Newly appointed EU ambassador to Cambodia Igor Driesmans has outlined a key EU priority: Supporting Cambodia’s green transition. He said that shared concerns about climate change affect Europe, Southeast Asia and global well-being.

Driesmans emphasised the EU’s strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saying its primary objective is a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions: Aiming for a minimum 55 per cent reduction by 2030 and striving to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Now, that is a very important ambition, but we know that it’s not something that we can or should do alone. We need to combat climate change together. If you look at the figures, the EU represents just over seven per cent of CO2 emissions, so even if we go down to zero, the challenge will remain,” he said during an October 25 press conference in Phnom Penh.

“We are actively seeking partners worldwide, and we believe Cambodia can and should be one of those partners in reducing CO2 emissions, fostering sustainable growth and addressing every aspect of the fight against climate change and environmental improvement,” he added.

Driesmans noted that while participating in the EU’s recent joint effort with the Ministry of Environment to clean the Mekong River in Phnom Penh, he had the chance to speak with the minister Eang Sophalleth regarding the ministry’s key concerns.

He said he was informed about the daily consumption of approximately 10 million plastic bags in the capital alone, highlighting the challenge posed by this level of pollution.

“The other challenge is deforestation. We have seen very rapid deforestation in Cambodia over the last 10 years. Actually, Cambodia lost 2.71 million hectares of rainforest over those 10 years. That’s 31 per cent compared to the year 2000,” he said.

“These are two examples of challenges that we face and will address together. For me, that’s the first priority, to work hand-in-hand with Cambodia on supporting the green transition of the country,” he added.

On October 22, Driesmans and Sophalleth led volunteers in a Mekong River cleanup and tree planting event. This event was organised by the Delegation of the EU to Cambodia as part of the EU Green Diplomacy Week 2023, celebrated across ASEAN.

More than 400 participants, including EU and Cambodian government representatives, youth and the public, took part. From October 15–22, EU delegations throughout ASEAN hosted various events as part of the campaign, with the river cleanup and tree planting event marking this year’s conclusion.

In an October 22 press release from the Delegation of the EU to Cambodia, Sophalleth stressed the importance of the EU Green Diplomacy Week in Cambodia.

“This initiative presents a timely and crucial opportunity for collaborative action in tackling the climate crisis and safeguarding our environment,” he said.

“It serves as an excellent illustration of our capacity to effect positive change. Through cooperation, we can construct a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future for everyone,” he said.