Most Cambodians believe it is the government’s responsibility to respond to climate change, but are unclear about who in government should take the lead, according to a survey discussed by officials at a workshop on climate change yesterday.
The survey, Understanding Public Perceptions of Climate Change in Cambodia, also found that most people were unaware of any organised response to climate change, or of the national and local programs already set up to respond to shifting weather patterns.
This left communities stranded from the knowledge, programs and support already existing, officials said at the two-day workshop on how to integrate climate adaptation strategies from the national to the village level.
UNDP Cambodian country director Elena Tischenko said this could be done in a way that “could empower communities and enable the country to become more resilient in the face of climate change”.
Kristina Kuhnel, head of development co-operation at the Swedish embassy, said eff-icient, early adaptation could reduce the costs of the negative impact of climate change substantially. She also called for training for commune councillors on how to add climate adaptation strategies into their commune development plans, including how to use vulnerability and risk- assessment tools.
The national survey found that although there was awareness of climate change and the need to address it, people were confused about who was responsible for leading the way.
More than three-quarters of the 2,500 people who responded said they believed it was the government’s role to take action to respond to climate change, Sem Tola, a communication official at the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance at the Ministry of Environment, said.
But the survey found this was tilted towards the national government and the prime minister, with only about 16 per cent of those responding identifying local-government officials as being responsible for implementing strategies for adapting to climate change.
When asked to specify how the government could respond, 48 per cent identified preventing deforestation, 43 per cent said the government should give them money, 30 per cent called for more investment in irrigation and 30 per cent called on the government to plant more trees, the survey found.
Sem Tola said any response to climate change would need to engage the general public, NGOs and all levels of government. Yeng Teb, a community representative from Kampong Thom province, said the government should take the lead by educating people.
“The government needs to educate people on how to reduce climate change and also provide aid when people were affected by [climate change effects like] floods,” he said.
Tischenko noted that “Cambodia is proportionally the most vulnerable country to floods in the Asia-Pacific region,” adding that because farmers rely primarily on rainfall due to the lack of irrigation systems, changes in rain patterns affect productivity as well as food supplies.