Country Coordinator
Ngo Thi Le Mai, Country Coordinator
Tran Van Giai Phong, Technical Lead
Nguyen Anh Tho, Program Officer

Climate Change in the Context of Vietnam

Vietnam is home to over 89 million people and is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. The World Bank has predicted it will be one of the top-five countries most affected by climate change, with the nation expected to see impacts on temperature, rainfall and sea level rise. A one-meter sea level rise scenario, for example, is predicted to directly affect over 10% of the nation’s population and 10% of its GDP . The impacts of climate change in Vietnam are already being felt with the population becoming increasingly exposed to the effects of typhoons, floods and droughts.

Urbanization in Vietnam

Vietnam is currently going through a rapid urbanization process and is determined to upgrade its urban system to assist in improving the nations socio-economic development. According to Vietnam’s urban system development master plan, the number of cities and towns is expected to increase from 772 in 2014 to about 1000 by the end of 2025. As a result the urban population is expected to increase from 33.9% to 50% of the total population by 2025.

Vietnam has a 6-grade city hierarchy, of which Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are the only two special-grade cities, while the other cities and towns are classified as grade I to V urban centres. According to the urban system development master plan, all cities and towns in Vietnam are making efforts to upgrade their classification by improving their socio-economic status, expanding in size, increasing in population, and improving their infrastructure and services. This is leading to a process of rapid development, where peri-urban areas are being established quickly without adequate consideration of climate risks. At the same time, a burden is being placed on the capacity of existing urban infrastructure as migrants move into the cities seeking employment opportunities. It is the poor who are often the most vulnerable as they do not have the resources or means to diversify or cope, and usually live in marginal, poor quality land areas that are more exposed to the effects of climate change.

Key Urban Climate Change Resilience (UCCR) Issues

Urban development in low-lying floodplain areas – Urban development in Vietnam is expanding into low-lying areas towards floodplains and the coast, altering the overland flow of water following rain and flood events. During flood events, floodwaters can increase in volume and intensity, risking the lives, livelihoods and assets of communities in low-lying areas, especially those living in low elevation coastal zones (less than 10m above the average sea level), which accounts for about 55% of the Vietnamese population.

Decreasing quality and quantity of water resources – The impacts of climate change and urbanization are affecting both the quality and quantity of water resources in Vietnam. The quality of surface and ground water is being affected by the nations rapid economic development and is also vulnerable to global sea level rise, which is causing salt-water intrusion to freshwater systems. Parts of Vietnam, including Lao Cai, Da Nang and Can Tho cities are also experiencing water shortages, as a result of overexploitation, hydropower development and an uneven rainfall distribution.

Limited capacity to understand, plan and take action – Vietnam’s ability to reduce its vulnerability to climate change impacts, including extreme events is limited. There is currently a limited awareness among local governments and communities regarding the impacts of climate change and its uncertain nature; a lack of methodologies and tools to support the decision making and adaptation planning process; a lack of local-level capacity to access and administer climate finance; and weak cross-sectoral coordination in adaptation planning.

UCCR Coordination

The Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-International in Vietnam (ISET) is the coordinator for Vietnam of the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) and the Mekong-Building Climate Resilient Asian Cities (M-BRACE) programs. ISET works with local and national partners under the initiatives to carry out research and implementation efforts. This includes providing technical support and building the capacity of provincial/city partners in Da Nang, Binh Dinh, Can Tho, Lao Cai and Hue to assist them in conducting urban climate vulnerability assessments, developing urban climate resilience plans, and developing and implementing climate adaptation interventions. ISET also supports national and local partners to identify and address policy issues related to urban climate resilience, taking into account the city level lessons from ACCCRN and M-BRACE.

Related initiatives

Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) Program

Duration: 2008–2016        Funding: The Rockefeller Foundation        Cities: Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Can Tho

The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) Program is working across ten cities in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand to understand and support urban areas in building climate resilience. The objective of ACCCRN is to equip poor and vulnerable communities with the right resources, tools and methods for responding to existing and future climate risks.

The goal of the ACCCRN project in Vietnam is to develop collaborative action plans for adaptation to climate change to benefit poor and vulnerable residents in three cities: Da Nang, Can Tho and Quy Nhon.

Mekong-Building Climate Resilience in Asian Cities (M-BRACE)

Duration: 2011– November 2014       Funding: USAID        Cities: Lao Cai, Hue

The Mekong-Building Climate Resilient Cities program (M-BRACE) worked to address the effects of climate change in four medium size cities in Thailand and Vietnam. M-BRACE was a collaborative program managed by ISET-International (in Thailand and Vietnam) in partnership with the TEI (Thailand) and NISTPASS (Vietnam), targeting a diverse range of city-level stakeholders from local government, civil society, and academia.

The two cities in Vietnam, Lao Cai and Hue implemented a number of intervention projects under the program. These projects aimed to strengthen the capacity of city stakeholders to assess changing patterns of vulnerability and put in place institutional processes that would allow city stakeholders to deal with future uncertainties and risks. Across the two cities, the intervention projects were primarily concerned with the effects of water shortages and flooding on the cities.

Vietnam Urban Climate Resilience Community of Practice

Duration: Ongoing       Funding: The Rockefeller Foundation and UCR-CoP members        Cities: All cities in Vietnam

In 2011 the Urban Development Agency – Ministry of Construction (UDA), with support from ISET-International Vietnam, established the Vietnam Urban Climate Resilience Community of Practice (UCR-CoP). The UCR-CoP connects an informal network of over 100 national and international organizations as well as individual experts and practitioners working across the areas of disaster risk reduction, urban development and climate change resilience. The community provides a space for members to share good practices, exchange knowledge and learn together about urban climate change resilience. The core members of the UCR-CoP include UDA, ISET, National Institute for Science and Technological Policy and Strategy Studies under the Ministry of Science and Technology , Association of Cities of Vietnam, Asian Development Bank, Vietnam Institute of Architecture, Urban and Rural Planning – Ministry of Construction , Spatial Decisions, GIZ, World Bank, and UN Habitat.

Further Initiatives and Links