Viet Nam is seeing growing momentum for renewable energy integration and coal phase-out, aligning with its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Yet these initiatives are currently impeded by the country's dependence on coal beyond 2030 and the government's plan to increase use of fossil gas as a “transition fuel”. The increasing imports of coal and gas raise concerns about energy security, despite the pursuit of cleaner energy sources.
While there has been significant momentum in the deployment of renewable energy in recent years, the targets for solar and wind energy rollout in the government’s plans are still insufficient. The modest growth in ambition for reducing power generation emissions fails to offset the absence of policies aimed at addressing emissions from other sectors of the economy, where efforts remain lacklustre. The CAT’s overall rating of Viet Nam’s climate targets and action remains “Critically insufficient”.
In December 2022, Viet Nam joined the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) to achieve its net-zero commitment by 2050, initially receiving USD 15.5bn until 2026-2028. The partnership strives to achieve a power sector emissions peak of 170 MtCO2e by 2030 while aiming for a 47% renewable energy share by the same year.
However, the JETP's focus on coal elimination inadvertently promotes fossil gas, a key component of Viet Nam’s latest Power Development Plan. Worries are also emerging over the partnership’s loan-heavy financing approach, which has the potential to impose debt burdens on a developing nation like Viet Nam. The full and substantial implementation of the JETP may result in additional reductions of 4-18% in emissions below current policies scenario by 2030.
Following the signing of the JETP, Viet Nam adopted the long-awaited Power Development Plan 8 (PDP8) in May 2023, sending mixed signals to Viet Nam’s power sector. While scaling down its earlier coal expansion plans and emphasising the integration of renewable energy, Viet Nam is concurrently strengthening its reliance on fossil gas for power generation, expanding gas infrastructure, and introducing LNG imports. However, gas is not a transition fuel - the IEA's latest Net Zero Emissions Scenario is clear that power generation from natural gas must drops by 98% between 2022 and 2050.
Viet Nam is facing severe climate change-induced droughts, with disruptions in hydropower generation and over-reliance on coal-fired generation ultimately leading to extensive power shortages.
Viet Nam’s emissions are set to keep rising until 2030, contrary to what is needed to achieve the 1.5°C temperature goal. To reverse this trend, Viet Nam could:
- Expedite the phase-out of coal power, by developing an effective retirement plan of the existing coal power plants more ambitious than the plans in the JETP, and issuing more detailed rules regarding the reconversion of the existing fleet.
- Avoid relying on gas as a “transition fuel” to increase energy security, affordability, and profit from the multiple co-benefits coming with the phase-out of fossil fuels and avoid potential emissions lock-in.
- Enable a swift rollout of renewable energy sources through investments in the grid. When supported by adequate power transmission and distribution infrastructure, these solutions already offer greater affordability compared to investing in fossil fuel projects. Viet Nam benefits from a substantial wind and solar energy potential.
- Address emissions from the agriculture and industry sectors, which accounted respectively for 18% and 17% of the Viet Nam’s emissions. The current lack of policy directions leaves the emissions from these two sectors unchecked.
Despite these drawbacks, the latest developments include some positive developments:
- Coal power generation now has a phase-out timeline of 2050, although it lacks specific details. This timeline completes Viet Nam's commitment made at COP26, where it pledged to phase out unabated coal-fired power generation and cease the construction of new coal plants.
- The pipeline of coal projects has shrunk significantly, decreasing the risks of fossil fuel lock-in.
- The JETP and its inclusion in the government's power development plan can act as catalysts for the renewable power sources rollout by channelling investments towards the energy transition.
The CAT rates Viet Nam’s climate targets and policies as “Critically insufficient”. The “Critically insufficient” rating indicates that Viet Nam’s climate policies and commitments are not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. Viet Nam’s 2030 emissions reduction target is consistent with more than 4°C of warming when compared with modelled domestic pathways and the extent of reductions that need to be taking place inside its borders.
Viet Nam updated its NDC targets in 2022 without increasing ambition. Its updated NDC strengthened its targets on paper, but will not drive real-world emission reductions beyond its current level of climate action. The CAT rates these updated targets as “Critically insufficient” against both modelled domestic pathways and what a fair contribution for Viet Nam would be. Viet Nam’s current policies result in emissions levels lower than its targets, but are still “Critically insufficient”. Viet Nam needs to set more ambitious targets for emissions reductions and implement the associated policies to get a better rating.
