Norway to be with Vietnam in realization of 'green ambition': NORAD Director General's interview

WVR - 'I am very impressed with Vietnam’s development goals and Norway stands ready to be with Vietnam in the path towards those goals', Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) Bård Vegar Solhjell emphasized with the World and Vietnam Report on the occassion of his recent two-day visit to Vietnam.
Norway to be with Vietnam in the realization of the 'green ambition': Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
Norway to be with Vietnam in realization of 'green ambition': Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) Bård Vegar Solhjell shared with the WVR. (Photo: Tuan Viet)

Could you please share your purpose and focuses of this visit to Vietnam?

My visit to Vietnam this time is aimed at strengthening the close and good relationship between Norway and Vietnam. We have been cooperating in a number of key areas including the followings.

First is waste management and development of a circular economy. On the first day of my trip here, I visited the site of a Norwegian-funded project on plastic waste management and use of plastic waste as input fuels for the cement kins instead of coal.

This is a meaningful project to Vietnam because it can address two goals at the same time including development of a less-emission and less costly cement industry, and better waste management by turning them into resources and preventing them from landfills or incineration.

Forestry is another area of ​​cooperation between Norway and Vietnam, because Vietnam has a wide area of tropical forests. Currently, Norway as part of LEAF Coalition is considering the possibility of buying forestry carbon credits from Vietnam. This will enable Vietnam to implement its Nationally Determined Commitment (NDC) while still supporting Vietnam's green transition efforts.

Mine action is another area of close cooperation between Norway and Vietnam. Norway, through Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), has been supporting Vietnam in its mine action efforts for many years. Vietnam is still heavily affected by landmines and explosive remnants left by the war. Humanitarian assistance is one of Norway's priorities. Norway is proud of our contribution to Vietnam’s efforts in this area particularly thanks to the excellent technical work that NPA has been doing on this field.

Green transition is also important to both Vietnam and Norway as we are partners in the Just Energy Transition Partnership or JETP. Green shift is crucial to all the countries in the world including Norway and Vietnam. This is a key area of our bilateral cooperation because Vietnam have an enormous potential, specifically for offshore wind, solar energy, circular economy, and others.

Norway to be with Vietnam in the realization of the 'green ambition': Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
Mr Bård Vegar Solhjell and Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Hilde Solbakken (second from left) conduct a field survey in a Vietnamese legal logging company. (Photo: KT)

Norway has been one of the big donor countries to Vietnam since the early days of establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries. How could you say about the impact of Norway-funded activities in Vietnam?

The most significant and noticeable impact of the Norwegian fundings in Vietnam through NORAD lies in the mine action sector.

Circular economy is also an area that needs highlighted. Currently, Norway is funding a considerable number of activities of various United Nations (UN) bodies in Vietnam such as UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA. These bodies are close partners of the Government of Vietnam and are all using Norwegian funding (through NORAD) to support Vietnam in the implementation of its priorities.

Vietnam has developed quickly from a poor country in the past into a country with significant socio-economic achievements. Looking forward, I think our bilateral cooperation in the fields of green transition, maritime, renewable energy, circular economy, etc, would be very potential and very promising.

How do you see the role of NORAD in the cooperation between Vietnam and Norway in the coming time and what are the key areas?

NORAD works very closely with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Embassy in Hanoi in relation to our projects in Vietnam. We are close partners.

In the coming time, I think energy transition will be the most major area of our ​​cooperation. Developing offshore wind industry is a crucial goal for Vietnam in the future. Meanwhile, Norway, an ocean nation, is also developing our offshore wind industry. Norway has many large and very competent companies in this field.

It is impossible not to mention circular economy. While plastic pollution is a big problem in Vietnam and in other countries, it is crucial for us to cooperate to improve waste management efficiency, increase the recycling rate, and implement technological solutions to enable the circular economy. This will open new cooperation opportunities for the two countries and our businesses.

Seafood and marine tourism are also important for our future generations. Therefore, it is important that we end plastic pollution for aquaculture and tourism to grow. Norway has the capacity and experience in addressing these issues. Together with TOMRA - a world leading provider of sensor-based technologies for container collection and sorting, Norway has been supporting Vietnam in the implementation of various plastic waste management initiatives, including using non recyclable plastic wastes as raw materials for the cement industry as mentioned above.

I would want to highlight that forestry sector plays an essential role in the green transition process. I hope in the future Vietnam can sell forest carbon credits, thereby fulfilling its international commitments on climate change. If we success, this will further strengthen the partnership between Norway and Vietnam.

Norway to be with Vietnam in the realization of the 'green ambition': Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
Mr Bård Vegar Solhjell and Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Hilde Solbakken visited the Quang Ninh cement factory, where plastic waste is collected and prepared to be processed as production input materials of cement. (Photo: KT)

What are your assessments of Vietnam's determination to keep pace with new development trends such as digital economy, green economy towards the sustainable development goals?

I am impressed by the ambitious goals of the Government of Vietnam, including being net zero by 2050, and becoming a higher middle-income country by 2045.

If Vietnam wants to succeed in reaching these goals, like Norway and other countries, we should make significant changes including shifting to greener and renewable energy, more sustainable use of land, protection of forests, and building a circular economy. Such changes will be big.

Vietnam's transformation process will be similar to what other European and Asian countries must go through. Norway and other countries will support Vietnam’s in this process even by sponsoring part of it.

Vietnam needs to show a strong political determination, which should start from the Government's enabling decisions, including those to engage the private sector and foreign investors. Overall, Norway is willing to be with Vietnam in the realisation of your ambitious goals.

What success stories in the Norway-Vietnam cooperation that you would like to highlight?

I want to share two stories. The first one concerns what happened in the past but continues now. That is mine action sector. Although the war is over, its consequences, specifically unexploded ordnance remain which has become a painful problem and caused many casualties in Vietnam each year. Through NPA, Norway has been assisting Vietnam’s mine action efforts for many years. This is a key area of assistance for the Norwegian Government and our funding.

The second story concerns the future. I hope Norway-Vietnam cooperation in the renewable energy sector including offshore wind will be a new and remarkable success story in our bilateral cooperation. We share interest in this area and have had several cooperation activities ongoing.

I also have a big hope that the project at the Quang Ninh cement company, which I visited on the first day and which is piloting the co-processing method by using non-recyclable plastic waste as input materials instead of coal for its cement kilns, will be another success story. The co-processing method has been effectively used in Norway and is extremely important to Vietnam because you are a large cement producer. This method would help your cement plants cut costs by reducing coal consumption, reduce gas emissions, and contribute to better management of wastes.

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