Vietnam has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by eight per cent below normal levels by the year 2030, its contribution to the UN target of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.

The announcement came as world leaders gear up for the 2015 climate conference in Paris at the end of November.

“It’s ambitious, because at present Vietnamese emissions per capita is not so high, so in the near future especially in the period of 2021 to 2030 emissions will increase dramatically in the energy sector,” said Nguyen Khac Hieu, the Deputy Director General of Vietnam’s Natural Resources & Environment Ministry.

Vietnam’s total greenhouse gas emissions is forecast to jump threefold by 2030, as the country’s energy and agriculture sectors ramp up to feed and fuel its growing population.

National efforts will focus on energy, waste, and agriculture, which includes a target to grow forest cover to 45 per cent of total land area.

But to achieve that, Vietnam will need to improve its forest management by giving this natural resource a tangible value, according to Kirsten Hegener from the German Development Cooperation GIZ

“If you don’t use the forest, you might lose the forest. So it’s very important that you can gain something from the forest, that communities can gain, but also those in charge of the management of the forest can gain something from the (maintenance of) forest (cover),” she said.

Like many developing countries, Vietnam faces a tough balancing act of protecting the environment versus developing the country.

“There’s competition between economics and environment, and increasingly it’s being recognised globally by leaders that you can’t talk about one without the other,” said Andrew Spezowka, a specialist in green growth and sustainable development with the United Nations Development Programme.

”To have a functional economy that’s sustainable, that’s delivering well-being to your population, you have to integrate environmental considerations.”

For Vietnam, the impact of climate change has already hit home.

In recent years, Vietnam has seen more intense storms, floods and droughts, killing hundreds every year and hitting its key agricultural products, such as rice and coffee.

Large swathes of its low lying Mekong Delta risk being submerged if sea levels rise. All this, giving Vietnam a clear imperative to join the global climate change efforts.

By Tan Qiuyi - Channel News Asia - October 13, 2015