Preparing Cambodia for climate change


With environmental effects becoming stronger, the Kingdom has to double up efforts to reduce economic losses

With environmental effects becoming stronger, the Kingdom has to double up efforts to reduce economic losses

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The whole world is busy with climate change, some experts say it is because of the rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the environment caused by mankind. Some say mankind is not capable of increasing CO2 levels because we are apparently living in conditions similar to the “ice age”. Therefore, we should let nature play its role like it has for millions of years.

But the fact is, the weather pattern is changing rapidly worldwide whatever the reason.

So climate change is a long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns. While the earth’s climate has always gone through various periods of change, modern scientific evidence demonstrates that weather changes are occurring worldwide.

The term “climate change” refers to the result of human activity related to industrialisation, deforestation and big changes in the use of land.

Cambodia’s neighbours, such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar will experience stronger effects due to changes in climatic conditions compared to the Kingdom because of its geographical position. However, one cannot entirely dismiss the effects on Cambodia. Potential impacts of climate change were highlighted in a report titled Modelling of Climate Change Impacts on Growth by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Council for Sustainable Development in April last year. The report estimated that climate change could reduce Cambodia’s gross domestic product by 2.5 percent by 2030 and by almost 10 percent by 2050. The fall is largely the result of reduced worker productivity following temperature increases, extreme events impacting on infrastructure and loss of crops.

Two-thirds of the loss could be avoided with improved policies, investment to adapt to climate change, and measures to climate-proof infrastructure where possible. Open Development Cambodia (ODC) forest cover 2014 report reveals a continuing trend in forest cover loss – particularly dense forest – across Cambodia since 1973. For the first time, the percentage of non-forest ground cover (48.4 percent) is larger than that of forest cover (47.7 percent). High rates of deforestation will contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Cambodia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, because the kingdom depends largely on climate-sensitive sectors including agriculture, land, water resources, forestry and fisheries.

In a developing country with a weak adaptive capacity and limited infrastructure, rural households, especially women and other vulnerable groups, will struggle to cope with the impacts of climate change. Cambodia lost $1.5 billion – 10 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) – in 2015 from the negative effect of climate change, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In July 2016, ADB announced a $96 million package to help the Kingdom cope with the loss of livelihood due to extreme climatic events. If nothing is done to address this problem the country could lose a bigger percentage in the future, ADB warned.

An analysis by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) applied climate projections for 2050 to today’s Mekong Basin economies. It found that future climate change could put up to 61 percent of Cambodia’s rural GDP per capita at risk. The 2050 climate projections would affect some seven million Cambodians employed in the agricultural sector and about 240,000 in construction, causing a total economic impact of $1.5 billion.

Cambodia predicts that monthly temperatures will increase between 0.013 degree Celsius and 0.036 degree Celsius per year by 2099.

The Cambodia Disaster Loss and Damage Analysis Report notes the disasters that have occurred in Cambodia from 1996 to 2013 ranging from floods (42 percent), drought (15 percent), fires (17 percent), storms (14 percent), lightning (seven percent) to pest outbreaks (one percent). During this period, disasters killed 2,050 people. Floods accounted for 53 percent of total losses.

The government has policies and strategies in place to work towards socioeconomic, sustainable development in the climate change” context.

On June 7 this year, environmental organisations and youth groups issued a joint statement calling on the government, private sector, and the public to engage actively in the fight against climate change through the environmental protection and reduction in carbon emissions.

The statement spoke about the adverse effects of climate change on Cambodia that presently affect the health and livelihood of the people, especially the agriculture sector and socio-economic development.They also noted the loss of forest and natural resources, river and sea pollution from development projects, and improper waste management. It also called on the government to strengthen law enforcement, monitor local officials responsible for enforcement, stop granting economic land concessions, increase education on the environment, create a waste processing plant as well as a policy to raise taxes on plastic.

On a lighter note, the statement applauded the government’s efforts to create protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries, protect natural resources and raise investment in solar energy.

It also lauded public involvement in the reduction of plastic consumption and increasing usage of public transportation.

Benjamin is a business consultant based in China

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