Speech at the national conference on sustainable development

06 Jan 2011

Speaker: Mr. Koos Neefjes, Policy Advisor
Date:       6 January 2011
Event:     National Conference on sustainable development

Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Nguyễn Thiện Nhân,
Distinguished members of the National Council for Sustainable Development,
Distinguished participants from central and local agencies,
Excellencies ambassadors and colleagues from the international community,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words today on behalf of the United Nations in Viet Nam. First, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Planning and Investment, and in particular the National Sustainable Development Council, for organizing this third National Conference on Sustainable Development. Our theme today is of great importance to Viet Nam and indeed to the entire world. As many of you are aware, the UN and members states, including Viet Nam, are currently preparing for the ‘Rio plus 20’ UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, an event which underlines the continued importance of sustainable development and the need for renewed political commitment globally. Today’s conference is one example of Viet Nam’s commitment to this issue, and also reconfirms the country’s Strategic Orientation toward Sustainable Development. I hope the discussions today will contribute to its full and effective implementation.

Viet Nam successfully mainstreamed sustainable development in the 2006-2010 Social Economic Development Plan. And the Prime Minister, in his New Year’s message just a few days ago, emphasized that the country must continue to transform its growth model, and make sure that social development is harmonized with economic growth and environmental protection: these three pillars are central to sustainable development.

Although its importance is clear, national and global sustainable development is being threatened in several ways – which could undermine development achievements. For Viet Nam, it is critical to accelerate performance of MDG 7 on sustainable development as it lags on MDG 7 indicators, such as CO2 emissions per capita and per $1 GDP, and the proportion of the population using improved drinking water and sanitation facilities. The country needs to step up its efforts to reverse these trends in the next five to ten years – for example by strengthening human resources and technological modernization, especially with green and clean technology.

Anthropogenic climate change is, globally, the biggest sustainable development challenge humanity is facing this century, according to overwhelming scientific evidence.  The magnitude of the threat is huge, and the effects are not limited to the future. 2010 was reported as one of the warmest years since global measurements began. Last year there were historic floods in Pakistan, extreme heat in Russia, and typhoons with devastating impact in for example the Philippines. And right now we are seeing massive flooding in Australia. Whilst we don’t know whether these climatic events are caused by climate change, we do know that more such extremes will happen as mean global warming accelerates because the world still is on a highly unsustainable greenhouse gas emissions path.

Viet Nam also suffered significant human and material losses from climatic disasters in 2010, which is estimated to cost the country more than 1 percent of GDP annually over the past two decades. Climate change is making natural hazards more extreme and frequent. Most of Viet Nam’s economic development is taking place in areas which are likely to be impacted by sea level rise and other effects of climate change, including floods from extreme rainfall, droughts and heat waves.  The Prime Minister in his New Year message has indeed highlighted the fact that Viet Nam is very vulnerable to climate change. He stressed that Viet Nam will actively implement the National Target Program to Respond to Climate Change and strengthen international cooperation in this area. And Viet Nam also faces other risks, for example of environmental pollution and natural resource degradation.

Climate change is a global challenge that requires action on many fronts. The global response includes financial resources and technology transfer, which can enable developing countries to effectively pursue sustainable development. To achieve truly sustainable development, actions to reduce the fossil fuel intensity of production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as other forms of pollution – such as through green and high tech production and transport facilities – are the future, including for Viet Nam.

A green growth model and a low-carbon economy means shifting towards greater focus on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will reduce emissions compared to business as usual development scenarios, and will have other positive environmental impacts. For example, improved waste management and improved building codes to ensure reduced energy consumption and improved waste recycling will save expenditures and resources. Particularly important is that globally, renewable electricity investments are now equal to investments in conventional technologies. Viet Nam should follow suit as renewable electricity production offers economic, environmental and also social benefits.

Recent international negotiations on both biodiversity and climate change have demonstrated the scope for enhanced international cooperation. For example, the Reduced Emissions from forest Degradation and Deforestation program, known as REDD, aims to reduce land- and forest-based greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the value of forests as carbon sinks. REDD enables improved conservation of forests and biodiversity, delivery of forest-based environmental services, and provides economic and environmental resources to forest-dependent communities. Financial resources for REDD from developed countries may provide local government, communities and forest managers with the resources to implement sustainable development plans. The UN in Viet Nam is working with the Vietnamese authorities to prepare for REDD and we believe that this should be considered as a key part in provincial sustainable development plans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Viet Nam is at crossroads. Continued and deepened commitment towards sustainable development requires first and foremost an efficient and comprehensive approach to climate change. This must be fully reflected in the forthcoming Socio-economic Development Strategy (2011-2020) and Socio-economic Development Plan (2011-2015). A comprehensive strategy on climate change and full implementation of it will have major sustainable development benefits, including improved biodiversity, reduced environmental pollution, and more rational use of natural resources.  
The UN in Viet Nam, through its current One Plan and its forthcoming One Plan for 2012-2016, is gearing up to help Viet Nam successfully respond to the major sustainable development challenges. The United Nations is firmly committed to supporting Viet Nam in protecting its environment and its natural resources, and making sure they remain national assets for future generations. Our broader goal is helping to ensure that Viet Nam’s future development is inclusive, equitable and sustainable for all Vietnamese.

In closing, let me share my hope that this national Sustainable Development Conference allows us all to learn key lessons from past experiences and creates opportunities for contributing to sustained and green economic prosperity for all the people of Viet Nam.

I wish all participants happiness, great success and good health in this New Year of 2011!
Thank you.