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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Climate crisis threatens poor

Climate crisis threatens poor

Khem Yeth, 28, a rice farmer in Takeo province sits in a dried-out paddy last year.

A World Bank report argues that, without urgent action on climate change, Cambodia and other developing nations will be imperiled within a decade.

Cambodia’s forests are integral to the future of the Kingdom, senior forestry officials said Tuesday during the start of the final public consultation into a programme intended to reduce deforestation. Ty Sokhun, director of the Forestry Administration, said: “Forests are the source of the living earth. In Cambodia, forest has provided 6.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to reduce human poverty.” Forests cover more than 59 percent of Cambodia, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). But though the government aims to reach 60 percent by 2015, critics say that figure has been overblown, and that rampant illegal logging continues. “We have planted more than 850,000 hectares of trees and given millions of trees seedlings to the people for planting,” Ty Sokhun said. “We also cracked down on thousands of cases of illegal logging and sent many illegal loggers to court.” With deforestation historically a significant problem in Cambodia, the government established the NFP in 2007 with the help of international aid agencies to reverse the trend. The government expects to finalise the National Forest Programme by the end of the year.

CLIMATE change could slash agricultural productivity and make famine and natural disaster commonplace across the developing world without urgent action within the next decade, climate experts from the World Bank warned Tuesday.

Though they produce only a small fraction of the world’s total carbon emissions, Cambodia and other nations in the developing world will be disproportionately affected by the warming temperatures and rising sea levels brought on by climate change, a panel of World Bank representatives told reporters in a teleconference from the US.

The teleconference coincided with Tuesday’s release of a World Bank publication titled “World Development Report (WDR) 2010: Development and Climate Change”. Climate change puts poor countries like Cambodia in a difficult position, the panellists said, because despite their tiny contribution to the world’s total carbon emissions, they will be most severely harmed in the absence of coordinated, worldwide reforms.

Poor countries typically lack the capacity to manage the fallout from climate change and also “depend more directly on climate-sensitive natural resources for income and well-being,” the WDR report said.

Any efforts to avert climate change, therefore, “[have] to start with high-income countries taking aggressive action to reduce their own emissions”.

Developing nations, though, will be major sources of emissions growth in the near future, and risk falling further behind developed countries economically if they are unable to transition to clean energy sources, the World Bank report added.

Developed countries, it argued, must provide assistance to aid poorer nations in climate-change mitigation efforts.

Justin Lin, the World Bank’s senior vice president for development economics, noted the importance of such assistance, emphasising that developing nations must not be forced to choose between climate-change mitigation and economic growth.

“I would encourage Cambodia to look into the possibility of funding and also technological assistance in order to pursue its economic development and at the same time to achieve the goal of reduced emissions,” he said.

But for this option to be realistic worldwide, donor countries must massively increase their funding. Currently, there is less than US$1 billion available for climate-change mitigation efforts in the developing world, in contrast to the $75 billion that may be necessary, the WDR report said.

Though national budgets around the world have been stretched thin by the global financial crisis, Rosina Bierbaum, the WDR co-director, said that developed-world policymakers should think seriously about this funding shortfall. “We can’t really argue that stopping climate change is not affordable,” she said. “Indeed, we can’t afford not to do it.”



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