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Scientific basic of incorporating climate change risk assessment into environmental impact assessment process


Private Investment for Enhanced Resilience (PIER) Project


Deliverable 1 of 1.1 "Scientific Basic of Incorporating Climate Change Risk Assessment into EIA Process" of Project "Private Investment for Enhanced Resilience (PIER)" consists of 5 chapters with 104 pages compiled based on many latest international and local documents and the author's knowledge addresses the main issues of incorporating climate change risk assessment into environmental impact assessment (EIA): the causes of climate change risks, environmental and social impacts of climate change in the world and in Vietnam, the need, concepts, good practice principles and contents for integrating climate change risk assessment into EIA process; procedures and methods proposed to integrate climate change risk assessment into the EIA process in accordance with Vietnamese legal guidelines and list of project types that need to conduct climate change risk assessment in EIA. A summary of the report is outlined below.
Chapter of Introduction highlighted the reasons why it is necessary to integrate climate change risk assessment into the EIA process.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007): “…Climate change is one of the main challenges for the sustainability of the global ecosystem and the prosperity of society in the twenty-first century. The impacts of climate variability in accordance with conventional rules combined with climate change are mainly negative and often degrade ecosystems and reduce biodiversity; increasing pollution of the air, water and soil;  increase the extremity of rain, sun, waterlogging, drought; rising sea levels...”.
Numerous studies have indicated that Vietnam is one of the countries that are and will be seriously affected by the impacts of climate change: inundation, land loss, saline water intrusion; degradation of water, soil and environmental quality; biodiversity loss and resource depletion, adversely affecting socio-economic development.
Risks caused by the impacts of global climate change adversely affect the national socio-economy, in general, and the development investment projects, in particular. In contrast, the implementation of projects also contributes to the global climate through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other activities.
Therefore, it is essential to integrate climate change risk assessment into the EIA of the project. This integration not only does not violate EIA legal regulations but also increases the effectiveness of EIA.
However, in reality in Vietnam: impacts and risks of climate change are often mentioned in strategies, policies and programs and in SEA to cope with climate change at national, local or sectoral levels, but not clearly defined in EIA procedures, yet.
Therefore, it is necessary to study the scientific basis and process to integrate climate change risk assessment into EIA process.
Chapter One outlined what are the causes and impacts of climate change risks.
In addition to natural causes, climate change is mainly due to the greenhouse effect causing global warming, created by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities. The IPCC's assessment shows that the consumption of fossil fuels in energy production, industry, transportation, construction, and agriculture contributes great percentage of global GHG emission. Global GHG emission is 25% from use of electricity and heat, 20.4% from agriculture and land; 17.9% from industry, 14% from transport, 9.6% from other energy, 6.7% from food waste….
Currently, Vietnam is a country with a low global emissions, particularly in 2013, emissions of only 259 million tons of GHG accounted for only 0.72% of global emissions. However, Vietnam’ GHG emission is increasing faster than in many countries. The largest GHG emissions sources are industry, transport, energy and agriculture.
According to the IPCC's recommendation, when the sea level rises by 100 cm, Vietnam's lost land area will reach 40,000 km2, accounting for 12.1% of the total available land area, resulting in 17.1 million people, accounting for 23.1% of the population at the time of reporting, will lose their residential land. The impacts of climate change also increase the risks caused by floods, storms, inundation and drought, not only causing damage to infrastructure, economic activities and people's life, but also directly affecting the safety and operation of the projects. The poor and ethnic minorities are the most vulnerable groups due to climate change.
This chapter also summarized climate change impacts on each of Vietnam economic sectors: transportation, agriculture, industry and social issues: population migration, conflict in resource use, health and safety...
From Vietnamese and international experience, Chapter Two indicated that the integration of climate change risk assessment brings various benefits for the project and Governmental management agencies:
-  Forecast of adverse impacts of climate change on the project;
-  Forecast of the project's impact on climate change
