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Kingdom preps for Paris talks

Children ride past a factory on their way home from school on the outskirts of Phnom Penh as its chimney spews out emissions.
Children ride past a factory on their way home from school on the outskirts of Phnom Penh as its chimney spews out emissions. Heng Chivoan

Kingdom preps for Paris talks

With only just over two months remaining until the annual United Nations climate change talks in Paris (COP 21), NGO Forum in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment on Friday released a policy brief on the Kingdom’s negotiating position as Southeast Asia’s most climate-change vulnerable country.

According to the document, which outlines the stakes for reaching a legally binding consensus, the talks will take place during “a decisive year to achieve an international climate agreement”. French Ambassador to Cambodia Jean-Claude Poimboeuf opened the meeting by outlining expectations for COP 21, including a universal emissions agreement and reporting system, as well as an international enforcement mechanism.

Betty Thogersen, Cambodia representative for the Action of Churches Together (ACT), an alliance of Christian aid organisations and a co-sponsor of Friday’s policy brief, stressed “adaptation as a central part of the Paris agreement”, adding that “in our Cambodian context, it is our responsibility to reach out to the poor and vulnerable farming communities”.

A COP 21 outcome sought by Cambodia, and emphasised by Poimboeuf and Thogersen, is for wealthier countries to keep the promise made at COP 15 in 2009, for the allocation of $100 billion per year for climate-change mitigation and adaptation financing by 2020 for least-developed countries (LDCs) such as Cambodia.

However, the policy brief noted that, based on experts’ analysis of a draft of the agreement released in February, an acceptable version of the pact may require another one to three years of negotiations.

Prior to the Paris summit, each government is expected to publish an emissions target, which the Kingdom is set to do by October. Yet fewer than half of all countries have done so, and with those that have failing to set adequately stringent targets, the long-term goal of keeping average global temperatures below an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius – a threshold recommended by scientists – is “almost impossible”, according to the brief.

It is on a local level, among a mostly agricultural-dependent population, that civil-society organisations say Cambodia’s vulnerability will be felt most acutely.

“Rights groups are concerned that those who will suffer most the effects of climate change policy be represented in Paris,” says Nop Polin, one of the Kingdom’s COP 21 delegates, who has been involved in efforts to steer government policy. Polin says he and other groups are working to ensure that any national climate-change adaptation and mitigation efforts are formulated through “evidence-based policy” to reach those in greatest need.

“We want to push the government to work not just on a national level, but also on a grassroots level, so that the voices of farmers can be integrated into a representative policy and heard internationally,” he said.

For organisations working with such communities, the outcome of Paris alone will not solve challenges such as worsening droughts and floods.

Yang Saing Koma, president of agricultural capacity building NGO CEDAC, says a solution “depends more on the government to allocate more budget to support farmers to cope with climate change” than on COP 21.

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