goals set at COP26.

“If Việt Nam is going to meet its commitments to carbon neutrality by 2050, it has to begin now and has to make sure the investments that are undertaken today will be consistent with that message of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Besides regulatory framework, finance, and technology, the professor also emphasised the need to work on an education system “appropriately designed” to teach learners how to learn and become more adaptable to changes, as a green economy will create new jobs.

“As we move to the green economy, there will be large changes, mostly positive. It will create lots of jobs in sectors like service, R&D, knowledge economy and innovation economy.”

We want is resilient workers who can go from jobs that are going to be lost to new jobs that will be created, he said.

“The key is education, an education system that is appropriately designed to teach them how to learn, to create a learning society so they continue to learn in the rest of their life,” Prof. Stiglitz said.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said a green and inclusive rebound is possible if we transcend the logic of trade-offs of economy versus environment and focus instead on the synergies from economic development that prioritises sustainability and inclusivity.  

Steiner highlighted six lessons from UNDP’s global efforts to support countries in driving a green circular economic rebound.

They include innovative long-term financing, just climate transition, bridging the digital divide, gender equality, triple-a governance (anticipatory, agile, and adaptive), and shock-resilient social protection.

“Việt Nam continues to be a pioneer in designing and implementing solutions to pressing development challenges such as stubborn pockets of poverty, economic and social inequalities, and limited digital and energy access,” said Steiner.

The one-day conference, which brought in eminent international and national thought leaders and policymakers, had three sessions focusing on green recovery and resilience; trade, investment and innovation for a sustainable rebound; and strengthening the role of government in accelerating a green and inclusive rebound. — VNS

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