The UN Development Programme (UNDP) issued its Human Development Report 2020 on December 16, suggesting that Cambodia could become a model country to demonstrate a sustainable balance between the parallel processes of development and conservation.
The 400-page report described most countries as currently reaching a critical tipping point where they must redesign their pathways to progress in order to ease the dangerous pressures humans put on the planet.
“Cambodia could be an example of how human development can go hand in hand with environmental sustainability. With new technologies, promoting investment in the green economy, including expansion of environment-related infrastructure such as renewable energy, green transportation, climate-smart agriculture and community forest expansion – all of these offer opportunities for Cambodia to achieve higher levels of human development with inclusive and sustainable economic growth,” said Nick Beresford, UNDP Cambodia resident representative.
The UNDP presented experimental new metrics for calculating human progress which take into account a countrys carbon dioxide emissions and materials-consumption footprints, in addition to measurements of health, education and standards of living.
By adjusting the Human Development Index (HDI) to reflect humanity’s impact on the environment, the report shows how the global development landscape changes when both the well being of both the people and the planet are central to defining humanity’s progress.
Under the resulting Planetary-Pressures Adjusted HDI – or PHDI – more than 50 countries dropped out of the ‘very high human development’ group, reflecting their dependence on fossil fuels and large material footprints.
UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said: “As this report shows, no country in the world has yet achieved very high human development without putting immense strain on the planet. But we could be the first generation to right this wrong. That is the next frontier for human development.”
Despite the inclusion of the new data, Cambodia moved upwards in the PHDI ranking and now needs to build on this momentum, according to the UNDP. Nature-based human development offers the nation an opportunity to make great strides in progress with innovation, efficiency and equity, it said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on December 17 that human development was previously measured using only economic, health and education indicators, but now Cambodia is integrating environmental impact into its strategies and statistics.
“Although this work needs to be discussed further by the relevant ministries and institutions, we understand that these two additional criteria are very important for a comprehensive view of our progress,” he said.
Managing environmental impact, especially by reducing emissions, is a pillar of the government’s Rectangular Strategy Phase IV focusing on growth, employment, equity and efficiency, Pheaktra said.
The government and private sector have made efforts to develop natural resource management and environmental protection through measures such as participation in REDD+, an international strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and new provisions for waste management, taxation and investment laws.
“The government is committed to promoting the use of renewable energy [25 per cent target by 2030] and achieving carbon neutrality,” Pheaktra said.