Changing ways of thinking
Vietnam’s policy of achieving steady and sustainable economic growth is in line with the common trend around the world. To this end, the focus will be on developing a green economy. But how to make it fit nicely with the current socio-economic and political situation in Vietnam remains an open question.
“Green economy” is still a new concept in the world, let alone Vietnam. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), changing the overall growth model and restructuring the model for economic growth is no easy task for Vietnam. To be sure, there will be certain challenges to be overcome on the way to a green economy.
The failure of both old and new technologies to keep pace with the current fast growth as well as the ineffective application of modern technological advances, have led to a huge waste of natural resources, environmental pollution and low economic efficiency.
Vietnam is a densely-populated country. But Vietnamese consumers do not have the habit of choosing eco-friendly products, which dampens efforts to make the national economy go green.
Associate Professor Dr Nguyen Danh Son from the Vietnam Association for Nature Conservation and the Environment says that most sections of society, including policy makers, still regard economic growth as a priority and natural resources simply as the means to achieve development targets.
Towards a green economy, Son argues, it is essential to change the common concept of putting “economic interests above environmental protection”, as well as the idea that protecting natural resources and the environment is anything but profit making.
Setting appropriate targets
According to Dr Nguyen Van Tai, Head of the MoNRE Natural Resources and Environmental Strategy and Policy Institute, a green economy includes three criteria: eco-system based development, proper exploitation of natural resources, and development based on a low carbon footprint and low levels of waste.
As Tai puts it, to develop a green economy, Vietnam needs to take full advantage of its natural resources, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and develop renewable energy such as solar and wind power. It also needs to revamp legal policies and improve the capacity for managing natural resources, protect the environment, and learn how to cope with climate change.
Another way is to re-orient production towards environmentally friendly products and a low-carbon economy, while dealing with environmental issues caused by various economic sectors.
To achieve these targets, Tai underlines the need to remove policy barriers, abolish environmentally harmful subsidies, and create a favourable legal environment to boost the production of environmentally friendly products and services.
In addition, the State should support the development of key “green economy” sectors by offering incentives and providing investment stimulus packages for eco-friendly goods and services.
At the 2011 GreenBiz Conference & Exhibition on European Green Business Solutions held in HCM last year, the Asia Pacific Chair of the World Council for Renewable Energy, Peter Droege, said Vietnam could develop a green economy based on agricultural production, which is its greatest advantage in the world market. To reach this goal, the country needs to improve its rice-growing models and strongly promote the use of environmentally friendly pesticides.
Vietnam should also invest in renewable energy sources to meet greater demands in future and encourage the clean energy industry to play a crucial role in the long run, he said.
MA. Nguyen Song Tung from the Research Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development says, in the first place, Vietnam needs to develop green production and services into a uniform system through extensive market research, advertising and marketing to promote the country’s green products around the world.