Don’t overlook Vietnam’s renewable surge amid policy shortcomings.

By Oliver Townsend May 24, 2024
Vietnam’s renewable surge shouldn’t distract from chronic environmental policy failures.jpegOrginal image from:

Vietnam has been making significant progress towards sustainability by amending its national energy framework and implementing incentives to boost local renewable energy investments. The government aims to decrease fossil fuel dependency and fulfill nearly half of the country’s energy needs through renewables by 2030. While these efforts are commendable, Vietnam still faces challenges such as inefficient industrial wastewater management and a lack of governmental transparency and accountability.

Recent Developments in Vietnam’s Renewable Energy Sector

Vietnam has taken notable steps in enhancing its national energy framework and offering incentives to encourage local investments in renewable energy. By committing to a third of the energy mix coming from solar and wind sources and reducing coal’s share to 20% by 2030, Vietnam is on the path to achieving its net-zero emissions target by 2050. Additionally, receiving the US$15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership in 2022 has enabled Vietnam to retire coal plants early and expand renewable energy sources to meet a significant portion of its energy needs.

Incentives Driving Local Renewable Investments

The introduction of feed-in tariffs for solar energy in 2017 has been instrumental in attracting private investors to engage in solar projects. This initiative has led to a remarkable increase in the contribution of solar energy to Vietnam’s total electricity mix, showcasing the effectiveness of economic incentives in promoting renewable energy investments. Despite these advancements, Vietnam continues to face challenges in regulating industrial wastewater discharge, posing environmental risks and testing the government’s ability to enforce regulations.

Challenges in Industrial Wastewater Management

A study on industrial wastewater discharge in Vietnam revealed that a significant portion of effluents released in 2019 were not adequately treated before entering waterways. Despite regulations mandating the collection and treatment of industrial wastewater, businesses have been found disposing of untreated waste directly into seas or rivers. The lack of stringent enforcement has resulted in environmental disasters, sparking public outrage and protests demanding better accountability and transparency from the government.

Public Concerns and Government Accountability

The Vietnamese public has expressed growing concerns about environmental issues, as highlighted in Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index reports. The environment consistently ranks among the top ten concerns for Vietnamese citizens, emphasizing the urgency of addressing sustainability challenges. While the government has made strides in promoting renewable energy, the lack of transparency and accountability in managing environmental issues raises questions about its commitment to public welfare.

Enhancing Regulatory Oversight and Transparency

Amendments made in 2022 to impose stricter controls on industrial effluents are a step in the right direction to address environmental challenges. However, concerns remain about the enforcement of these regulations, especially without mandatory third-party environmental monitoring. Critics fear that granting exclusive authority to government officials or industries to enforce pollution guidelines could lead to weak regulatory oversight and hinder sustainable development efforts.

Building a Sustainable Future for Vietnam

While Vietnam’s push towards renewable energy is commendable, addressing environmental policy failures and enhancing transparency and accountability are crucial for ensuring long-term sustainability. By prioritizing effective regulatory enforcement, promoting public engagement, and fostering a culture of environmental responsibility, Vietnam can overcome its challenges and build a greener, more sustainable future for its citizens.

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