PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Monday that Cambodia was a “victim” of climate change, and that developed countries should shoulder more of the load in trying to reverse troubling trends such as rising temperatures and sea levels.
Speaking at the opening of the inaugural National Forum on Climate Change, Hun Sen said less-developed countries like Cambodia had been severely affected by climate change and lacked the resources to tackle the problem on their own.
“The rich countries should be more responsible, as they have more resources to settle this matter,” Hun Sen told several hundred forum delegates in a speech at Chaktomuk Theatre.
“Cambodia is not the country responsible for climate change but is the victim.… The huge countries should not blame less-developed countries.”
The premier struck a pessimistic note in his remarks, saying rising temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns and surging sea levels would only continue to hit developing countries like Cambodia the hardest.
“As a nation based on agriculture, Cambodia is vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” he said.
Hun Sen’s comments come ahead of key climate change talks planned for December in Copenhagen, where world leaders are under pressure to strike an agreement on climate-change policies that would extend beyond 2012.
The Kyoto Protocol, the existing international climate change agreement, recognises that developing countries are primarily responsible for soaring levels of greenhouse gas emissions and should bear a heavier burden in addressing the issue.
Still, environment advocates say developing nations like Cambodia aren’t completely powerless, even if strict emissions reductions aren’t on the table.
“Developed countries certainly must accept most of the blame for causing the problem,” Geoffrey Blate, climate change coordinator for the Greater Mekong programme of the conservation group WWF, said in an interview.
“At the same time, Cambodia can and should take immediate steps to address climate change. The problem is global in scope.”
The road to Copenhagen
The most significant piece of policy expected out of this week’s forum is the development of Cambodia’s draft position leading up to the December talks. Ministry of Environment officials are expected to present the draft position on Wednesday.
Observers said they hoped this week’s forum would help bolster Cambodia’s bargaining position ahead of the talks.
“Cambodia needs to have a strong voice in international negotiations and demand that developed countries meet their historical responsibility and provide financing for adaptation,” said Brian Lund, regional director of Oxfam’s East Asia office.
Speaking at the forum Monday, Environment Minister Mok Mareth linked climate change to devastating weather events over the past two decades.
From 1987 to 2007, Cambodia faced 12 floods that claimed the lives of 1,125 people and caused US$300 million in damages, Mok Mareth said. Meanwhile, the Kingdom was hit by severe droughts on five occasions, causing $140 million in damages, he said.