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‘Factories, fossil fuels mostly to blame for climate change’

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Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra (left) blames climate change on greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industrial factories and the burning of fossil fuels in developed countries. Hong Menea

‘Factories, fossil fuels mostly to blame for climate change’

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra on Wednesday blamed climate change and global warming on greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industrial factories and the burning of fossil fuels in developed countries. He said deforestation is only a small contributing factor.

Pheaktra was speaking during a press conference at the Council of Ministers entitled The Impact of Climate Change during the Dry Season and the Public Health Care Response to publicise measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and maintain public health during the dry season.

One factor, he said, was simply Earth’s cyclical nature. But in addition to this, global warming and climate change were the results of greenhouse gas and fossil fuel emissions in developed countries. This, Pheaktra stressed, were the main problems.

Deforestation plays only a small part and is not a major problem in Cambodia, and the ministry had been actively curbing it, he stressed.

All developed countries have large industrial factories and power stations burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – which are steadily contributing to climate change year after year, he said.

“Even when we expand cities it brings about climate change because we have to construct buildings and other types of development. It all contributes to rising temperatures."

“So we cannot say it springs from a single cause. We cannot just say that it’s the loss of forestland that leads to climate change. There are many other factors,” Pheaktra said.

Not cause for alarm

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said there are two Ministries – the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology – that monitor global warming using scientific equipment and satellite imagery.

Global warming has not reached a point of alarm in Cambodia, Siphan said, because the government has increased its preventative measures and is always seeking additional ways to ensure the situation does not become serious.

“There are electricity shortages, but they only last only for about 60 days. They are temporary shortages that are not a serious problem for life in Cambodia."

“One thing I would like to ask all farmers, though, is to refrain from burning rice straw stubble. It pollutes the air with smoke and makes it hard to breathe,” Siphan said.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandin said that so far, the ministry had not received information about people who were affected by an unusual change in climate or hot weather.

Of greater concern, she said, was poor personal hygiene, which leads to people contracting various illnesses.

“Some patients experience itchiness, rhinitis or inflammation of the throat. Some come out in rashes – and there are other symptoms. It is not caused by the weather. It is about sanitation. We are paying close attention to these issues to address them in a timely manner,” she said.

Pen Bonna, a senior land and natural resources officer for rights group Adhoc, broadly agreed with the Ministry of Environment but stressed the role of forestland.

“Forests play an important role in protecting the ozone layer and removing toxins from factory smoke. Climate change is definitely related to deforestation. The world has long declared the importance of the ozone layer. Forests are essential,” he said.

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