Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 24, 2021 – This year, on the occasion of the Nordic Day – March 23, the Nordic Embassies in Vietnam (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), in coordination with the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management in Ho Chi Minh City, jointly organised a seminar on Nordic Green Capitals – Leadership, Governance, Sustainability and Innovation. The main purpose of the seminar was to facilitate and promote exchange of knowledge, experience and good practice between the Nordic countries and Vietnam on how to ensure that their capital cities grow in a green, innovative and sustainable manner.
For the past twenty years, Vietnam’s stable and impressive economic growth and growing urbanization rate have led to serious challenges that its cities have to cope with in regards to issues such as air pollution, congestion, water and waste management and climate resilient issues.
“We, the Nordic countries, are very pleased to be Vietnam’s long term friends and strong supporters of the country’s poverty reduction and impressive social and economic growth. Now focus is on the transition to a greener and sustainable development. Economic security must go hand in hand with social and environmental security. All the Nordic capitals: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm have, during the last decade, made bold political and administrative decisions to address urbanization, climate change and environmental challenges. We are very happy to share our Nordic gained knowledge and experience and hope that our Vietnamese counterparts and friends will find them inspirational and helpful for their ongoing efforts to lead the country and its cities in their transition towards green and sustainable development”, said the Nordic Ambassadors in Vietnam.
From development perspective, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, member of Economic Advisor Group for Prime Minister, noted that, “Vietnam has an impressive economic growth record, but traditional growth drivers such as high investment and cheap labor are running out of steam. In the next decade, urban development will certainly be a major engine of growth for Vietnam. The challenge of urbanization in Viet Nam is how to strengthen urban competitiveness while controlling negative externalities such as environmental pollution and traffic congestion, and responding effectively to natural disasters and climate change so that cities truly become livable and safe. I believe “green recovery” must become a guiding principle for Vietnam’s strategies and policies with respect to urban development in particular and the economy in general for the post Covid-19 pandemic. The rich experience of Nordic countries in urbanization, environmental protection and climate change adaptation will be an invaluable source of reference for Vietnam in the process of implementing this strategy.”
Remarkable achievements in green development at Nordic capitals can be found below:
Copenhagen aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025. The city’s population is expected to grow by 20% in the next decade. This opens an opportunity to show that it is feasible to combine growth, development, innovation, job creation and enhanced quality of life with lower CO2-emissions. Copenhagen launched its first Climate Plan in 2009 and has already achieved major CO2-reductions. The city also has Environmental Policies in place as clean air, less noise, clean drinking water from the tap and many green spaces increase people’s health and well-being significantly.
Helsinki was the first city in Europe to prepare a Voluntary Local Review (VLR) to understand how the city’s strategy matches against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The VLR found that the city’s strategic plans are well aligned with the SDGs. For example, the Helsinki City Plan, approved in 2016, sets a sustainable direction for the city’s growth over the next 30 or so years. Its aims include ensuring that every part of the city can be easily reached by public transport. Walking and cycling will be given top priority, and the urban structure of the city must be such that everyday services can be obtained nearby. A dense urban structure and sustainable transport play a key role in Helsinki’s climate ambitions. Helsinki’s goal is to be a carbon neutral city by 2035.
Oslo has ambitious climate goals on both mitigation and adaptation. In 2020, Oslo adopted a new ambitious climate strategy, of which the main aim for Oslo is to reduce climate gas emissions from the city with 50% in relation to 1990-level within 2020 and with 95% within 2030, not by buying quotas but by implementing actual emissions cuts. A first climate budget was put into operation in 2017 as a groundbreaking governance tool. The budget is a means to show municipal agencies where emission must be cut and who is responsible, e.g. in the public transport sector and the construction sector.
In 2010, Stockholm was appointed the first European Green Capital, thanks to its cut carbon emissions and ambitious climate goals. In 2016, Stockholm adopted the goal to be fossil free in 2040. Since 1990 up until today, the city has cut its carbon emissions by 50% per citizen. In the beginning of October 2019, Stockholm launched an initiative called the C40:s Global Green New Deal. This initiative aims to gather those willing to deliver reductions in carbon emissions in line with the 1.5 degree goal set out in the Paris Agreement.
The transition to green and sustainable capitals in the Nordic countries’ capitals to secure and improve the quality of life for their residents and create opportunities for innovation, jobs and green growth requires long term planning and a multi-stakeholder approach. Thus, involving local political decision makers, municipality agencies, the private sector, environmental and climate organizations as well as mobilizing ordinary citizens has been key in setting targets and implementing policies.
The seminar ‘Nordic Green Capitals – Leadership, Governance, Sustainability and Innovation’ was co-hosted by the Nordic Embassies and the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management in Ho Chi Minh City on 24 March 2021. The seminar took place both off-line and online through video links between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the four Nordic capitals and had broad participation of high-ranking representatives and policy-makers from the Vietnamese government agencies, local experts, academia researchers, etc.
The seminar is part of the Nordic countries’ support to Vietnam’s achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 11 on the importance of making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.