UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Vietnam's renewables surge : securing future political legitimacy through eco-developmentalism. Lee, Chaewon


Solar electricity generation in Vietnam has doubled yearly between 2018 and 2022, starting from 0.05% and growing to 10% of the nation's total electricity supply. Within the same period, Vietnam emerged as Southeast Asia's number one renewables market by accelerating its manufacturing and exports of solar panels. Given this "green tech boom," this thesis explores the drivers behind its "renewables leapfrogging," where Vietnam has rapidly scaled up its reliance on cleaner and greener energy sources in an extraordinarily short time. Moreover, the thesis examines why Vietnam, a lower middle-income nation, has actively invested in green technologies and challenged the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) theory predicting that nations will pursue sustainable policies only once a high level of wealth has been met. While scholars have attributed the renewables surge to the nation's growing socioeconomic needs, an examination of local environmental issues, rising public discontent, and existential impacts of climate change illustrate how Vietnam's "green shift" reflects the Communist Party of Vietnam's (CPV) growing concerns over its future domestic political legitimacy. Until most recently, the regime's legitimacy has been attained and even strengthened through the exchange of liberal rights for the continued provision of socioeconomic benefits with the promise of fostering a higher standard of living for the people. However, worsening environmental concerns, further exacerbated by the nation's vulnerability to climate change, have begun to challenge this. The widespread issue of pollution has undermined citizens' health and, in some cases, prevented their access to their source of income. At the same time, heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels has escalated Vietnam's energy vulnerabilities and disrupted economic development. With much of the regime's authority dependent on its ability to continue positive economic performance amid worsening climate change, it has shifted its legitimation strategy to adopt "eco-developmentalism" as a somewhat desperate attempt to secure future political legitimacy by addressing long-term environmental and economic challenges. Therefore, under the eco-developmental framework, sustainable practices have been carefully formulated into the nation's economic strategies, prioritizing the renewables sector and other green policies that balance environmental protection alongside economic prosperity.

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