Agriculture Ministry says programme will offer sustainable development options that improve people's lives and safeguard the environment.
Cambodia's "avoided deforestation project", part of an agreement signed last month with nine community forestry groups in Oddar Meanchey, is expected to generate 8.5 million tonnes of carbon-offset credits over 30 years, according to the NGO Terra Global.
MINISTER of Agriculture Chan Sarun on Thursday announced a Kingdom-wide ban on timber exports in a move aimed at protecting forests and promoting a future carbon-credit trading programme.
"We must stop illegal timber exports and make a greater effort to protect our forests," Chan Sarun said. "With carbon credits, we can develop the country and improve the lives of our people without damaging our environment."
In years past, illegal logging for domestic use and cross-border trade has stripped Cambodia of much of its natural forest cover, he said, adding that the government has confiscated nearly 300,000 hectares of land cleared of its forests by developers and land speculators.
"We have [also] confiscated more than 52,000 cubic metres of illegal timber, some 319 trucks used by illegal loggers and prosecuted more than 600 individuals involved in the illegal timber trade," Chan Sarun said.
Ma Soktha, head of the reforestation office at the Ministry of Agriculture's Forestry Department, said the government spends between
US$850,000 and $1 million each year on conservation efforts, tree plantings and security efforts to prevent logging in protected areas.
"We will not have to worry about illegal logging if we enforce existing laws and halt all timber exports as well," he said.
Ma Soktha said the government has also planted nearly 50,000 hectares of trees and laid the groundwork for a carbon-credit programme.
"We have created two carbon-credit sample areas on 24 hectares of forest land in Oddar Meanchey and Koh Kong provinces," he said.
Amanda Bradley, country director for Community Forest International, said last week that the export ban and increased conservation efforts were important steps towards combating global warming and developing a new sustainable market for carbon credits for Cambodia.
"The government stands to profit substantially from developed countries with a carbon-credit programme, which in turn would help people improve their economic situation," she said.
Nop Polin, national coordinator of climate change awareness at Geres, said trading in fresh air, as he described the carbon-credit programme, instead of illegal timber could reduce greenhouse gasses and help prevent global climate change.
"We need forests to protect against global warming and other natural disasters," he said. "And we can sell the world our carbon credits, which is to say we can sell them fresh air."