More than 100 representatives from NGOs, local communities, the UN and the government gathered at Himawari Hotel in the capital on Monday to discuss and exchange ideas on climate change adaptation and funding at a sub-national level.
During the workshop, civil society groups requested the government increase the budget at the sub-national level so they will have adequate resources in order to fulfil their obligations in preventing climate change.
Tek Vannara, executive director at the NGO Forum on Cambodia – a coalition of NGOs working to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable communities in Cambodia – said in a speech that as Cambodia is an agricultural country, it is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
He added that currently the system of adapting capacity to the impact of climate change of the people is low.
“To reduce the risk that Cambodia is facing, especially with children and vulnerable groups, the government should offer a higher budget to communes and Sangkats, so they can invest that money in an area to help them manage and adapt to climate change."
“While there were many major positive points [to the government’s efforts], we also found some shortage of funding at the commune level, which does not completely correspond to the Commune Investment and Development programme. We will be better at adapting to climate change with more of the national budget directed towards the sub-national level,” he said.
Vannara continued that Cambodians still have a very low understanding of the risks associated with climate change, as well as how they will adapt to inevitable climate changes that impact their lives. As weather is becoming increasingly erratic due to climate changes, actions plans at the commune level are still lacking in how to respond to the changes, he added.
Chhoeun Sody, head of Sangkran Roy forest community in Siem Reap province’s Varin district, said like other communities, it’s hard for them to adapt to irregular rain, strong winds, floods and drought.
She said in the past the commune authority could not help them with these challenges as they did not have adequate resources.
“I want to see the flow of the commune and district budget to the locals in remote areas. People never receive information on natural disasters and relevant authorities should visit and educate them about the climate change issue,” she said.
Va Vuthy, representative of the Ministry of Environment’s national council for sustainable development at the department of climate change, said the government has increased the commune budget frequently for such issues.
“This issue of climate change is interlinked with development, which is very rapid currently. The government’s income is very limited and every sector is in need of money. This is a normal issue and nothing new, but if we look at the actual figures, the money dedicated to the commune budget is on the rise,” he said.
Clemens Beckers, a representative of the EU’s Cambodian office, said they are working to reduce the impact of climate change in Cambodia.
“The EU is committed to provide €6 million ($6.85 million) to Cambodia in a programme that will start in the middle of this year. In addition, the EU supports protecting forests in Mondulkiri province because it plays an important role in reducing climate change,” he said.