The Ministry of Environment and Conservation International (CI) Cambodia will push for the expansion of the carbon credit market in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in 2023 in order to raise funds for the conservation of protected areas and community development there.

Ministry secretary of state and spokesman Neth Pheaktra said CI and the ministry are cooperating to expand the carbon credit market in the Prey Lang area as a whole – which spans four northern provinces including Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kratie and Stung Treng – to build on their partnership’s previous successes there.

“We want to push for the sale of carbon credits in the entire Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary so that we can fund conservation efforts and strengthen the development of community protected areas.

“It will also ensure that we can build fences protecting the sanctuary from illegal logging and from illegal hunting,” he said. “We create a local economy for the people, create jobs, provide them with new options and strengthen protection forces. This is what we are pushing for in 2023.”

The ministry and CI announced this as they co-hosted a March 20 workshop in Phnom Penh to summarise the results of 2022 and set the work direction for 2023 for the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary Conservation Project.

According to documents from the workshop, the ministry and CI have been cooperating for a long period to preserve Cambodia’s natural heritage, including working together to establish the protected area sanctuary since 2016.

The documents also noted that CI has facilitated the mobilisation of development partners, including Japanese-owned Mitsui & Co Ltd, to financially invest in and support the protection of Prey Lang.

In 2018, the ministry, CI and Mitsui signed an agreement on the first phase of the Prey Lang Forest Conservation Project covering the years 2018-2021.

The agreement aimed to demonstrate the commitment of international private companies and development partners to protect and conserve Cambodia’s forest resources under the Joint Crediting Mechanism, which is a new bilateral mechanism between Cambodia and Japan in partnership to promote green development and lower carbon emissions in Cambodia.

The project focused on two main areas: strengthening law enforcement and improving the livelihoods of local communities in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary of Stung Treng province.

“While in the first phase, we encountered many obstacles, so Mitsui decided to invest a lot of money to expand the REDD+ project throughout Prey Lang,” the document said.

In 2021, the ministry, CI and Mitsui signed an agreement on the second phase of the JCM-REDD+ project covering a period of six years from 2021-2026 for implementation.

Mitsui’s financing investment directly supported the development and implementation of the REDD+ project, with a large portion of the budget supporting the implementation of laws to prevent deforestation.

“The Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary is the last and largest tropical lowland forest in Southeast Asia. The sanctuary has been playing an important role in stabilising ecosystems, storing carbon from the atmosphere and contributing to absorption of Mekong River floods. Conservation not only protects biodiversity and forests, but also preserves ecological services that are important to Cambodia and the world,” the document stated.