Strong Innovation in Environmental Management

2:16:49 PM | 10/9/2020

The Draft Law on Environmental Protection (amended) includes 16 chapters and 186 articles, featuring the view that environmental protection must be placed at the center of development decisions and environment is not traded for economic growth. The draft law has strongly reformed administrative procedures with the target of reducing over 40% of them and reducing the time to fulfill administrative procedures by 20-75 days. According to experts and enterprises, this law features substantial reforms and adds a new perception in environmental management in Vietnam.

Toward regulatory unity

The Law on Environmental Protection was born in 1993 and experienced two amendments. However, many contents on environmental protection are still scattered in different laws rather than in a single one. To overcome these shortcomings, in this draft law, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Vietnam included scattered regulations on environmental protection in other laws in this draft to lay the foundation for a unified rule on environment while clearly defining responsibilities of government agencies on environmental protection.

This innovation is reflected from the process of amending separate articles as well as the general rule, from 7 new policies to 13 new ones, in order to create a regulatory framework on environmental protection while immediately addressing shortcomings in practice. The uniformity and unity of State management are clearly expressed when, for the first time, the draft includes scattered regulations on environmental protection in other laws, unifying environmental authority of State agencies into the draft such as solid waste management, environmental standards and technical regulations, level decentralization and power decentralization, transfer of State role to business, community and public role. With this approach, the new law will clearly define management roles and execution roles, clearly identify units primarily responsible for environmental issues. At the same time, it will settle the relationship between fundamental laws and specialized laws.

Mr. Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said that, in the short term of 3-5 years, the economy may be affected but after five years, environmental investment with modern technology will prove that it will bring about economic, social and environmental benefits. As for the current management, according to World Bank, about 5% of GDP payable costs that we have never accounted, indirectly and directly, are related to environmental quality management. Not only setting technical barriers, the revised Law on Environmental Protection also proposes new contents in inspection and examination. Specifically, subjects of sudden inspections and examinations on environmental protection are not necessarily notified in advance to ensure effectiveness. Companies with good environmental protection practices will be inspected less frequently. The law stipulates that the validity of a punishment is five years to match the nature of environmental violations.

To apply policies effectively, the law should be based on the spirit that policies and objectives are aligned with organizational and budget conditions, he said. We will socialize, gradually shift investment from the Government to the private sector. Currently, the budget for the environmental activity is 1% of the GDP and this is recurrent. What we need is private investment and the Government needs to balance social and economic investment to ensure environmental quality. “We want to have a budget list which consists of two cells: one is for development investment and the other is administrative expenditure. This funding is currently from 3-5% of GDP in other countries," said the minister.

Consistent with investment laws

The draft Law on Environmental Protection (revised) is a strong reform of environmental management approaches to address current pollution. However, as the law is difficult and complicated, it is necessary to further review the bill to ensure the consistency of the legal system, its feasibility and requirements according to the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents.

According to the Law on Public Investment 2019, public investment projects, when considered and approved, must be based on a preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA). The Investment Law 2020 stipulates that "preliminary environmental impact assessment" is a content of the report on investment project proposals. The draft law, submitted to the 9th plenary meeting of the National Assembly by the Government adds provisions on preliminary environmental impact assessment on projects with negative impact on environment, while the Law on Environmental Protection 2014 did not have such provisions.

Projects that have a negative impact on the environment include public investment projects that build environment-polluting industrial items; construction projects that are built in the public-private partnership (PPP) form; construction investment projects that are approved by the National Assembly or the Prime Minister or investment projects that must have environmental impact assessment decided by the Chair of the Provincial People's Committee.

To the "green" aspirations of Vietnam

The more we want to improve the Vietnamese environment, the more innovative environment law we have to make. “This law will have to go into practice. When it is enacted, are existing problems, especially polluted environmental components, addressed or not? And after five years, can pollution trends be reversed?” Minister Tran Hong Ha wondered.

The fresh content of the revised Law on Environmental Protection is indispensable. The amendment to the law is necessitated when the current law fails to catch up with rapid changes in real life; our country's environment is developing more and more complicatedly; environmental quality in some places is no longer capable of receiving waste; government policies on sustainable development need to be institutionalized; and the Fourth Industrial Revolution requires innovative thinking and ways in environmental management. Comprehensive and breakthrough innovations to create the revolution in environmental protection are needed.

Source: By Minh Ngoc - Vietnam Business Forum