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Chủ Nhật, ngày 14/04/2024

Overview of progress in implementing sustainable development goals related to natural resources and environment in Viet Nam

10/01/2024

1. Introduction

    Sustainable development is an urgent need and an inevitable trend in the development process of human society and is also orientation throughout the development process of Vietnam. At the United Nations (UN) Summit held in September 2015 in New York (USA), the 2030 Agenda and 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) were agreed upon by UN member countries, providing a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and in the future.

    Vietnam has strongly committed to Agenda 2030 and SDGs. The country  has issued the National Action Plan to implement the 2030 Agenda for SDGs (National Action Plan 2030) with 17 SDGs and 115 specific targets. A set of 158 indicators on sustainable development has been established to monitor, supervise and evaluate the implementation of the SDGs. The SDGs have been integrated and mainstreamed into the national, sectoral and field policy systems, with a focus on the aspect of “leaving no one behind" and implemented with all stakeholders participation at the Central and local levels.

    In the global context of having passed halfway in implementing SDGs, the article evaluates the SDGs implementation related to natural resources and environment in recent times in Vietnam with a view to achieving SDGs by 2030, including the following contents: SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation; SDG 7 on clean and sustainable energy; SDG 11 on sustainable urban and rural development; SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production; SDG 13 on climate action; SDG 14 on conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas; SDG 15 on biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest development.

2. Some results of SDGs implementation related to natural resources and environment

    According to the global ranking of SDGs implementation, in general, Vietnam has had quite good development since 2015. In 2017, Vietnam ranked 69th, increasing to 49th in 2020. However, in 2022, Vietnam is ranked 55th. In the Asian region, Vietnam is evaluated quite well in terms of overall progress in implementing SDGs, however, maintaining this level of progress remains challenging. According to Vietnam's Voluntary National Review of Implementation of SDGs in 2023, some results of implementation of SDGs related to natural resources and environment in the past 5 years of Vietnam can be stated as followings:

Ensure adequate and sustainable management of water resources and sanitation systems for all (Goal 6)

    As a country with a dense river system and with focuses on agricultural development, Vietnam has made efforts to ensure adequate and sustainable management of water resources, along with sanitation systems for all of the people. In particular, in the period 2018 - 2022, the proportion of the urban population provided with clean water through the water supply system increased from 86.7% to 94.2%; The proportion of households with hygienic water sources increased from 95.7% to 98.3% and the proportion of households using hygienic toilets increased from 90.3% to 96.2%; The proportion of industrial parks and export processing zones in operation with centralized wastewater treatment plants meeting environmental standards increased from 80.1% to 91%. It can be said that progress in implementing goal 6 is achieving positive progress in the period from 2018 to present. However, in the context of pressure from socio-economic development, access to clean water and sanitary conditions that meet the standards of the Ministry of Health are still limited; the impact of climate change is becoming more and more serious. Vietnam needs to continue to drastically implement policies and solutions to control wastewater; increase investment in water and sanitation projects for remote, mountainous areas; Promote integrated management of water resources by river basin and strengthen international cooperation and benefit sharing with countries sharing the same water source.

Ensure access to sustainable, reliable and affordable energy for all (Goal 7)

    With the implementation of the National Targets Program on providing electricity to rural, mountainous and island areas, the rate of households accessing electricity tends to increase and reach 99.5% by 2022 with the gap between urban and rural areas has been significantly narrowed, from a difference of 1.3% to only 0.1% in the period 2018 - 2022. Installed capacity and output of power projects from renewable energy sources exceeded the set level, the proportion of renewable energy in total final energy consumption in Vietnam tends to increase and reach 21.78% by 2020 thanks to policies promoting investment in renewable power projects, especially wind power, solar power. Besides the above mentioned bright spots, energy consumption compared to total domestic product tends to increase, higher than the average level of the world as well as ASEAN countries. Although the proportion of renewable energy in total final energy consumption has increased, it has not yet reached the set target. The slow process of technological innovation in some energy-consuming industries also leads to high energy consumption.

