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Widening emissions gap too high for climate tackle: report

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Children ride bicycles past a factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

As nations meet at the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha today, the greenhouse-gas emissions gap is widening, according to a report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) released  last week.

Keeping the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius requires that action on climate change be scaled up quickly.

Even if the most ambitious level of pledges are implemented by all countries, annual emissions are predicted to reach about 52 gigatonnes by 2020.

The two-degree target requires emissions to be, on average, around 44 gigatonnes, according to the report.

Unless quick action is taken, emissions are predicted to reach 58 gigatonnes in 2020, leaving a bigger gap than was predicted in earlier UNEP assessments of 2010 and 2011, the report says.

“The sobering fact remains that a transition to a low-carbon, inclusive, green economy is happening far too slowly, and the opportunity for meeting the 44-gigatonne target is narrowing annually,” UN under-secretary general and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said.

According to Lay Khim, team leader of the Environment and Energy Unit at the UN Development Program Cambodia, greenhouse-gas emissions in Cambodia are very low compared to other countries in the region.

“Because we are a developing country, we don’t have much emissions from the industrial sector,” Khim said.

But he warned that despite low emissions, “Cambodia needs to prepare and take the action now and that is because Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate-change impact in the region.

“And that is because we have quite a low capacity to adapt to climate change,” Khim said.

According to the UNEP report, Cambodia is among the countries that have submitted policy-level, sectoral-level and project-level actions on climate change, but these have not been formulated in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Cambodia’s share of global emissions in 2010 was 0.38 per cent, the report says. The country’s emissions in 2010 were 192 tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent.

Referring to preliminary economic assessments, the UNEP report says inaction can lead to costs at least 10 to 15 per cent higher after 2020 if emission reductions are delayed into following decades.

Asian Development Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda said last week at the ASEAN Global Dialogue at the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh that developing Asian economies must focus on greener, more inclusive growth and need to diversify sources of growth to boost GDP, according to an ADB press release.

“Growth must be more inclusive, green and knowledge-led,” Kuroda said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anne Renzenbrink at anne.renzenbrink@phnompenhpost.com

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