According to the latest Global Climate Risk Index report, published in January, Vietnam’s economy is among the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change.
Another report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) indicates that Vietnam’s climate challenges are much greater than usually suggested.
The Global Climate Risk Index report ranked Vietnam 13th among the economies most affected by climate change between 2000 and 2019. But according to index evaluations between 1999 and 2018, Vietnam was one of six economies most affected by climate change. Within this period, Vietnam suffered 226 extreme weather events and saw economic losses of over US$2 billion per year.
Another recent study, published by the UNIPCC in 2018, says that rising sea levels could flood three times more land in Southeast Asia than previously projected. Referred to by some as a “Doomsday Report”, the study suggests that Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City could be underwater by 2050 and millions of people in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta—the country’s main rice-growing region—could be forced to flee coastal areas.
Speaking at the 2021 Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS 2021), Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, “Our economy may only meet around 30% of our climate adaptation demands, and Vietnam needs an additional US$35 billion between 2021 and 2030.”
While the threats of climate change are dire, experts believe there is reason for hope if Vietnam implements adaptation and mitigation strategies effectively.
Dao Xuan Lai, head of the Climate Change and Environment Unit at the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Vietnam office, believes that the country holds massive potential for renewable energy and that developing this could help offset damage caused by greenhouse emissions.
“We found that Vietnam has available up to 85,000 megawatts of solar, and 21,000 megawatts of wind,” he told Mongabay. “If we combine these two figures and if Vietnam can develop all of them before 2050, for example, and we compare it with the figure of total electricity to be installed in Vietnam by 2030, which is 130,000 megawatts, it’s actually very close.”
Vietnam also needs to invest more heavily to make its cities sustainable and develop their resiliency to reduce the risks posed by climate crisis. Ho Chi Minh City is of particular concern as rapid growth has seen planners develop swampy areas to the city’s south and east that earlier acted as floodplains.