Sustainable and resilient urban and rural development; ensure a safe living and working environment; Reasonable distribution of population and labor by region (Goal 11)

    The field of urban development has achieved many important results. The rate of households living in temporary housing across the country has decreased rapidly, from 2.6% in 2016 to 1.7% in 2018 and 0.9% in 2022. The trend is to sharply decrease the rate of households living in temporary housing. Temporary housing is recorded in all criteria, from urban to rural areas, in all regions and population groups. Besides positive results, urban development is facing the problem of environmental pollution. The rate of urban solid waste collected and treated to meet national standards and technical regulations in 2022 will reach 96.23% compared to 86% in 2018, but mainly landfilled. The amount of construction waste, accounting for about 10-15% of urban solid waste, has increased rapidly in recent years along with the pace of urbanization and rapid increase in construction projects in large cities of the country. In addition, green areas and water surfaces are not exploited and used properly, causing the quality of the living environment of urban people to decline. In recent years, the socio-economic infrastructure in rural areas has undergone remarkable changes, contributing to changing the appearance of rural areas and essential projects to meet the requirements of production development and people's lives have basically been completed. Rural environmental protection has had a major breakthrough, especially in the issue of waste treatment in residential areas and improving the green - clean - beautiful rural landscape.

Ensuring sustainable production and consumption models (Goal 12)

    Vietnam continues to promote the implementation of the National Action Program on sustainable production and consumption; make efforts to effectively manage and use natural resources, strengthen measures and sanctions to treat environmental pollution; Initially develop and apply in practice regulations to promote sustainable public procurement; Complete tax and price policies for fossil fuels and make flexible adjustments to protect the poor and vulnerable groups, especially in the context of the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. Propaganda and education work to raise awareness about environmental protection continues to be promoted, especially focusing on communication activities and awareness raising to change consumption habits and encourage the use of alternative, environmentally friendly products. By the end of 2021, the rate of hazardous waste collected and treated will reach 90% in 2021 (an increase of 15% compared to 2018); The rate of establishments causing serious environmental pollution treated reached 85.5% (an increase of 19.3% compared to 2018). However, Vietnam needs to make great efforts to implement SDG 12 in the context of environmental pollution and waste generated from socio-economic development activities increasing, in which the rate of collection and treatment of household solid waste in rural areas has only reached 66% and more than 80% of landfills are unsanitary; Resources to promote sustainable production and consumption are increasingly limited; Mineral resources and land have not really been strictly managed and exploited effectively; Business participation in sustainable production and supply chains is limited.

Respond promptly and effectively to climate change and natural disasters (Goal 13)

    Vietnam always strives to respond promptly and effectively to climate change and natural disasters through strengthening relevant laws, strategies and policies; Implement international commitments, especially the commitment to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050 and promote ministries, branches and localities to actively implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. To date, 87.3% of provinces and/or cities directly under the Central Government have issued Action Plans to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The goals are to proactively and effectively adapt, reduce vulnerability, loss and damage due to climate change, reduce negative impacts of climate change on vulnerable groups, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and take advantage of opportunities from responding to climate change to shifting the growth model, improving the economy's resilience and competitiveness that have been emphasized in the National Strategy on Climate Change. Furthermore, Vietnam is also actively implementing the National Strategy and Action Plan on Green Growth and promoting the integration of climate change adaptation into national, sectoral and local socio-economic development plans. In 2022, Vietnam will update its Nationally Determined Contribution, closely following Vietnam's commitments at COP26. Vietnam regularly updates its climate change and sea level rise scenarios in 2009, 2012, 2016 and 2020. Despite many efforts, Vietnam is considered one of the countries most severely affected by climate change; weather developments, extreme climate, and natural disasters are increasingly complex and unpredictable, severely affecting people, industries, and sectors. This requires Vietnam to continue efforts to improve the resilience of society and communities to risks caused by natural disasters and climate change.

Conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (Goal 14)

    As a country with a long coastline, Vietnam has made great efforts to preserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development through strategies and policies on marine environment and natural resources protection, and sustainable management of aquatic resources. Vietnam is implementing the Strategy for Sustainable Development of Vietnam's Marine Economy to 2030, with a vision to 2045. Activities to prevent and control all types of marine pollution have maintained the quality of the coastal and ocean water environment within allowable limits. Marine and coastal protected areas, although still quite modest, have contributed to the management and protection of coastal ecosystems, especially mangrove forests. The rapid increase in the proportion of aquaculture also reduces pressure on the exploitation of natural marine resources. In 2020, the rate of coastal sea water quality monitoring sites that meet the requirements of national technical regulations for organic pollutant parameters (N-NH4+) is 99% and for total grease parameters is 92%. Vietnam's seafood production increased from 6.5 million tons in 2015 to 8.4 million tons in 2020, with an average increase of about 4.6%/year. However, as a developing country with a low average GDP income, coastal, sea and island ecosystems are under great pressure from socio-economic development and environmental pollution; Fish and seafood reserves are increasingly shrinking due to overfishing. It can be said that achieving SDG 14 is a huge challenge for Vietnam.

Protect and develop sustainable forests, conserve biodiversity, develop ecosystem services, combat desertification, prevent degradation and restore land resources (Goal 15)

    Forest ecosystems, especially those of national and international importance and wetland ecosystems, are increasingly being conserved, used and restored in a sustainable manner. Forest area is maintained at a stable level and increases from 41.65% to 42.02% in the period 2018 - 2022. Many national policies such as policies for payment for forest environmental services, policies for sustainable use of ecosystems and natural ecosystem services has had a positive impact in linking biodiversity conservation with sustainable use of ecosystems and genetic resources and has been integrated into the national strategies and socio-economic development plan. In the period 2018 - 2021, total revenue from forest environmental services reached an average of nearly 2,900 billion VND/year, forestry land was maintained and increased slightly from 14.92 million hectares in 2015 to 15.4 million hectares in 2020. However, Vietnam still faces many difficulties and challenges to achieve Goal 15, requiring more synchronous and drastic solutions in the coming time, including: Organized illegal deforestation and logging activities are complicated; Land degradation; Narrowing of natural habitat and risk of extinction of some endangered species; The exploitation, trade, and consumption of endangered wild animals and plants are still not well controlled; Financial resources to ensure the implementation of state management of ecosystems, protected areas in particular and biodiversity in general are still limited.

3. Global context and challenges posed in implementing SDGs in Vietnam

Global context

    According to the latest assessment of progress in implementing SDGs globally by the United Nations, currently only 12% of SDGs targets are on schedule, 50% are behind the schedule and 30% are making no progress or even being pushed backwards compared to 2015. With current implementation progress, about 575 million people in the world will continue to live in extreme poverty; it will take 286 years to close the gender equality gap in the law and eliminate gender discriminatory laws; There will be about 84 million children who will not be able to go to school and 300 million children who go to school will not be able to read and write by 2030. For the Asia Pacific region, according to UNESCAP's latest announcement, the region has only achieved 14.44% of progress in implementing the SDGs even though it has gone half way and needs several more decades to achieve the SDGs target.

    Meanwhile, the world economy is forecast to continue to change rapidly with many complex developments. Many countries around the world are facing the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic, including a decline in economic growth, political instability, and inflation and rising commodity prices after efforts to stimulus force in many countries. In addition, regionalization trends, extreme nationalist movements, geo-political conflicts, and strategic competition among major countries are creating huge challenges for the global sustainable development process. At the same time, the world is facing the risk of famine, rising inequality, and the global poverty rate increasing for the first time in decades. Ocean and forest ecosystems are threatened; biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate; Environmental pollution, natural disasters, and climate change are complicated.

    It can be said that the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, climate change, environmental pollution, stress and conflict... makes the already difficult implementation of the SDGs in the world, and will become even more difficult and requires the international community to make great efforts to achieve the goals on time. Despite this, all countries reaffirm their commitment to fully implementing the 2030 Agenda and see this as the only way to move towards a better and more resilient world against shock from outside.

Difficulties and challenges posed in implementing SDGs in Vietnam

    In the coming period, Vietnam must face previous internal difficulties and serious impacts from the COVID-19 epidemic, creating pressure to continue restructuring the economy more quickly and deeply. Although the domestic socio-economic situation has recovered strongly in 2022, the international situation still has many potential uncertainties, continuing to affect the progress of implementing the SDGs in Vietnam in the coming years.

