Low-carbon development considers reducing greenhouse gas emissions through reduced energy consumption by technological innovation and social attitudes. Some sectors have great potential to reduce carbon emissions such as energy, agriculture, industries, construction, and waste management. Recent research has shown that Vietnam has great potential to reduce GHG emissions in the energy sector or agriculture. However, to implement a low-carbon development strategy requires large financial capacity, high-tech capabilities and appropriate supporting policies. Besides, improper awareness about the benefits of implementing a low-carbon development strategy, for example, like expensive investment but no immediate economic returns, would be a challenge to successful low-carbon development implementation in Vietnam.
As a developing country, Vietnam has no obligation to reduce emissions in the present, but with implementation of the action program of voluntary reductions of GHG emissions, Vietnam has many opportunities to receive support from other developed countries to develop its economies toward low carbon, and also has an opportunity to contribute to global GHG emission reduction efforts. In a developing country like Vietnam, a policy to develop low carbon will benefit all aspects: reducing energy consumption, increasing energy efficiency, saving natural resources, technological modernization, increased levels of economic value added, and elimination of environmental pollution. This is an opportunity that Vietnam can take advantage of in the future.
Recognizing the importance of implementation of practical actions to respond to climate change, the Government of Vietnam has issued many related legal documents. From 2006 to 2010, the Government of Vietnam adopted many important policies such as the National Strategy for Environmental Protection, the National Target Program for Energy Saving and Efficiency, the National Target Program to Respond to Climate Change, the National Strategy for Solid Waste Management, the National Green Growth Strategy, etc., and promoted the economy toward low carbon. This is an important legal basis for the implementation of sustainable development policy in practice, toward a low-carbon economy in Vietnam. However, to effectively implement the policy, it requires the coordination and cooperation of many agencies and departments from the central to local levels. In particular, the successful experience throughout the world has demonstrated that policy measures toward strategic development of low carbon will provide practical effects if they are confirmed in terms of technology, trade, and economics; socially accepted; and put into a legal framework for implementation.
To be able to implement development toward low carbon effectively, it should be determined what areas of the economy will play a key role in cutting emissions, the level of reductions, and a roadmap of implementation reduction measures in selected economic sectors. The formulation and promulgation of a low-carbon development policy should also consider their potential impacts on the economy such as creating jobs, changes in national income, changing industry structure, economic scale investment requirements and necessary resources to carry out measures for each respective sector. In some countries around the world, especially in developed countries that have committed to the reduction of GHG emissions, growth toward low-carbon emissions is considered as an integral part of a national strategy on climate change.1 Thus quantitative research on low-carbon development arises as an essential need to provide a scientific basis for management decisions about the goals, schedule and reasonable solutions for strategic planning for economic development in the direction of decreasing GHG emissions. Recently, low-carbon development has received the attention of developing countries where the demand for fossil fuel has been increasing to meet the economic growth in the context of energy efficiency, which is still low. The study of low-carbon development has begun to be deployed in a number of countries with adjustments to suit their socio-economic conditions.
Although still relatively new in Vietnam, the recent problems of low-carbon development have received increasing attention of governments, international donors and agencies. In the implementation process of responsibility to participate in international exchange on climate change, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has proposed to the Government policies and strategies for promoting low-carbon growth and a roadmap to reduce GHG emissions in Vietnam. The Prime Minister approved the National Green Growth Strategy, in which the economic development model toward low-carbon emissions is mentioned as important content of the strategy.2
In countries with emission reduction obligations, their policy will be anchored at the cutting rate that was committed to. Thus the trade-off between economic growth targets and the level of GHG emission reduction makes the cutting costs in developed countries very high. For Vietnam, the reduction of GHG emissions should be voluntary so it may optionally give GHG reduction targets. Thus the problem for Vietnam is not how great the trade-offs are but which reduction plans would be preferred alternatives. Identification of the objectives, contents and methods in each sector's cuts and the transformation roadmap to achieve the level of emission reductions cannot follow idealistic sentiments; they must be based on scientific methods of calculation taking into account the specific conditions of the national economic potential of the country, the context of international relations and the requirements of meeting the government's socio-economic development targets.
This paper presents an overview of the recent situation of GHG emissions in Vietnam, as well as a discussion on how the country should select priorities in selecting emission alternatives. It has four main parts; the first one introduces the context of socio-economic development in which GHG emission reduction has been considered as a commitment of the government to the international community for its contribution to the global GHG reduction efforts. The second part presents in detail the main GHG emissions from different sectors and their projections in the years to come. The next part looks at the priority in selecting the alternatives for GHG emissions that are required to help the country to be balanced with its socio-economic development targets. The final part focuses on the impacts of these reduction policies on the country's development with suggestions to reduce unintended effects.