Following the issuance of the 2020 Law on Environment Protection, which takes effect from 01 January 2022, there have been three newly adopted documents regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and protection of the ozone layer. These are aimed at completing Vietnam's regulatory framework in the sector and reaffirm Vietnam's commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in the COP26.

These documents include:

  • Decree No. 06/2022/ND-CP on the mitigation of Green House Gas ('GHG') and protection of Ozone Layer issued by the Government on 07 January 2022 ('Decree No. 06');
  • Decision No. 01/2022/QD-TTg on issuing the List greenhouse gas emitting sectors and establishments subject to greenhouse gas inventory issued by the Prime Minister on 18 January 2022 ('Decision No. 01'); and
  • Circular No. 01/2022/TT-BTNMT on detailing the Law on Environment Protection on responses to climate change.

These legal documents are essential for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of state management on climate change with four (04) administrative procedures for mitigating GHG emissions and protecting the ozone layer: (i) Certification of eligible carbon credit and GHG emission quotas exchanged on domestic carbon market; (ii) Registration of programs and projects according to carbon exchange and offsetting mechanisms; (iii) Registering and reporting use of controlled substances; and (iv) Requirements of allocation, adjustment, and increase of controlled substance manufacture/import quotas. According to Decision No. 01, there are 21 sectors and 1,912 establishments subject to greenhouse gas inventory. This list will be reviewed and updated every two years by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment ('MONRE'), line ministries and local government.

Establishments in the list are allowed to participate in the domestic carbon market by applying for a certificate on carbon credits and greenhouse gas emission quotas for trading on the domestic carbon market. The MONRE is responsible for issuing the certificate within 15 working days from the receipt of requests by establishments.

The idea of carbon credit exchange comes from the Kyoto Protocol which Vietnam ratified in 2002. In particular, the Clean Development Mechanism ('CDM') allows developing countries who have signed onto the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol to pursue projects to reduce GHG emissions and earn certified emission reduction credits, which can then be sold to developed countries with obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol offers other two mechanisms, namely Joint Implementation, which allows developed countries to carry out greenhouse gas reducing projects in developing countries, and Emissions Trading, which allows countries with carbon credits to spare to sell them to countries needing to meet a target.

According to the MONRE's Agency for Meteorology Hydrology and Climate Change ('AMHCC'), as of February 2021, Vietnam's CDM project types include dumping ground gas recovery (7 per cent), methane recovery (27 per cent), afforestation and reforestation (4 per cent), wind power (4 per cent), hydroelectricity (54 per cent), and others (4 per cent). Vietnam ranks 11th and 8th in the world in terms of registered CDM projects and certified emission reduction respectively.

Decree No. 06 aims at establishment of a domestic carbon trade exchange ('CTX') with the roadmap to 2028. The CTX will create an official exchange for recognition and trading of carbon credit, which is popular in developed countries. The Ministry of Industry and Trade is in charge of establishing and developing the CTX and adopting financial management regime of the system. Meanwhile, the MONRE shall chair and coordinate with relevant ministries to operate the CTX on a trial basis from 2025 and officially bring it into operation from 2028 together with connection to other markets. The CTX shall focus on the trading or offset activities of carbon credit generated from projects/programs under domestic law and international treaty. The CTX may provide with GHG emission quota allocated for manufacturer.

Energy is by far the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Vietnam, accounting for about 65 percent of total carbon emissions, particularly carbon dioxide. Vietnam is committed to gradually shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind power. This commitment is reflected in the latest draft Power Development Plan VIII ('PDP 8') developed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade regarding the national electricity development plan for the 2021-2030 period, with a vision to 2050. The not-yet-adopted plan aims to drastically reduce coal power, sharply increase onshore and offshore wind power; not to continue solar power development, and develop LNG to replace polluted coal power and hydroelectric power sources.

We examine Vietnam's commitments with regard to energy development under the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership ('CPTPP') and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement ('EVFTA') as below.

EVFTA

Under Chapter 7 on Non-tariff barriers to trade and investment in renewable energy generation, Vietnam commits to promoting, developing and increasing the generation of energy from renewable and sustainable sources, particularly through facilitating trade and investment. Specific commitments include:

  • refrain from adopting measures providing for local content requirements or any other offset affecting the other Party's products, service suppliers, investors or enterprises;
  • refrain from adopting measures requiring to form a partnership with local companies, unless those partnerships are deemed necessary for technical reasons and that Vietnam can demonstrate those reasons upon request of the other Party;
  • ensure that any measures concerning the authorization, certification and licensing procedures that are applied, in particular, to equipment, plants and associated transmission network infrastructures, are objective, transparent, non-arbitrary and do not discriminate among applicants from the Parties;
  • ensure that administrative fees and charges are transparent and non-discriminating.

Vietnam has not made any commitments in the EVFTA on:

  • production, transmission and distribution of electricity on private-owned line;
  • production of gas and transmission of gas through a private-owned tube; and
  • production of hot water and steam, distribution of hot water and steam through private-owned line.

For all service and non-service lines related to energy, at least 20% of managers, executives and specialists must be Vietnamese citizens, unless those positions cannot be replaced by Vietnamese citizens. However, a minimum of three non-Vietnamese managers, executives and experts are allowed per business.

CPTPP

Under the CPTPP, Vietnam commits its transition to a low emissions and resilient economy. Vietnam shall cooperate with other CPTPPP countries to address energy efficiency, development of cost-effective, low emissions technologies and alternative, clean and renewable energy sources; sustainable transport and sustainable urban infrastructure development; addressing deforestation and forest degradation; emissions monitoring; market and nonmarket mechanisms; low emissions, resilient development and sharing of information and experiences.

Regarding power development, foreign investment to own or operate power transmission facilities in Vietnam may not be permitted. Vietnam Electricity Corporation ('EVN') is currently the sole authorized owner and operator of power transmission facilities in Vietnam.

In addition, Vietnam reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with respect to investment in hydroelectricity and nuclear power.

Regarding Services incidental to energy distribution (CPC 887), Vietnam does not allow foreign services suppliers to supply such services cross-border and Vietnam also does not allow foreign investment in this sector.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.