Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Humankind had “mortgaged” its future with uncontrolled growth at the expense of the environment for far too long, experts agreed, and urged for the simultaneous pursuit of development and sustainability.
The message was reiterated yesterday at the Hà Nội Forum on sustainable development held for the first time in the capital of Việt Nam.
Since the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set in 1992 and their successors, the UN Sustainable Development Goals towards 2030, were approved by 193 countries in 2015, the world had seen tremendous growth in many countries, accompanied by steadily rising quality of life for billions of people.
“However, despite great leaps made in science and technology, unprecedented challenges – namely climate change and widespread extreme weather events – had emerged and threatened the security and long-term development of the entire human race,” said Nguyễn Kim Sơn, president of the Việt Nam National University, Hà Nội, one of the leading education institutes in the country.
The science community had arrived at the “clear and unequivocal” conclusion that while climate change was a naturally occurring process, human-based activities – especially booming industrial operations since the first industrial revolution in the late 18th century, accompanied by a huge amount of the heat-trapping CO2 and other greenhouse gases – had accelerated and complicated it to the point of being detrimental to the entire planet’s livability.
While states had made various pledges, with the most recent pact being the Paris Agreement signed two years ago, little actual efforts had been expended and even less concrete results had been achieved, argued Helen Clark, former New Zealand Prime Minister and former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“The commitments that were made don’t live up to the ambitions set up in the agreements,” she said, referring to the annual assessment on how much carbon dioxide emissions had reduced.
“A case has to be made over again and again for prompt action, to turn the tide on climate change,” she said, previously reiterating the damning UN-led ‘1.5 Degree Report’ which said the world only had as many as 12 years to fundamentally change or suffer the disastrous effects of climate change.
“Our world cannot achieve the inclusive and sustainable development, which was called for in the global agenda, if we fail on the climate change goal,” the former UN official said, adding that humanity’s “ability to thrive” was predicated on the health of the planet’s ecology.
In her keynote speech at the forum, she also expressed appreciation for Việt Nam’s efforts to spread awareness on climate change, citing a recent survey in which 45 per cent of Vietnamese people put it as the top threat for world leaders to tackle.
According to the World Bank, Việt Nam is amongst the world’s five most vulnerable countries to climate change, especially with its 3,000km coastline being highly exposed to typhoons and rising sea levels, while the low-lying southern Mekong Delta with its huge concentration of people and economic activities is acutely feeling the disruptions of erratic drought and flood patterns, and the entire area is sinking at an alarming rate.
Stephen P. Groff, deputy director-general of the Asia Development Bank (ADB), a financial institution that has partnered Việt Nam on several key infrastructure and capacity-building projects, reviewed environmental pollution hotspots and orientations in smart city development.
Groff said the ADB had taken sustainable development seriously, aiming to have at least a third quarter of its committed operations supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation, in addition to pledging US$80 billion cumulative in climate finance for the period 2019-20.
The Hà Nội Forum is an initiative launched by the Việt Nam National University, Hà Nội, with the aim of contributing towards global efforts for sustainable development and climate change response, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, via science and technology discussion and exchanges at an international level.
The forum welcomed the participation of 500 delegates, comprising not only of scientists and researchers but also leaders and policy-makers.
The forum was held one month ahead of the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), slated for December in Katowice, Poland.
Today, five professional sub-committees of the forum will discuss key issues, including evidence of climate change and security; human influence on climate change; the response to climate change; policy and governance in climate change response and sustainable growth; and science, technology and education on climate change response and sustainable growth. The forum will also hold two policy dialogues on the sustainable development of resilient cities in the Red River and Mekong River deltas. — VNS