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Vietnam Government leads region in climate change challenge - 19 Mar 2010  

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Serious efforts are under way to respond to the impact of climate change in Vietnam but a lack of capacity and resources remains a challenge, experts say.

Vietnam has been identified as one of 12 countries at highest risk from climate change and is the most threatened by rising sea levels, according to World Bank studies.

UN-cited data on global climate change and model studies show that Vietnam is at increased risk of floods and droughts, saline intrusion and increased health risks from heat waves, dengue fever and malaria.

However, experts say the government has acted quickly and is leading neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Laos in trying to create policies to respond to climate change.

The National Target Programme (NTP) was approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in December 2008, and began implementation last year.

"Vietnam is to be commended for having pulled this off so quickly," Koos Neefjes, policy adviser on climate change at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam, told IRIN.

Coordinated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), the NTP is intended to help develop an overall climate change strategy, including goals for adaptation and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The document lays out responsibilities for ministries and government agencies and asks all cities and provinces to devise their own climate change action plans by the end of this year, to be implemented by 2015.

It also aims to assess climate change impacts and ensure assessments are incorporated into development and investment plans.


Vietnam is home to two major fertile plains, the Mekong Delta and Red River Delta, key agricultural areas and home to 40 percent of the country's 86.2 million inhabitants.

They were identified as the most vulnerable areas in a November 2009 government report supported by the UN Environment Programme, which stated that more than one-third of the Mekong Delta could be submerged if sea levels rose by 1m.

Nine of the 10 provinces in Vietnam likely to be worst hit are in the Mekong Delta, but the effects on Ho Chi Minh City could be equally devastating.

Besides hosting potential climate change "refugees" from the Mekong Delta, infrastructure and housing would be damaged in the city, energy demands would increase, as would vector-borne diseases, experts say.

Vietnam is well-versed in water management because of a history of disasters such as floods, but there are questions over its capacity to fully implement policies, they say.

"The policy frameworks are very good. [The problem is] the capacity in government agencies to pick up on policy commitments. It's not only skills," said Jeremy Carew-Reid, director of the Australia and Vietnam based-International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM) consultancy. There are possible hurdles in multi-tiered government with 58 provincial administrations.

"The challenge is to do the planning of the sectors [such as agriculture] as well as the planning in provinces," said Nguyen Van Kien, climate change adviser to the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in Vietnam.

Strong coordination between sectors and effective oversight are needed at a national level, while capacity, technical expertise and awareness of climate change varies from ministry to ministry, according to a UN discussion paper on Vietnam and climate change released in December 2009.

"Provinces and lower-level authorities must rapidly develop their action plans to respond to climate change too, which will also require large-scale awareness raising and capacity-building efforts," it says.

Funding questions

The government said last month it needed US$3-$5 billion until 2015 to respond to climate change.

"To protect Vietnam's deltas and coastal regions from sea level rise and related saline water intrusion, large investments in research and design are needed, followed by investments on an unprecedented scale."

For the NTP, the government is aiming for foreign and private sector capital to comprise 60 percent of the funds needed for the activities outlined.

However, experts say it will be difficult to attract private sector funding for adaptation or mitigation measures. Meanwhile, Vietnam also needs to develop the capacity to access international financing available for climate change adaptation.

"Vietnam still needs to raise the money itself," said UNDP's Neefjes. "The high economic growth the country is experiencing is the magic bullet. Vietnam realizes it will have to rely on itself. If you can keep the economic growth up, the money will flow in the right direction."


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Source: Intellasia