Vietnam has been ranked as one of the best-performing economies in the world, over the past decade. Real GDP grew by an average of 7.3% per year between 1995-2005 and per capita income rose from USD 260 in 1995 to USD 835 in 2007.
The relative contribution of agriculture, forestry, and fishing has declined in recent years due to the rapid growth of the industry and service sectors. However, agriculture still contributes 21% of the GDP and employs over 47% of the country’s labor force.
Rice production has a particularly vital role for the country, in terms of food security, rural employment and foreign exchange. It employs two-thirds of the rural labor force and positions Vietnam as the world’s second-largest rice exporter. The two most important rice-growing areas are the deltas of the Mekong and Red River.
Vietnam’s long coastline, geographic location, and diverse topography and climates contribute to its being one of the most hazard-prone countries of the Asia-Pacific region, with storms and flooding, in particular, responsible for economic and human losses. Given that a high proportion of the country’s population and economic assets (including irrigated agriculture) are located in coastal lowlands and deltas, Vietnam has been ranked among the five countries likely to be most affected by climate change.
In the past 50 years, Vietnam’s mean temperature has increased by 0.5-0.7 °C and the sea level has risen by 20 cm. Climate change has really made natural disasters, especially storms, floods and droughts, increasingly violent. Its Mekong Delta is one of the world’s three most vulnerable deltas (together with the Nile Delta in Egypt and the Ganges Delta in Bangladesh) to sea level rise.
According to some climate change scenarios, in the late 21st century, Vietnam’s yearly mean temperature will go up by 2-3°C, the total yearly and seasonal rainfall will increase while the rainfall in dry seasons will decrease. What's more, the sea level will rise by 75 cm to 1 m compared to the 1980-1999 period. If the sea level rises by 1 m, about 40% of the Mekong Delta area, 11% of the Red River Delta and 3% of coastal provinces will be inundated - with over 20% of Ho Chi Minh City flooded. About 10-12% of Vietnam’s population will be directly impacted and the country will lose around 10% of its GDP. Climate change impacts on Vietnam are serious threats to the realization of millennium development goals and the country’s sustainable development.
Because of climate change, agricultural lands have already shrunk, especially within low-lying coastal lands. Elsewhere, the Red River Delta and the Mekong Delta are experiencing salt water intrusion due to rising sea levels. As a result, growth and productivity of crops as well as cultivation schedules have been affected and it is expected that pestilent insects may increase. The adaptability time of tropical plants expands while that of subtropical plants reduces. Meanwhile, the reproduction and growth of domestic animals, as well as their ability to resist epidemics may be negatively influenced. Additionally, water resources face the danger of degradation as droughts increase, directly affecting agriculture and water supply in rural areas and cities. Changes in rain patterns can also lead to serious floods in the rainy season and droughts in the dry season.
The community’s awareness of climate change is still very limited and one-sided, mainly centering on negative impacts. So far, there is little recognition of the need to match life styles, models of production and consumption with orientations of low-carbon and green growth.