Representatives from parliaments of around 20 IPU-member nations and international organisations are attending the regional seminar on sustainable development goals for parliaments around the Asia-Pacific region.
The commitments, reflected in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, will be specified by nationally determined contributions from each country.
Organised by the Vietnamese National Assembly and the IPU, the three-day event will discuss topics related to the conference theme “Responding to Climate Change - Actions of Legislators to Achieve SDGs”.
The conference aims to identify which practical steps parliaments can take to support the implementation of SDGs in their respective countries and in the region as a whole.
Special emphasis is placed on sharing experience and increasing understanding about how parliaments in the Asia-Pacific region can institutionalise global goals, promote convergence, and build coherence at the policy level.
Speaking at the opening session, Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân, chairwoman of the National Assembly, called on stronger cooperation and responsibility among parliaments to take immediate action to save the planet in the context of climate change.
Ngân said the seminar was a step towards applying agreements reached at the 132nd Assembly of the IPU held in Hà Nội in 2015 and turning commitments made by legislators into action, contributing to realising the SDGs.
“Being aware of the importance of climate-change response in achieving SDGs, the NA of Việt Nam has agreed with the IPU on topics to be discussed during the seminar,” Ngân said.
The topics include promoting gender equality and health in the context of climate change, challenges and opportunities and response actions of countries, international commitments and requirements for national legislators, and mobilising resources for SDG implementation in the region, according to Ngân.
The conference reflects Việt Nam’s commitment to the IPU, especially with the Vietnamese NA having been elected as a member of the IPU Executive Committee for the 2016-2019 term.
It is expected to help raise the position of the Vietnamese parliament in the region and world while improving awareness of agencies, localities and public about climate change and its impacts.
Việt Nam is one of the countries most at risk from climate change, with the Mekong Delta one of three deltas worldwide vulnerable to rising sea levels, Ngân said.
According to climate-change scenarios, by the end of the 21st century, about 40 per cent of the Mekong Delta, 11 per cent of the Red River Delta, and 3 per cent of other coastal provinces would be under seawater, she said.
HCM City, the southern economic hub, is forecast to lose more than 20 per cent of its area to the sea, she said.
About 10-12 per cent of the country’s population will suffer direct impact from climate change and about 10 per cent of national GDP will be lost, she added.
Saber Chowdhury, IPU president, emphasised the importance of determining SDGs and carrying them out effectively, especially within the Asia Pacific region.
He said in the last 45 years, 88 per cent of people affected by disasters were in the Asia Pacific region, equal to two million life losses and one trillion US dollars.
“The main goals of the seminar include exchanging what has been practiced, embracing mutual understanding, and seeing how we can move forward,” he said.
Nguyễn Thuỳ Anh, chairwoman of the NA’s Social Affairs Committee, said it was vital to ensure strong understanding and consensus among NA members regarding the intersection between climate change, gender inequality and health.
While the percentage of people living in extremely poor conditions has significantly dropped within the past 30 years, the Asia-Pacific region still accounts for more than 15 per cent (out of 1.5 billion people) of its population living in extreme poverty conditions, according to the UN in Việt Nam.
Similarly in Việt Nam, rapid economic growth has significantly improved living standards and reduced extreme poverty in the entire Asia-Pacific region, but has also been accompanied by rising inequalities, it said.
Large gender disparities exist for women in accessing primary and secondary education, while South Asia has the highest rate of under-5 mortality globally.
In addition, climate change poses a huge threat to the region, given its impact on economic development, employment, food security, and livelihoods, the UN said.
By 2035, South Asia will have emitted more than 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), which equals almost 50 per cent of the world’s share.
The scale and speed of urbanisation in Asia-Pacific is unprecedented, adding more than a billion people to its cities, more than any other region in the world combined.
While such dynamic and fast growth is accompanied with the creation of jobs and the increasing efficiency of economies and productivity, it will also create many challenges in ensuring that the benefits of urbanisation are equally shared by all, and the process is following a sustainable and green path, according to the UN in Việt Nam.
Sustainable development goals
In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted a set of SDGs, which would inform development agendas and policies over the next 15 years.
Realising that SDGs would pave the way for sustainable societies in which no one is left behind, the IPU member parliaments committed to doing what was necessary to carry forward this vision of transformation.
Parliaments have pledged to translate the SDGs into enforceable domestic law, hold government accountable, and align budgets with national sustainable development plans.
Within the Asia-Pacific context, one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions, climate change represents one of the largest threats to sustainable development.
Its widespread and intense impact especially affects the poorest and the most vulnerable, especially women.
It is crucial to promptly address these interlinked challenges in order to pave the way for sustainable development of the region.
Parliaments have a leading role to play in this respect. Through their legislative, oversight, budgetary and representative functions, they can initiate and guarantee the implementation of national and regional sustainable development plans.
The mobilisation of resources by parliaments domestically as well as with development partners can advance the success of national and regional SDG strategies.
Climate change has already affected Việt Nam as it hinders the country’s efforts to reduce poverty, reach millennium development goals (MDGs), and achieve sustainable development.
Against this backdrop, Vietnamese agencies and localities have taken initiatives to tackle climate change.
The country has joined the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.
Việt Nam, together with 175 countries, signed the Paris Agreement in New York on April 22, 2016 and approved the document at the end of October.
In addition, Việt Nam has carried out various activities, including an action plan to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Today, the delegates will travel to Cần Giờ District to visit the Dần Xây resettlement area, which is affected by rising sea levels, and then visit the mangrove forest in the district.
Receiving IPU President, Secretary General
On the same day, National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân held during separate receptions to IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Secretary General Martin Chungong.
The host emphasised that the Vietnamese NA has set joining IPU’s activities as the top important task in its multilateral parliamentary diplomatic activities that enable it to improve its operation towards protecting the country’s interests and reflecting stances on issues of global concern.
Việt Nam wishes to receive further support from the international community in the fulfillment of sustainable development goals (SDGs), she said.
Chowdhury underscored the role of the IPU member states, including the Vietnamese NA in continuing to realise the Hà Nội Declaration entitled “The Sustainable Development Goals: Turning Words into Action”.
Meanwhile, Chungong wished that each member IPU state, including Việt Nam will concretise each action.
On the same day, NA Chairwoman Ngân also met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines Panteleon D. Alvarez and President of the Parliament of Timor-Leste Aderito Hugo Da Costa.