The event and associated meetings aimed to review general policies and evaluate the GEF’s operations.
Achim Steiner, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator and Vice Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group at the GEF spoke to Viet Nam News about the event and the future of global co-operation on climate change.
Could you briefly discuss the GEF-6 Assembly in Viet Nam? Was it successfully organised?
The GEF Assembly convening in Việt Nam is a welcome opportunity for the world to address pressing environmental challenges and opportunities, but also to learn about Việt Nam’s experiences and lessons learnt over the past 20-30 years.
Protecting the environment is an enormous and extraordinarily complicated task. With 183 countries coming together with civil society, business leaders, UN agencies, and others, this assembly provides an ideal opportunity to identify creative and innovative solutions to some of our most challenging environmental issues. And it provides a forum to tackle priority issues like the threat of plastic pollution in our oceans and the importance of the circular economy.
What do you think about Viet Nam’s efforts in environmental protection and other environment-related problems? Do you have any suggestions for Viet Nam?
Viet Nam has gone through two decades of significant economic transformation and has enjoyed sustained progress that has pulled so many out of poverty.
And now Việt Nam finds itself at a crossroads in terms of its future economic development model. Embedded in that search is the need to address environmental and sustainability challenges – climate change vulnerability, natural disasters, pollution, ecosystems and biodiversity. Essentially, the protection of Việt Nam’s natural capital and wealth.
Việt Nam has already taken bold steps. It is taking concrete measures to protect its rich and globally significant biodiversity, comprising more than 30,000 flora and fauna species.
It is increasing energy efficiency by focusing on energy-intensive sectors, like the fast-growing construction sector.
It is treating thousands of tonnes of soil contaminated by pesticides and dioxin – a legacy of conflict and war.
And to buttress all of these measures, Việt Nam is putting in place the necessary policies in all of these critical areas related to the environment.
What challenges that Việt Nam will face in the future? What solutions do you envision?
As Việt Nam seeks its own future path for development, Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals provide a useful framework.
In responding to the fourth industrial revolution, technology choices will play an important role in Việt Nam’s economic growth and its jobs of the future, and there are numerous opportunities associated with the emerging green economy and markets in which Việt Nam must – and can compete.
Việt Nam’s rapid economic growth, industrialisation, and urbanisation have all put pressure on its natural resources and its environment, and its economy relies heavily on coal for electricity generation. This not only increases greenhouse gas emissions but the pollution it creates also seriously affects human health.
One solution to this is for Việt Nam to explore healthier and renewable green energy sources like solar and wind.
How does the UNDP support Việt Nam in dealing with pollution and climate change?
The UNDP and Việt Nam share a long history of cooperation on national development strategies and programmes – 2018 marks our 40th anniversary.
On climate change and pollution, UNDP has provided analysis and advice on how to move into renewable energy sources, which would decrease emissions and lead the country down a path of longer-term sustainable sources of energy while simultaneously decreasing the pollution created from coal.
We have also worked with Việt Nam to safeguard its incredibly rich biodiversity by expanding its protected areas– terrestrial, marine, coastal, wetland, and biosphere – and we are working on a partnership between the Government and the private sector to establish innovative and sustainable financing for long-term biodiversity conservation and the protection of its natural capital.
Energy efficiency is another area of partnership. The UNDP supported the creation of the Law on Energy Saving and Conservation, which outlines the energy standards and labelling requirements for household appliances. And we worked together on energy efficiency in the ceramic and brick manufacturing sector, the construction sector, particularly high-rise commercial buildings and in the promotion of environmentally friendly products, including non-fired bricks.
What can Việt Nam do in partnership with international organisations and countries to fight against climate change and alarming environmental disasters such as storms, floods and tsunamis?
Việt Nam is among the top 10 countries most affected by natural disasters and extreme weather, and last year Việt Nam was struck by more than 16 significant storms. Many of the areas hit were still recovering from the 2016 drought.
The good news is that Việt Nam invested in building systems for emergency response and resilience and has experience dealing with these events. There are still a number of things Việt Nam can do to ensure communities can recover from future events more quickly.
Some of this work involves removing risks where possible. UNDP works with Việt Nam to build houses that can better withstand extreme weather events, targeting the poorest households and other vulnerable groups. Often nature has solutions that work better than anything we could build, so we also work to regenerate mangrove forests that naturally protect the coastlines from storms.
Another area of opportunity is climate and weather information sharing, and new technology, which could help Việt Nam improve its early warning systems and weather forecasting and help decision makers and communities take the necessary actions to prepare, prevent, and respond to natural disasters and events. Saving lives and safeguarding progress in the process. — VNS