Minister of Environment Say Samal on March 13 encouraged the garment and other textile-related industries to step up clean-energy and green efforts to better position the Kingdom to meet key government greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation commitments, as a prominent EU-backed programme registers a record-breaking 50th energy audit.

Chief among the commitments raised by the minister was Cambodia’s revised GHG reduction target of 41.7 per cent – or 64.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) per year – by 2030, of which 21.3 per cent (13.7 MtCO2e) is from energy and 9.1 per cent (5.9 MtCO2e) from industrial processes and product use, as noted in the 2020 Updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

Samal was speaking at an event to review the achievements of the 2020-2024 Promotion of Sustainable Energy Practices in the Garment Sector in Cambodia (Switch Garment) project, which is funded by the EU through the EU SWITCH-Asia Programme. The event was held at the Textile, Apparel, Footwear & Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC).

In Cambodia, textile-linked sectors contribute about 85 per cent of industrial waste, 70 per cent of industrial toxic-water pollution and 27 per cent of industrial air pollution, the minister shared, adding that the garment industry alone consumes 300,000 tonnes of wood each year for heating purposes.

“Therefore, greening the industries, especially the garment industry, is the task of the times for Cambodia,” he said, calling for increased concentration on sustainable and efficient energy solutions, including renewables.

Choon Yik Thong, chair of a sustainability committee at TAFTAC, said the garment, footwear and travel goods (GFT) and other textile-related sectors provide 800,000 direct jobs in Cambodia, and advocated for a green transition to remain competitive in global value chains.

“The high energy cost as well as lagging infrastructure, productivity, and logistic within the country has decreased the competitiveness of the sector. However manufacturers in [the Kingdom] take sustainability as a competitive factor.

“By reducing energy consumption, manufacturers can lower down the environmental [footprint] of their supply chain and at the same time cut down the production cost[s]. This would make the sector greener, sustainable, and more competitive than other markets in the regions,” he said.

Shomi Kim, Cambodia country representative of Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the lead implementer for Switch Garment, confirmed that, “to date, the project has conducted 50 energy audits, the most ever been conducted within a single project in Cambodia.

“Based on the energy audit results, we have walked our member factories through their energy consumption profile and measures to increase energy saving. As a result, we have secured almost $2 million [in] investment made by the member factories, which is an inspiring sign for the greening efforts being realised in the garment sector,” she said.

EU ambassador Carmen Moreno affirmed that the 27-nation European bloc works with the Kingdom “in support of green growth and decent jobs.

“We contribute to the implementation of the national garment strategy by supporting garment factories to adopt sustainable energy practices and facilitate investment in clean technologies, which will enhance the competitiveness of the sector.

“EU’s ‘Global Gateway’ contributes to more resilient and sustainable value chains around the world, and in Cambodia,” she said.

A press release issued in conjunction with the event noted that the EU, a major buyer of Cambodian GFT items, “has set energy efficiency as a key principle for shaping policies, investment decisions and, for the EU external action”.

“The EU, the European Investment Bank and the European Member States contribute with over $25 billion to support climate action in developing countries around the world, around one quarter of the global commitment of $100 billion a year,” it said.

The environment minister reflected on Kim’s comment on the unparalleled number of energy audits conducted by Switch Garment, stating that this “has created momentum towards and interest among industries in going greener”.

The EU’s commitment to greening the industry “has resulted in the successful implementation of the project thus far”, Samal said.

“Overall, the Switch Garment programme aims to promote sustainable energy practices – concerning both renewable energy and energy efficiency – in the garment sector. This will help Cambodia in achieving its national targets for climate mitigation,” he added.

He said that by the end of Switch Garment’s life span, energy costs for the Cambodian garment industry are expected to be around 20 per cent lower and the Kingdom’s annual GHG emissions will have dropped by some 175 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (ktCO2e).