Promoting Youth Voices in Just Energy Transition and Climate Education in Viet Nam

Written by Nguyen Thi Thai Hoa, UNDP

September 19, 2023

On 18 Sep 2023, ahead the Global Climate Ambition Summit 2023, a youth conversation with climate leaders on Just Energy Transition (JET) and Climate Education in Viet Nam, hosted by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the climate leaders highlighted the crucial role of youth in driving the green transition and the vital importance of climate education for young people.

Opening the event, Ms. Ramla Khalidi, the UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam, emphasized the pivotal role of youth in driving the green transition and the significance of climate education for young people. She commended the efforts of Vietnamese youth in addressing climate change, including initiatives like the Special Report, the establishment of yNet, the Youth4Climate roadmap 2021-2025, and a real-time learning hub run by and for youth. UNDP has been a strong supporter of youth in this area and remains committed to providing tools and technical guidance to empower youth and their networks for active engagement in policy-making and strategic youth initiatives.

She said “UNDP is committed to putting our resources where our mouth is! We are positioning our programme directions to embrace youth priorities and target building youth capacities to drive green development. We are envisioning our programme with a long-term goal to shape the future of work for the young generation. And we have discussed with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) and the Ho Chi Minh Central Youth Union how to frame these interventions in our next programme support, bringing the Youth4Climate Initiative to a new strategic level.”

Mr. Tom Moody, the regional director of South Asia Climate Change and Energy at the UK's Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, discussed UK-ASEAN collaborations on energy policies, focusing on a just transition for workers and communities. He highlighted the importance of cross-national collaboration and regional youth efforts. With the Asia Pacific region having the highest number of people under 24, youth engagement is critical. Mr. Moody expressed optimism about the evolving economics of climate change, highlighting opportunities despite inevitable challenges. He outlined areas where the UK government aims to see the transition: empowering youth voices in energy transition, education, and policymaking.

Mr. Phạm Văn Tấn, Deputy Director General of the Department of Climate Change at MONRE, represented the Vietnamese government. He discussed Viet Nam's progress in meeting climate commitments, including its net-zero by 2050 target announced during COP26. Viet Nam has established a National Committee for COP26 Commitments and incorporated these commitments into its legal framework. Viet Nam also declared its commitment to the Just Energy Transition Partnership on 14/12/2022, which aims to mobilize $15.5 billion to support Viet Nam in achieving its Net Zero 2050 goal. He encouraged youth to contribute to the development of resource mobilization plans and to represent their voices during future discussions on climate actions, COP28, and other climate-related initiatives.

Following these discussions, the Youth Policy Working Group (YPWG) presented their initial findings on two thematic researches on (i) youth in climate change education and (ii) youth in just energy transition processes. 
In terms of climate education, initial feedback from 215 upper-secondary students in Viet Nam highlighted that schools ranked as the third most popular channel for students to access information about climate change, with personal interest being a primary motivator for learning. Most respondents found it easy to participate in contributing to climate change education policies.

YPWG also conducted research on Vietnamese youth's perspectives on the just energy transition with case studies for on-shore wind energy development in Ninh Thuan and household roof-top solar investment in urban areas in Ho Chi Minh City. This research involved a survey to examine youth’s understanding, perspective and hope towards the overall energy transition. The survey explored demographic vulnerabilities, willingness to contribute, and government support for youth contributions. Initial findings from a survey focused on Ho Chi Minh City residents' perspectives on solar power, revealing limitations in access to information, especially among youth. Respondents were largely neutral or in agreement with the compatibility of solar energy with personal, heritage, and landscape values. The last survey targeted Ninh Thuan's citizens regarding wind power, highlighting interest, job opportunities, and communication preferences. Overall, it indicated some strong youth confidence in the energy transition process to date.

Based on the research findings, the YPWG proposed several policy implications, including capacity-building programs, strengthened university-energy sector relationships, improved information access for solar and wind energy, and enhanced communication from local authorities about wind projects.

Ms. Khalidi appreciated the quality of the research reports, emphasizing their focus on equality and equity in the just energy transition. She highlighted the importance of translating these research recommendations into practical actions to engage youth effectively. This led to a roundtable discussion where youth voiced concerns and suggestions to UK and Vietnamese government representatives and UNDP.

The youth raised questions about their contributions to the energy transition in Vietnam and the region, making climate education more engaging. Representatives from the UK and UNDP shared their perspectives, emphasizing the fast-paced shift toward a green economy and the need to integrate economic opportunities into climate education. Mr. Pham added the importance of balancing technical aspects with relatable information and the role of learning hubs in engaging more people in climate actions.

Youth representatives proposed strengthening mentorship, official recognition through a Memorandum of Understanding between MONRE, UNDP, and Ho Chi Minh Youth Union to support youth networks like YPWG, yNet and integrate climate change into school curricula. The energy transition team proposed the development of youth engagement criteria checklists for designing future projects under the JETP Resource Mobilization Plan (RMP) in Viet Nam. All leaders presented embraced these proposals, fostering a collaborative and inclusive approach to addressing climate change.

The conversation has shown how committed and determined both climate leaders and young people were. Young people are leading the way in building a sustainable future, motivating other generations. Their drive and initiative offer hopes for all of us for a better future.