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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ambitious agenda needed to fight climate change

A person walks past a factory’s smoke stack in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district late last year. Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change.
A person walks past a factory’s smoke stack in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district late last year. Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change. Pha Lina

Ambitious agenda needed to fight climate change

Last December, 195 countries, including Cambodia, gathered in Paris to negotiate a new global climate agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The result – the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal – sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. To further underline their determination countries also agreed to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

Now, 10 months on from that historic outcome, the European Union (EU) remains proud of the ambitious Paris Agreement and Cambodia should be proud too. However there is no room for complacency after the success of the Paris Conference. For the vision of a global low-emissions future to materialise, our attention needs to turn to putting our words into action.

Already this year, we have seen encouraging signs that our partners around the world are keen to maintain the unprecedented political momentum in support of climate action. More than 180 countries have now signed the Paris Agreement and 22 have completed their domestic ratification procedures and become Parties to the Agreement. We welcome Cambodia’s commitment to ratify it by the end of this year.

Ratification is an important step towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement but ratifying the agreement on its own will not deliver the necessary greenhouse gas reductions, adaptation action and financing. Equally important are the steps countries will take to meet the commitments made in Paris, starting with the policy and legislative frameworks required to develop robust national climate plans and associated sector action plans.

The EU and its member states are taking implementation very seriously. We are moving forward with our ambitious domestic climate policies, with new proposals that will help us meet our emissions reduction target of at least 40 percent by 2030 and further drive the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We hear and understand concerns that taking action against climate change can affect economic growth. But we have found that the opposite is true: our emissions have decreased by 23 percent since 1990, while GDP has grown by 46 percent in the same period. During these years we have created new jobs, businesses, technologies and competitive advantages that prepare us better for the new climate-compatible economy.

The EU has more than two decades of experience in developing and implementing an ambitious climate policy, but we know that many of our partners are doing so for the first time. We stand ready to share our experience and lessons learned for the benefit of others – in fact we already have extensive climate policy cooperation with some of our key partners: we are committed to supporting Cambodia and other climate-vulnerable nations to develop national climate plans and make the transition to low-carbon climate-resilient economies.

Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change; in particular from floods, droughts, windstorms, and seawater intrusion. The most affected sectors are agriculture, infrastructure, forestry, human health, and coastal zones.

In order to strengthen Cambodia’s response to climate change, the EU, along with a number of its member states, supports the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA), a multidonor initiative led by the Ministry of Environment. The CCCA is a comprehensive and innovative approach aimed at addressing climate change and disaster risks in Cambodia. The CCCA focuses primarily on building capacity and strengthening institutional structures in the mitigation of climate change risks.

Other initiatives supported by the EU in the fight against climate change include the Environment and Natural Resources Thematic Programme (ENTRP), the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme (REDD+) and the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan.

As well as developing long-term climate strategies, there are actions we all need to take now. In just three months, countries will gather in Marrakech to start adding the technical detail to the breakthrough political agreement in Paris. Building capacity to act, addressing loss and damage associated with climate change and setting out a roadmap to reach climate finance targets are just some of the issues on the table. Before then, countries will also aim to reach multilateral agreements on limiting aviation emissions and phasing out highly climate-warming gasses used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

And it is not just governments taking action. Businesses, cities and civil society all have a crucial role to play in delivering the action on the ground that will really make a difference. In Cambodia, European partners work to integrate climate change throughout their development assistance programmes and provide direct support to a number of small-scale pilot actions with civil society and sub-national authorities, strengthening Cambodia’s climate change response at all levels.

Paris was a defining moment in the safeguarding of the planet for future generations. We must maintain that momentum in the months and years ahead, because the prize is worth it: lower emissions, greater energy security and efficiency, and innovation-driven growth. There is lots of work to do, and we look forward to our continued partnership with Cambodia.

This article was co-signed by the resident European Union heads of mission in Cambodia.

George Edgar is the ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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