A group of 10 civil society organisations (CSOs) applauded Minister of Environment Say Samal’s affirmation of Cambodia’s commitment to refrain from developing any new coal-fired power plants and from building any new hydropower dams along the Mekong River.
Samal said that even as a low-emission country, Cambodia has shown a strong commitment to tackling climate change by building more than 400 megawatts of solar energy capacity, which now accounts for 15 per cent of the national energy supply.
He made the remarks on November 10 while attending the UN’s COP26 international climate conference that took place in Scottish port city of Glasglow.
At the conference, Samal also expressed Cambodia’s commitment to the goals of reducing deforestation by half no later than 2030 and to reach zero net emissions by 2040.
In a joint statement on November 15, the CSOs said the government’s commitment to banning construction of any new Mekong River dams was a positive development that would make a crucial contribution to addressing the increasing concerns over the current negative alterations of the Mekong River and its ecosystem’s sustainability.
The signatories to the statement included the Culture and Environment Preservation Association; Fisheries Action Coalition Team; North-eastern Rural Development; Nak Akphivath Sahakum; NGO Forum on Cambodia; Mlup Promviheathor Centre; My Village; Oxfam Cambodia; Women’s Community Voices; and 3S Rivers Protection Network.
They note that the concerns about the Mekong River are pursuant to the Mekong River Commission Council’s (MRC) study published in 2017 which showed that if all hydropower dams on the main river and its tributaries at the Lower Mekong Basin planned by 2040 were actually constructed, it would seriously threaten the region’s ecology, economy and food security.
The low flow of water during the monsoon season in 2019-2020 brought water levels in the Mekong River to their lowest-ever in recorded history, affecting millions of people who have been relying on resources from the river for generations, noted the statement.
“The government’s commitment is an urgent and necessary response to the unprecedented alteration of the Mekong in recent years,” it said.
“We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia to find alternative energy sources – including the construction of additional solar energy capacity for Cambodia’s power grid – coupled with their commitment to ban construction of any new coal-fired power plants.”
Samal also said at the COP26 conference that international climate financing was still not robust enough to meet prevailing demand, especially for the adaptation sector – which is still difficult to access for the most climate-sensitive countries.
“I call on all developed countries to increase their contribution to the financial mechanisms under the Convention and to further facilitate access to these direct funds,” he said.
Cambodia also submitted an updated Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, with a revised goal of reducing emissions by 42 per cent no later than 2030.