The government, with support from development partners, on June 28 launched the National Circular Economy Strategy and Action Plan, as well as an affiliated platform to engage the private sector in the Kingdom’s transition towards a circular economy.
This comes amid challenges in sustainably managing natural resources, environment, energy and waste posed by more than two decades of rapid economic and population growth.
The National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) and Ministry of Environment, with support from Sweden, Japan and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), rolled out the strategy-cum-action-plan to address some of the ecological pressures of economic activities.
Minister of Environment and NCSD chairman Say Samal stressed the importance of the document and the efforts to effectively carry out its objectives, which he said would “ensure a green, clean and safe future for all in Cambodia”.
“The Circular Economy Strategy and Action Plan aims to create a win-win solution to the present challenges. Instead of simply extracting, consuming and disposing materials, the strategy seeks to close the loop of the entire value chain and maintain the value of materials for as long as possible,” he said.
UNDP Cambodia resident representative Nick Beresford also pointed out that the circular economy system has the strong potential to spark positive social and environmental change, and create new economic values and diversified employment opportunities.
“It can guide sustainable development pathways for countries at all income levels, including Cambodia,” he said.
Speaking during a consultation workshop on the draft of the strategy-cum-action-plan on September 21, UNDP environmental policy specialist Moeko Saito-Jensen underscored that the Kingdom is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, pointing to increasing incidents of floods and droughts.
“To sustain vital environment for future generations and ensure their safe future, there is urgency to transform the way in which the economy operates, and the ways we use materials and dispose waste.
“The circular economy seeks to decouple economic growth from adverse environmental impacts by closing the loops of the entire value chain,” she said. “It promotes the use of sustainable materials and clean, renewable energy.”
“In the case of waste management in Cambodia, more than 70 per cent of the waste are recyclable organic or plastic materials. Even so, at this moment untreated waste is disposed at open landfills without large scale intervention to reuse or recycle these materials.
“With the introduction of circular economy, instead of being wasted, these materials would be treated as ‘new products or energy’. They would be reused and recycled, and they would add value to the economy,” Saito-Jensen said.
Citing a World Meteorological Organisation report, she said: “Global temperatures could exceed crucial 1.5 degrees Celsius target above pre-industrial levels within the next five years.
“Across the planet, any additional temperature rise will intensify climate disasters – larger typhoons, bigger floods, more severe droughts and increasing forest fires,” Saito-Jensen added, noting that some 90 billion tonnes of primary natural resources are extracted per annum.