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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CSO coalition letter ready for climate talks

Women plant rice seedlings at a paddy in Kampong Cham Province. The Kingdom’s civil society organisations have produced a document outlining their concerns about mitigation of emissions.
Women plant rice seedlings at a paddy in Kampong Cham Province. The Kingdom’s civil society organisations have produced a document outlining their concerns about mitigation of emissions. Hong Menea

CSO coalition letter ready for climate talks

A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) has produced a document laying out in detail the projected dire effects of climate change on the Kingdom, in the hopes it will help their voice be heard among the 25,000 delegates attending the upcoming Paris Climate Talks (COP21) in just over a week.

The open letter outlines the concerns and demands for a legally binding climate-change agreement that is anticipated to result from Paris.

“The reason for developing this message is that there seems to be very low ambition for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the target increase in global temperatures of 1.5-2°C,” says Nop Polin the civil society coalition’s delegate to COP21, referring to the threshold indicated by scientists after which climate change’s effects become especially dangerous.

The yet-to-be published document titled Voices from Cambodia presents the impacts of climate change on the highly vulnerable Kingdom, as evidenced by numerous reports.

“2,050 people died from [natural] disasters between 1996 and 2013. Flooding was the number one killer” in 2013 alone, costing the country some $US356 million, the letter reads, adding that “with 70% of the population dependent on subsistence agriculture”, natural disasters – which will be made worse by climate change – “can have devastating consequences” on livelihoods and economic assets.

The letter then itemises civil society’s goals and demands, which include the legally binding agreement to stay under the 1.5-2 degrees Celsius threshold, the $100 billion annual climate change mitigation budget for developing countries promised in 2009, and a separate “Loss and Damage” fund for countries to draw upon in emergency situations for short-term response to disasters.

Currently the draft text for an agreement going into Paris lacks both these provisions, a point of concern for Cambodia’s government delegates as well.

Indeed, “the demands are similar to both government and civil society points of view”, Polin said, adding that several government officials contributed to the letter.

The letter pushes for provisions to address food security, given that smallholder farmers are at “high risk”, and urges gender sensitivity as “women and girls are the most vulnerable group to climate change”.

Polin contended that most agricultural work in Cambodia is done by women, “so there’s more burden for women for farming during a drought”.

Cultural norms can also exacerbate these vulnerabilities, he continued, saying that in situations of food shortage, for example, a woman is likely to forgo eating in favour of her children and husband.

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