    The current economic growth situation is facing challenges such as: productivity, quality and competitiveness of the economy are still not high; The quality of human resources does not meet the needs; Science and technology development is still limited and has not created a driving force for growth; Economic restructuring associated with innovation in growth models is still slow; Growth depends heavily on increased investment, while the need for investment capital for socio-economic development is very large, state capital, preferential capital and aid capital all tend to decrease.

    Social management and development still have many limitations and have not kept up with requirements. The gap between rich and poor tends to increase, the lives of a part of the people are still difficult, especially in remote areas, ethnic minority areas, and areas affected by natural disasters; The development gap between localities and regions is still quite large. The rapid increase in population aging leads to pressure on the social security system and impacts economic growth.

    The urbanization process continues to take place rapidly, creating great pressure on the need for infrastructure development and environmental pollution treatment. The challenge of effectively and sustainably exploiting and using water, natural resources and land is increasing. Natural disasters and climate change develop rapidly, fiercely and unpredictably, affecting production and people's lives.

    Mobilizing resources to meet demand in the coming years will face many challenges, especially in the context of recovery after the COVID-19 epidemic. Compared to the time before the COVID-19 epidemic, the country's budget revenue/GDP tends to decrease. ODA sources have decreased significantly, especially after Vietnam became a low-middle income country in 2010. Vietnam also gradually no longer receives preferential ODA loans like before. On the contrary, Vietnam will have to switch to borrowing at commercial interest rates. Capital mobilized from FDI and remittances continues to remain at a high level but depends on many external factors and the domestic business environment. Investment from the domestic private sector has not yet demonstrated its role as a driving force in economic growth and sustainable development of the country as expected.

    Pressures to transform development methods, especially the commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 in the context of resource and energy shortages, low levels of science and technology development... will put Vietnam's economy at risk. However, new development methods and models such as: green growth, ecological economic development, circular economy, sharing economy... along with scientific and technological advances, are giving the Vietnamese economy many choices for rapid and sustainable growth.

4. Key solutions in the coming time

    Implementing and completing the SDGs by 2030 in Vietnam will face many difficulties and challenges. However, the achievements obtained in the previous period, along with Vietnam's socio-political stability and the increasingly perfect institutional and legal framework for socio-economic development, continue to create a springboard for implementing the SDGs in the coming period. In order to accelerate progress in implementing the SDGs in the remaining half of the journey, Vietnam needs to focus on key groups of solutions:

- Complete and enhance the quality and institutions of a socialist-oriented market economy; enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of policy implementation through public administration reform and continue to promote the participation of disadvantaged groups in the decision-making process;

- Continue to prioritize investment in human resource development, science and technology, innovation and completion of a synchronous and modern economic and social infrastructure system to improve productivity and promote sustainable economic growth;

- Stabilize the macro economy, support recovery after COVID-19; mobilize and effectively use financial resources for sustainable development;

- Continue to promote reform of the social security system to ensure increased resilience to shocks and support for vulnerable groups; develop culture and society, realize progress and social justice;

- Effective management and use of resources; strengthen environmental protection and respond to climate change, prevent, combat and mitigate natural disasters; promote green economic development and circular economy;

- Strengthen international cooperation to promote the implementation of SDGs;

- Continue to improve data availability to increase the effectiveness of monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the SDGs;

- Strengthen awareness raising, promote coordination and cooperation among relevant parties to create diffusion in the implementation of the SDGs. Ensuring implementation of the SDGs is everyone's job.

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nga

Ministry of Planning and Investment

(Source: The article was published on the Environment Magazine by English No. IV/2023)

REFERENCES

1. Socialist Republic of Vietnam (2021), National Report 2020 - Five years progress in implementing SDGs.

2. Socialist Republic of Vietnam (2023), Review of national voluntary implementation of Vietnam's 2023 SDGs .

3. Ministry of Planning and Investment, Report assessing the implementation of the annual SDGs.

4. United Nations (2023), Report on progress towards SDGs.

5. UNESCAP (2023), Report on progress in implementing SDGs in the Asia-Pacific region.

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