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New arenas of engagement at the water governance-climate finance nexus? An analysis of the boom and bust of hydropower CDM projects in Vietnam

Mattijs Smits
Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University; Wageningen, the Netherlands; mattijs.smits@wur.nl

Carl Middleton
MA in International Development Studies Program, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand; carl.chulalongkorn@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: This article explores whether new arenas of engagement for water governance have been created and utilised following the implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in large hydropower projects in Vietnam. Initial optimism for climate finance – in particular amongst Northern aid providers and private CDM consultants – resulted in a boom in registration of CDM hydropower projects in Vietnam. These plans, however, have since then busted. The article utilises a multi-scale and multi-place network governance analysis of the water governance-climate finance nexus, based on interviews with government officials, consultants, developers, NGOs, multilateral and international banks, and project-affected people at the Song Bung 2 and Song Bung 4 hydropower projects in Central Vietnam. Particular attention is paid to how the place-based nature of organisations shapes the ability of these actors to participate in decision-making. The article concludes that the CDM has had little impact on water governance in Vietnam at the project level in terms of carbon reduction (additionality) or attaining sustainable development objectives. Furthermore, whilst climate finance has the potential to open new, more transparent and more accountable arenas of water governance, current arenas of the water governance-climate finance nexus are 'rendered technical', and therefore often underutilised and inaccessible to civil society and project-affected people.

KEYWORDS: Water governance, Clean Development Mechanism, hydropower, arenas of engagement, Vietnam