Assessment of national and industrial park-level economic growth, resource metabolism, and sustainability transition in Vietnam by industrial ecology approaches

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Material and energy are the essential components of industrialization and economic revolution. These momentous factors will define the success of an industrial ecology system in any region. The study of the flows of materials and energy in industrial and consumption activities, along with the social and environmental factors can be utilized to initiate changes in the economies as stated in industrial ecology. The primary goal of industrial ecology is to promote sustainable development at the local, regional, national, and global levels which is necessary for each economy. Industrial ecology and sustainable development are a dynamic system-based framework that enables management of human activitiy on a sustainable basis by: (1) minimizing energy and materials usage; (2) ensuring acceptable quality of life for people; (3) minimizing the ecological impact of human activity to levels in which the natural system can sustain; (4) maintaining the economic viability of systems for industry. However, there is an ambiguity and an absence of studies related to these fields, leading to a lack of awareness about energy and material flow, and sustainable development in systematic perspectives. Mainly, developing countries have rarely studied and understood this fundamental field that is the core of sustainability. Hence, this study aims to develop and apply industrial ecology tools, and systematic approaches to promote ambitious green growth targets in developing countries such as Vietnam.
In chapter 1, the concept and definition of industrial ecology, circular economy, an overview of Vietnam’s condition, then research question, and objectives were described. Industrial ecology and sustainable development pursue an equilibrium among the triple line variables: social equity, economic efficiency, environmental responsibility through circular economy which can be broadly defined as a system solution framework that tackles global challenges and biodiversity loss together, while addressing important social needs. Furthermore, they aim to inform decision-making parties about the impacts of industrial activities and affluence on the environment by tracking and investigating physical resources and energy flows through innovative environmental assessment tools. Vietnam exhibits patterns of resource consumption similar to a typical fast-growing economy with an increase in the use of primary resources (metals and non-metallic minerals). It is a dilemma that is faced by many emerging economies which is struggling to balance between economic growth and sustainable resource consumption. Therefore, an investigation from a transitional perspective and an identification of key drivers is crucial. Thus, a necessity to research in these fields focused on Vietnam and its neighboring countries has emerged. In order to address this need, this research developed an industrial ecology approach including economic growth, resource metabolism and sustainability with an emphasis on how to harmoniously integrate industrial activity into ecological systems to assess sustainability transition in Vietnam.
In chapter 2, the picture of resource metabolism in Vietnam was drawn under the economy-wide material flow accounting approach from 1978 to 2017. Besides, several typical economies that represent different levels of development (fast developing country: China; primary developed country: South Korea) were also explored with the intention of to compare with Vietnam’s case. Trends in resource efficiency, bilateral trade dynamics, and progress regional economic and environmental policy are analyzed in order to improve the condition of Vietnam and streamline its path to sustainability. South Korea and Japan which is in their post-industrial economy phase has already attained its environmental efficiency whereas Vietnam is yet to reach its peak. However, Vietnam’s issue has been continued a stable climb with the slight acceleration of technological advancements. Malmquist data envelopment analysis denotes that all the indicators in this test in Vietnam have improved and are closer with comparative countries. However, Vietnam is still material-intensive and has low material productivity. Therefore, Vietnam is highly recommended to strengthen technology innovation and efficiency enhancement with closely coordinated policies on sustainable resource consumption, carbon reduction, economic growth for sustainable development goal 2030.
The chapter 3 aims to analyze the key factors contributing to carbon emissions between 1990 and 2016 using the expanded IPAT/Kaya framework and logarithmic index (LMDI) method. The carbon emissions impacts were decomposed to population affluence, energy intensity, fuel mix, and emission intensity factor. As per the results, CO2 emissions during 1990-2016 were mainly driven by the affluence of higher income levels (58.5%) and changing fuel mix (33.2%) that have resulted from enhanced living standards and growing fossil fuel consumption. However, the population (13.8%) and emission intensity (3.1%) exhibit a relatively lower impact on CO2 emissions. Interestingly, the energy intensity factor has prevented emissions from rising to a certain extent with (-8.7%) – indicating the ratio between domestic energy consumption and GDP. Based on the analysis of energy policy development, the share of renewable energy consumption was still relatively low in the national energy mix (higher reliance observed on non-renewable fossil fuel resources). Therefore, to make a transition towards low-carbon economic growth, significant improvements in energy efficiency and emission intensity are necessary, together with national energy mix restructuring for low-carbon economic growth. Through insight, the policy and country's context indicate that the equitization of the energy sector and technological innovation along with promoting investment in renewable energy is an essential element for sustainable development.
The eco-efficiency transition in Vietnam is being analyzed in chapter 4 under Malmquist data envelopment analysis. The results reveal that eco-efficiency performance has had some improvement starting from the 2000s. The eco-efficiency trend has shown a variety of trends, such as weak, expansive, and strong decoupling. However, this change is not remarkable. Malmquist productivity index has only grown slightly (only 0.6% during 1990-2016), while multi-country eco-efficiency has exhibited better performances for most Malmquist indexes. At the same time, pure efficiency change and efficiency change indicators in Vietnam slightly reduced, while technical efficiency changes and scale efficiency indexes have increased. It means that the eco-efficiency transition in Vietnam has not yet achieved an optimal result; even these results forecast the unstable change.
Chapter 5 aims to examine the EIPs performance from the viewpoint of the integrative mathematical model, such as the full permutation polygon synthetic indicator analysis (FPPSI) to normalize the values of the performance indices in an industrial park (enterprise and park level). In detail, the FPPSI analysis for enterprise-level showed that most of the food, beverage, and paper companies dominate with outstanding performance under moderate to excellent ratings. At the park level, Ninh Binh and Can Tho stand out with many remarkable successes (5 out of 13 indicators reaching the optimal value "1"). Specifically, these EIPs saved 51% of fuel LGP, 67.1% of coal, 78.16% of wastewater reduction in Ninh Binh compared to the total value for each indicator; while saved 77% of fresh water, more than 66.8% of electricity saving, 77% of COD reduction, and 56% of cost-saving at Can Tho pilot project. In addition, many potential and reasonable opportunities have been revealed and practiced during the first step. Energy recovery, green energy, reusable waste (metals, paper, and woods), utilizing heat-steam, and wastewater treatment in the whole EIP pilots have been centralized and emerged in EIP symbiosis networks. However, as a recommendation, this country needs to promote the participation of companies in the heavy industry sector. On the other hand, maintaining and expanding current successful symbiosis networks, parallelly, all stakeholders and the Vietnamese government should create new innovative symbiosis networks to deal with hazardous wastes and acquire knowledge for all industrial zones in the nation.
Based on the results, the dissertation can contribute to environment engineering/management and industrial ecology in several ways. Firstly, by developing industrial ecology approaches to analyse sustainability transition in Vietnam, the thesis provides important insights into the process of materialization and carbonization in developing nations, thus extending the application of industrial ecology to previously under-studied regions. Secondly, the thesis identifies “regional ecosystems” based on industrial ecology thinking and documentation systems. Also, material flow accounting results were extended further into environmental policy, regional trade dynamics, and economic development. Thirdly, the thesis develops an ecological efficiency assessment process that could be used as a reliable assessment of ecological industrial development and sustainability transformation of industrial ecosystems. Fourth, with the help of some empirical industrial symbiosis, the thesis presents the application of waste valuation in industrial ecosystems. On this basis, critical technical, environmental, and policy understanding of the considerations in urban-industrial symbiosis can be developed.
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