Civil society and government representatives met at the Royal University of Phnom Penh yesterday to discuss how both sides can cooperate to formulate climate change policies that fulfill the Kingdom’s treaty obligations in the wake of the historic climate accord reached in Paris earlier this month.
The focus of the meeting was to present to attending government officials the “Joint Principles of Adaptation” (JPA), a set of seven policy guidelines adopted by civil society networks in 14 countries – including Cambodia – during the Paris climate talks.
Nop Polin, Cambodia’s civil society delegate to the talks, explained that “JPA is a way to get local voices incorporated in the policy at different levels in order to create community ownership”, an aspect absent from the Paris Agreement itself, to the chagrin of some observers.
Polin said he hoped the principles would “build trust” between civil society and the government, while also encouraging the government to take responsibility for its commitments.
For example, Polin said, “JPA includes making sure that EIAs [Environmental Impact Assessments] are meaningful.”
Chup Paris, deputy secretary general of the national council for sustainable development, said he welcomed the JPA, later outlining in an interview the principles of the government’s sustainable development policy.
“It is based on four pillars: economic development, environmental preservation, social wellbeing and preservation of culture,” he said.
Responding to whether the landmark accord would secure enough funding for Cambodia to meet its climate pledge, submitted to the UN in October, Paris said the Kingdom had little choice. “We need to implement it; it is legally binding . . . We need to do it or the negative impact of climate change will kill us,” he said.
While developing countries such as Cambodia submit pledges that are voluntary, the projects they outline become mandatory once financing becomes available – such financing being a key a provision in the Paris Agreement.
Rot Vannchhai, a 23-year-old from Prey Veng province representing the Youth Resource Development Program, one of several youth groups in attendance, said the Paris agreement only went so far without political will from the government.
“I don’t have so much hope in the [Paris] agreement. At least for Cambodia, it depends on the implementation and commitment by the government . . . I hope the government recognises JPA and integrates it into their climate change response.”