- Creation of scientific basis for the formulation of strategies, plans and measures to prevent and cope with adverse impacts caused by climate change;
- Creation of basis for setting up project's environmental management programs, including climate change adaptation program.
- Creation of credibility with the project owners due to their interest in responding to climate change.
This chapter also highlighted the contents of climate change risk assessment that need to be clarified:
- Description of human population, ecological and social resources;
- Identify sources of risk due to climate change (rain, flood, storm, temperature rise, saltwater intrusion, drought or sea level rise ...); potential exposure of project works to them; possibility of integrated impacts, associated impacts of climate change risks;
-  Determining uncertainty in assessing risks caused by climate change;
-  Stating strategies/plans/options for managing and coping with risks caused by climate change;
- Communicating information about the risks that climate change may cause to the project, its people and the ecological resources of the project area, and the potential impact of the project on climate change to the authorities and the stakeholders.
Integrating climate change risk assessment into the EIA process is a good idea, bringing great benefits to the project owner, providing important information to project appraisal authorities. However, the integration is not easy in terms of expertise and requires large resources of manpower, time and funding because of overcoming challenges of lacking specific legal provisions; the impacts of climate change occur in long process on large scale and it is cumulative. It is difficult to forecast with certainty and Vietnam so far has no procedures and technical guidelines for integrating climate change risk assessment into the EIA process.
Chapter Three proposed 4 concepts and 11 best practice principles for integrating climate change risk assessment into EIA. The main concepts are:
-  Integrating climate change risk assessment into the EIA process is an objective requirement to ensure sustainable national, local, sector and project development;
-  Integrating climate change risk assessment into the EIA process helps project owners to prevent and respond to impacts caused by abnormal weather phenomena, ensuring that the project chooses suitable locations, technologies and materials to adapt with climate change to protect ecosystems and people;
- All projects with high GHG emissions potential or sensitive to climate change impacts should conduct integrating climate change risk assessment into EIA process;
- In order not to complicate EIA legal regulations and to increase the inconvenience for project owners: there is no need to prepare a separate report on climate change risk assessment but only need to perform climate change risk assessment in each step of the existing procedure and the structure of EIA reports.
So far, in the world, some procedures for integrating risk assessment into EIAs have been issued by some countries and organizations. This chapter outlined the stages of the procedures to integrate climate change risk assessment into the EIA process based on guidelines and best practices proposed by some organizations.
Chapter Four proposed an initial procedure of integrating climate change risk assessment into EIA for Vietnam based on the existing legal regulations and professional capacity in the country.
According to the proposal: do not change the existing EIA guideline (or it will adjusted after the issue of the amended Law on Environmental Protection), but it should integrate climate change risk assessment into each step of this EIA Procedure.
Content of EIA report will include 11 steps (Step 1: Screening; Step 2: Scoping; Step 3: Step 3: Baseline study; Step 4: Environment and social impact assessment; Step 5: Alternative analysis; Step 6: Proposal of mitigation measures; Step 7: Preparation of environmental management plan; Step 8: Preparing EIA report; 9: Public consultation; Step 10: Information disclosure; Step 11: Post –EIA monitoring). In each step, how to integrate climate change risk assessment is guided.
This chapter also introduced some international and national references which indicate the specific issues to be assed in climate change risk assessment (vulnerability, sensibility, adaptability), procedures of climate change risk assessment; semi-quantitative and quantitative methods for climate change risk assessment; methods for assessing vulnerability of climate change to the project and methods of calculating GHG emissions.
Chapter Five indicated some key impacts of project types on climate change and their risks. From there, the list of project types proposed for assessment of climate change risks in EIA procedure was proposed.
This is a suggestion for MONRE for reference and review in detail when the Ministry will develop a technical guideline on climate change risk assessment during EIA.
Ho Chi Minh City, February 25th, 2020
Corovid-19 Season
Prepared and summarized by Le Trinh, Assoc. Prof., Dr.,  for the Private Investment for Enhanced Resilience (PIER) Project.

Author: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Trinh

Source: VESDEC

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