The CAT rates Viet Nam’s climate policies and action as “Critically insufficient” when compared to its fair share contribution. Under Viet Nam’s current policies and action, emissions will continue to rise to around 592-692 MtCO2e (excluding LULUCF) in 2030 and are consistent with more than 4°C warming. Under a fair contribution for 1.5°C emissions would roughly stabilise at today’s level, at about 350 MtCO2e in 2030.
In May 2023, the Viet Nam government adopted the final version of the Power Development Plan 8 (PDP8). In this plan Viet Nam has highlighted the importance of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. However, the PDP8 is centred around growing dependence on fossil gas and LNG is put forward as “transition fuel” towards net zero.
Coal usage for power generation remains a concern for Viet Nam, although showing notable recent decline in pipeline largely due to insufficient project financing. The PDP8 aims to eliminate coal capacity by 2050, though coal will persist in the energy mix through this decade, contributing around 20% of installed capacity by 2030, an improvement on the 2021 figure of 30%. This updated target marks a significant enhancement over the previous PDP7 goal.
Viet Nam is planning to increase both domestic production and import of coal for power generation. The ratio of domestically produced to imported coal will decline to 36-39% in 2030 from 46% in 2021. An increased reliance on coal imports will worsen Viet Nam’s energy security and make it more vulnerable to price volatility.
Adoption of the PDP8 confirms the scale up of fossil gas power generation, and its prioritisation over renewable energy rollout in Viet Nam. Fossil gas-based power generation capacity will be 25% in 2030. To support this expansion of gas-based power generation, Viet Nam is planning to increase domestic production of gas as well as import, further increasing vulnerability to energy security threats in a complex geopolitical landscape.
The plan proposes a share of renewable generation of 31-39% by 2030, and 47% in case of a “full and substantial” implementation of the JETP by international partners. The Master Plan for National Energy sets an energy-related greenhouse gas emissions target of 399-449 MtCO2e by 2030, compared to 259 MtCO2e in 2021.
The full policies and action analysis can be found here .
We rate Viet Nam’s 2030 conditional target against a 1.5°C modelled domestic pathway as “Critically insufficient”. Viet Nam’s conditional target equates to 620 MtCO2e by 2030 (excluding LULUCF).
Viet Nam can achieve this target without any additional effort beyond current policies and action, which we estimated to be 592-692 MtCO2e by 2030. Viet Nam would need to reduce the emissions level of the current policies and actions trajectory by 40-49% (353 MtCO2e) by 2030 to be in line with 1.5°C. Substantial improvement is needed in this target.
Viet Nam’s unconditional target equates to 863 MtCO2e by 2030 (excluding LULUCF), which we rate as “Critically insufficient”. Viet Nam will achieve this target without any additional effort beyond current policies and actions. Viet Nam would need to reduce the current policies and action pathway by 41-49% (to 350 MtCO2e) to be in line with a 1.5°C fair share pathway.
Viet Nam updated its Paris Agreement target in November 2022. The target was 39 MtCO2e (excluding LULUCF) stronger than the previous NDC, and the transparency and sectoral coverage have improved. Yet, the target does not drive real climate action as it will be easily overachieved with current policies and action. Both Viet Nam’s NDC targets are consistent with a warming of over 4°C: if all countries were to follow Viet Nam’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C.
In 2016, Viet Nam had a net carbon sink capacity of 39 MtCO2e. In its National Climate Change Strategy to 2050, Viet Nam has established a target for its land use and forestry sector with the aim of reducing 70% of remaining emissions, thereby increase the carbon absorption rate by 20% and achieving a total sink capacity of 95 MtCO2e by 2030. It will aim to maintain national forest coverage of 43%, by improving forest quality and sustainable forest management techniques, and is critical to achieve net zero for Viet Nam.
Viet Nam announced a target to achieve net zero by 2050 during the COP26 World Leaders’ Summit in 2021. In July 2022, Viet Nam reiterated its commitment to reach net zero in the decision approving its National Climate Change Strategy, aimed at guiding its planning to achieve net zero by 2050. Viet Nam’s net zero target is conditional on international financial support. The CAT rates Viet Nam’s target as “Average”.
The full net zero target analysis can be found here.