Promoting Low-carbon Economy in Vietnam

1:55:39 PM | 14/11/2019

The circular economy is a sustainable development megatrend in the world. The shift from the traditional linear economy to the circular economy can help countries cope with the current depletion of resources and environmental pollution.

This recommendation was put forth by delegates at the Workshop on “Promoting a low-carbon circular economy in Vietnam - A Swedish perspective” on November 12 in Hanoi. The event was co-organized by the Embassy of Sweden in Vietnam, the Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Hanoi People's Committee.

Great value for both businesses and consumers

Speaking at the workshop, Ms. Ann Mawe, Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam, said, in the circular economy, waste is also a resource. The circular economy brings value to both businesses and consumers. Businesses that have adopted this model are gradually demonstrating the cost effectiveness of resource reuse versus virgin resource exploitation, thus cutting production costs, lowering product costs and bringing benefits to consumers.

In fact, in recent years, rapid growth and industrialization has left many negative impacts on the environment and natural resources of Vietnam. Vietnam's waste is expected to double in less than 15 years. The country is also among the ten countries most heavily affected by air pollution. Meanwhile, Vietnam's recycling rate is less than 10% of total waste. A significant amount of waste is being buried directly at landfills or discharged into the ocean. With 13 million tons of waste thrown to the sea each year, Vietnam ranks 17th in the world and 5th in Asia for pollution of ocean plastic waste with more than 500,000 tons.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Vo Tuan Nhan emphasized that the circular economy brings many benefits to the nation, society and businesses. This demonstrates responsibility in addressing global challenges caused by environmental pollution and climate change and improving economic competitiveness.

For the society, the circular economy helps take advantage of used inputs instead of spending on processing costs of virgin inputs; exploit less natural resources; make the most of resource value; minimize waste and emissions into the environment, and protect people's health. From the business perspective, the circular economy helps reduce risks of overproduction crisis and resource scarcity, create new employment and investment opportunities, and reduce production costs.

Apt transformation Vietnam aims for

Promoting the circular economy is an appropriate transformation that Vietnam is moving towards for the sake of sustainable development. Vietnam has developed some new models closer to the circular economy such as ecological industrial parks in Ninh Binh, Can Tho and Da Nang, helping save US$6.5 million per year; zero waste to nature initiative initiated by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI); and aquatic by-products processing model (shrimp shells, shrimp heads, etc.). These examples, when integrated and assessed on basic principles and criteria, will help improve the circular economy for Vietnam.

Earlier, in June 2019, Tetra Pak cooperated with eight other leading consumer goods and packaging companies to establish the Packaging Recycling Organization Vietnam (PRO Vietnam) with the desire to promote the circular economy by speeding up the process of collecting and recycling product packages.

However, according to Deputy Minister Vo Tuan Nhan, the current challenge for Vietnam is that businesses lack recycling and reusing technology and they tend to use easy-to-use products such as plastic bags and disposable plastic products. Vietnam wishes to get support and cooperation from other countries and international organizations experienced in building relevant laws and transferring good technical and technological practices as well as financial support.

Many experts at the meeting recommended that public - private partnership is key for the low-carbon economy to be developed extensively in Vietnam. Collaboration with agencies of Sweden, one of the world's leading countries in waste management, recycling and circular economy, will help Vietnam enhance its learning experience in integrating policies and private - public cooperation to have a holistic view of waste reuse for different purposes in the circular economy.

Dr. Nguyen Hoang Nam, Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE)

Linear economy causes resource depletion and increases waste. Air pollution cost 5.18% of Vietnam's GDP in 2013 (World Bank, 2016). Water pollution is forecast to cost 3.5% of GDP by 2035 (WB, 2019).

The circular economy can have a direct impact on more than 10 of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Vietnam needs to improve the law and policy system on circular economy, aiming to deploy the circular economy in all activities. The circular economy is enabled by the Government, driven by the business and joined by the community to carry out and promote green public spending.

Vietnam also needs a roadmap to build a circular economy, focusing on the Vietnam circular economy development project; strengthening close coordination between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, international organizations, VCCI and businesses; and utilizing international experience.

Mr. Jeffrey Fielkow, Managing Director of Tetra Pak Vietnam

We should not see environmental issues such as climate change or waste as individual issues but we rather see them as a whole. In order to solve this, we need to achieve an open circular economy model which is not only a matter of recycling and/or reusing but also a matter of carbon impacts from input and production. That means we must look beyond the product to address their business impact.

Tetra Pak is aiming for this by providing solutions that produce the least carbon emissions, achieve the highest efficiency, minimize impacts of business operations on the environment and, together with our partners, regenerate our products.

Thu Ha