Green Recovery and Build Back Better. Two new concepts that are often heard when we talk about economic rehabilitation post Covid-19. Both referring to a well-thought-out and long-term sustainable recovery from the pandemic in contrast to a rushed and race-to-the-bottom oriented policy as the next step forward.
But why is the Covid-19-pandemic the perfect environmental wake-up call and what are the changes needed?
Sandra Wilderoth, Trade Promotion Officer at the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi, gives her reflections:
Covid-19 as wake-up call – it is a question of whether we want adapt or not
If there is one thing that has been positive with this pandemic, it is that is has reminded us of our adaptability.
Over the past year, people all over the world have had to change both their private and their professional lives quite dramatically. We might have gone from everyday commuting to home office or from classroom education to online learning. It has had consequences for our social life, and we have had to learn new ways to keep contact with family, friends, and colleagues.
Indeed, some of these adjustments have not been optimal and the increased isolation has had several negative effects.
As a matter of fact, there are statistics that shows that we have become more depressed and that children have acquired less knowledge during the past year.
However, despite the strain and the negative consequences, most of us still have changed our behaviour to respond to Covid.
Therefore, when the pandemic is under control and it is time to return to normalcy, let us not waste the hard work we have already done. Let us continue with the changes that has been good, as the digital acceleration and the more mindful travelling.
Global warming goes without limits, like a pandemic – national borders give no protection
Vietnam is one of the most vulnerable countries to global warming.
Annually, the country is hit hard by tropical storms, floods, costal erosion, and draughts, leading to hundreds of indirect and direct causalities and material damages to billions of USD.
Furthermore, the two major cities in Vietnam, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City, are among the most polluted in the world.
In 2018, the WHO estimated that air pollution caused 60 000 deaths in Vietnam and that around 40 % of these were linked to the use of fossil fuels. Coal is still a major source of energy in Vietnam and three-quarters of the countries coal power plants are located next to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The government’s remarkably effective handling of the Covid pandemic, with early and strategic measures, mobilization of resources and extensive media reporting of risks, outbreaks, and prevention, has showed that Vietnam has what it takes to overcome a crisis.
According to a recent report from the World Bank, Vietnam could use its experiences and lessons-learned from controlling the pandemic, to effectively addressing the environmental challenges.
Climate change, just like Covid-19, is a global threat and requires strong action to save lives and cost. With that said, let us not forget that with challenges come opportunities and a climate-conscious recovery can still be equally profitable.
Focus of the Swedish Embassy 2021
Green recovery post-Covid will be the main focus at the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi 2021.
We believe that Vietnam currently has a golden opportunity to address the environmental challenges it is facing.
A new political leadership is in place, the socio-economic development strategy for 2030 has been updated and with the recent experience of tackling the pandemic, means that the right time to act is now.
Last year’s positive economic development of 2.9% has also put Vietnam in the global spotlight and as companies now look for new places to diversify their markets, let us call for the investors who are forerunners in sustainability.
In Vietnam, there are great opportunities in renewable energy, in upgrading the electricity grid and in introducing circularity in production chains and waste management.
Many Swedish companies and entrepreneurs have deep knowledge and experience in these areas, so there is potential for good collaborations.
At the Embassy:
Internally, we try to reduce our climate footprint by using material resources wisely and reducing our energy use.
At the Swedish Green Residence, we use solar energy (as seen on the picture), grows vegetables in soil from our own and cook food with local ingredients in season and often vegetarian meals.
Externally, we work actively to push for energy transition and to support initiatives furthering Vietnam’s climate commitments and the Paris Agreement.
When we host events, we always make sure to minimize our disposals, to choose sustainable food and to select venues after their climate policy.
As our Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe stated at last year’s event – Potential Collaboration in Energy Between Sweden -Vietnam:
“Sweden and Vietnam has a long history in cooperating in the energy sector. Historically the focus was on hydroelectric power.
Today the defining issue is climate change and we all need to move from fossil fuels dependency to increase the share of renewables in our energy mix not least solar and wind power and more energy efficient solutions for transmission” (Hanoi Times, June 2020)
As an Embassy, it is of course crucial we also walk the talk and lead by example.
All views and opinions expressed on this site are those of the individual authors and comments on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual contributor.
 https://www.who.int/vietnam/vi/health-topics/air-pollution; and Lelieveld et al. 2020.