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Economy or environment?

Economy or environment?

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Carbon footprints are not a priority for most Cambodians, but the economic benefits of going green are creating environmentalists across the Kingdom

HENG CHIVOAN

A boy stands next to Geres’ new eco-friendly cooking stoves on sale in Phnom Penh.

KYOTO FACTS

As of May 2008, 182 parties have ratified the protocol. Some 137 developing countries, including China, India and Cambodia, have ratified it, but have no obligations save monitoring and

reporting emissions.

N

EW eco-friendly technology could help alleviate poverty in Cambodia while also raising awareness of global climate change and reducing the country's admittedly small carbon footprint, say social and environmental NGOs.

Awareness of global climate change issues in Cambodia is relatively low, Kimberly Buss, a carbon offset analyst for the French non-profit organisation Groupe Energies Renouvelables, Environnement et Solidarités (Geres) Cambodia, told the Post.

Geres has had some success in raising awareness with the introduction of its New Lao Stove Program, which markets a more efficient cooking stove that uses 22 percent less charcoal than traditional stoves.

"We estimate that we have now sold around 300,000 stoves," said Buss, adding that so far it is the only programme accredited and operating in the Kingdom.

While the stoves have proven popular with Cambodians, their reasons for embracing new green technology may be more fiscal than ecological.

"People in Cambodia are relatively interested in eco-friendly technology," said Rogier Van Mansvelt, program expert for the World Bank Decentralised Energy Services Program. "However, it's not the eco-friendly aspects that interest people at the village level. The new stoves last longer than traditional ones and are also more cost-effective as they use less fuel."

Kyoto and beyond

Cambodia is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, but its status as a developing nation exempts it from cutting greenhouse gas emissions. On a global scale, its carbon footprint is minuscule.

"We are actually not keeping track of Cambodia's greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis," said Tin Ponlok, national project coordinator of the 2nd National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "The last solid statistics come from 1994."

But Cambodians are increasingly taking notice of the potential hazards of global climate change and with support from international partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ministry of Environment is currently implementing a number of programmes to help with education about global climate change, including holding debates for university students that are filmed for national television.

"These have proven quite popular," Tin Ponlok said.

What's good for the planet and the pocketbook could also be good for tourism in Cambodia.

ITS NOT THE ECO FRIENDLY ASPECTS THAT INTEREST PEOPLE...IT’S COST EFFECTIVE

"Many tourists come to Cambodia from Western countries where reducing carbon emissions is much better publicised," said Michelle Duncan, the group operations manager for the FCC Phnom Penh.
"We hope many of them will want to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible during their trip."

Clean rooms

Food and Beverages Solutions, whose portfolio includes FCC Phnom Penh, recently opened the carbon-neutral Quay hotel on the riverfront in Phnom Penh and hopes to make all of its properties carbon neutral in the future.

"We just want to raise awareness through our businesses that in Cambodia there is now technology available to make visits more eco-friendly," said Duncan.

A new five-star hotel being built by the Sokimex group will also incorporate eco-friendly technology. Slated for 2011, the US$100 million hotel will be built on the east side of the riverfront on Chhroy Changva peninsula in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district.

But why go green when Cambodia is responsible for only a tiny proportion of global greenhouse emissions?

"Essentially, these technologies are not just environmentally friendly, they improve lives," said the World Bank's Van Mansvelt. "If adoption of eco-friendly technology can benefit people and alleviate poverty, then why not?"    

Noum Sounlang, a youth member of the Children's Support Fund, said that while Cambodia cannot be blamed for the global climate crisis, it still bears some responsibility.

"It's not Cambodia's fault that the world is in this state," said Noum Sounlang.

"But it's a problem that everyone in the world, especially us young people, has to address."

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