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Making the most of Vietnam JETP

By Luong Phuong Mai (*)

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Since COP26, everyone has started to talk about JETP, making the acronym popular in news articles and social media. It stands for Just Energy Transition Partnership – a financing cooperation mechanism designed to help a selection of heavily coal-dependent emerging economies make a just energy transition.

The aims of such multilateral financial agreements are to support the phase out of fossil fuels in a tailor-made and country-driven pathway that addresses the social consequences involved, such as training and reskilling affected workers and new economic opportunities for affected communities.

The first JETP – South Africa JETP – was announced at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow (COP26) two years ago. Since then, a few additional countries have taken part in these mechanisms, with Vietnam becoming the third country to adopt a JETP with the International Partners Group (IPG) including the EU, the UK, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, Norway and Denmark.

The opportunities and challenges

Under the terms of Vietnam JETP, IPG commits an initial US$7.75 billion public capital over a three-to-five-year period to support Vietnam achieve a number of energy transition targets. In support of these efforts, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) established a Working Group, which HSBC is a member, to help mobilise and facilitate a matching US$7.75 billion of private capital. In short, Vietnam JETP involves the mobilisation of US$15.5 billion of public and private financing to achieve the net zero ambition. Following Vietnam’s bold commitment at CO26 where PM Pham Minh Chinh has put forward the ask that the country requires external support to achieve net zero transition, Vietnam JETP will be absolutely helpful for Vietnam to drive its climate agenda.

We see huge potential for shifting in energy and transportation, the top two emitting sectors in Vietnam, in implementing Vietnam JETP. Leapfrogging from coal straight to wind and solar would enable the country to make use of its own natural resources to provide its people with an economically secured source of energy given its considerable wind and solar potential. Vietnam has exceptional natural endowments – wind speed and photovoltaic power potential – to generate renewable energy among Southeast Asian peers. However, key barriers to financing to flow into the energy transition is the bankability of the PPA, and to transportation transition is the pace of the transition, which in turn is a result of the absence of any regulatory-push and limited availability of charging infrastructure.

Unlocking the possibilities

Vietnam JETP bears the potential to represent a turning point in the climate finance agenda. One of the three goals at its core is to mobilise private sector capital to finance decarbonisation efforts. Bankability and recovery in case of distress would be the first main aspects to present to lenders if businesses are to explore sustainable finance opportunities. They should be prudent with their business case, better build in buffer in their sensitivity analysis, for instance, curtailment, operational and maintenance cost, hike in interest rate, volatility in FX and so on. Second, lenders like HSBC will pay much attention to greenwashing risk. Indeed, mitigating this risk is wired into our strategy. When providing green or sustainability-linked facilities, it’s important for us to “green proof” the investment or the use of proceeds by proper certification, monitoring and audit. We typically demand such certification/audit to come from a qualified third-party organisation to obtain independent assessments, meeting international standards and maintaining a consistency across markets. Moreover, our green loans must comply with the Green Loan Principles issued by the Loan Market Association and our green bonds must comply with the International Capital Market Association’s Green Bond Principles.

A key benefit for Vietnam in a JETP is to attract greener FDI and to become champion in clean energy. The Vietnamese Government has been focusing on high quality FDI and green FDI is one of which. Like-minded partners attract each other, and therefore to attract investors who are serious about green development, the country needs to profile itself accordingly, from green policy, infrastructure to supply chain ecosystem. And JETP, backed by G7 governments, is a very strong platform to make such aspiration of the country known to international communities. As a bank supporting inbound FDI flows, we saw this with our own eyes. Right after Vietnam announced its net zero commitment at COP26, LEGO announced its plan to build the first carbon neutral factory in Binh Duong Province, marking its second investment in Asia. HSBC is proud to support such flows and we believe that any member of JETP and GFANZ would be a champion echoing the “Vietnam green effects” to the international investor communities via our own network.

Finally, experts are looking into a possibility of applying the JETP model to other sectors beyond energy if Vietnam and other countries can prove JETP a successful approach for delivering climate finance. It, of course, will take time to see the results but it’s an opportunity not to be wasted to make a leap forward for realising decarbonisation goals.

(*) Luong Phuong Mai, Senior VP, Team Lead, Large Corporates South and Commercial Real Estate, Wholesale Banking, HSBC Vietnam

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