Speech by UN Resident Coordinator/ UNDP Resident Representative on the World Environment Day 2014

05 Jun 2014

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Speaker
: Ms. Pratibha Mehta    
Date:       5 June 2014
Event:    World Environment Day 2014
Venue:    Binh Hung Hoa Ward, Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City

Excellency Mr. Hoang Trung Hai, Deputy Prime Minister;
Excellency Mr. Nguyen Minh Quang, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Viet Nam;
Excellency Mr. Nguyen Huu Tin, Vice Chairman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee;
Distinguished representatives of the Ministries and the Ho Chi Minh City;
Colleagues of donors, development partners and the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations, I am very delighted to be with you today in this beautiful and dynamic city to celebrate this year’s World Environment Day.

The theme of this year “Raise your voice, not the sea level” as declared by the United Nations draws our special attention to the Small Island Developing States and low lying and coastal areas. This theme is particularly relevant to Viet Nam where sea level rise, floods and storms cause unprecedented challenges that risk lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

More than 28 coastal cities and many islands of Viet Nam are facing increasing climatic extremes. Climate change is making disaster worse. The super strong Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines causing more than 3,500 dead and 12,000 injured. Although it lost intensity and Viet Nam was well prepared, it made landfall in Quang Ninh and Hai Phong, leaving behind 14 people killed and 84 others injured, and more than 2,600 houses and nearly 50,000 ha of crop damaged.

Mekong delta is most at risk to climate change. If the sea level rises by 1 meter as projected by the climate change and sea level rise scenario (2011), 39% of the Mekong Delta will be submerged affecting more than 6 million people’s lives and livelihoods. Already sea level rise increases levels of spring tides and submergence in Ho Chi Minh city. Heavy rain water cannot drain, affecting over 20% of the City’s water resources system, infrastructure, traffic system, and manufacturing facilities.

Climatic extreme events causes far reaching socio-economic challenges, especially for the poor in loss of livelihoods, including migration and social uprooting. The negative impact is not just in rural areas but also in urban areas. It not only erodes the agriculture sector but also urban infrastructure.  

Climate change adaptation requires a comprehensive approach at all level, particularly in low lands and deltas. The UN would like to commend the Government for the adoption of the Mekong Delta Plan in December 2013, with a proposed long term vision on climate change adaptation and sustainable economic growth. This plan should apply a holistic approach for optimization of short-term investments and the long-term sustainable development in rural and urban areas.

Participation of men and women, girls and boys in villages, communes and districts, etc in responding to climate change is crucial. In Viet Nam, people possess traditional knowledge and experiences, but they need resources and skills to use their knowledge and implement local solutions. Equally important is to invest in spreading awareness and enhancing coping skills including teaching swimming to children to prevent them from drowning.

The UN commends the government on rolling out the Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction Programme in the 6,000 most vulnerable villages. This is the right direction.  We encourage the Government to allocate sufficient State budget and human capacity to this programme.

Prevention and response to sea level rise also requires participation and actions by business community. Private sector plays a key role in achieving GHG emission targets set in the Green Growth Strategy as they possess technology and capital.   

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Most important is the behaviour change toward environmental friendly lifestyle, especially more sustainable consumption. As the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has emphasised in his message for this year’s world envrionmental day the importance of participation by all and has urged everyone to join forces to protect our shared Planet Earth”. It is only through collective efforts of all that we can protect our environment and fight against any impact of climate change. Even a small effort by each one of us can make a huge impact.

Taking this opportunity of the World Environment Day and in the presence of 1,500 people here today, let’s call upon all 90 million Vietnamese people to join hands and
- “say no to littering”;
- “say no to plastic bags”;
- Say no to wasting water and electricity
And call upon the Government and private sector for more stringent application of the environment law in all infrastructure and agriculture development projects.
I wish you all a very happy World Environment Day! I wish you good health, happiness and success!

Thank you very much!