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EU steps up unity on climate change

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently described climate change as ‘the defining issue of our time . . . a direct existential threat’. ALEX HALADA/AFP

EU steps up unity on climate change

The adverse effects of climate change pose a great threat to our planet and its people. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently described climate change as “the defining issue of our time . . . a direct existential threat”.

It will have huge impacts on agriculture, on heath, on infrastructure and on the natural environment. It will undermine the development gains made over many decades and the prospects for achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Like some parts of Europe, Cambodia is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Unabated climate change will expose the country to increasing and more unpredictable rainfall and floods, prolonged droughts, tropical storms and sea-level rise.

As roughly half of economically active Cambodians work in agriculture, climate change hits the population hard, threatening income, food security, and infrastructure.

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change set the direction of travel for the global transition to low-emission, climate-resilient economies and societies. However, we already know that the emissions reduction targets put forward in Paris will not be enough to reach our common objective of limiting global warming below 1.5°C or 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

The upcoming special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will show that the window to stay within these limits is closing very fast. This is why we must speed up the implementation of the Paris Agreement and in parallel greatly increase the ambition of our emissions reduction targets.

This year, governments and stakeholders from round the world are getting together to look at possibilities to enhance action under the “Talanoa Dialogue”. This consultative process is the first opportunity since Paris to look at our collective efforts so far, as well as opportunities to increase global ambition.

The EU sees the Talanoa Dialogue as a key moment to focus on solutions. A meaningful outcome of these discussions should be a commitment by all governments to review their level of ambition in light of the 1.5C target and to accelerate the pace of collective action.

Another important deliverable for the international community this year is adopting the Paris Agreement work programme (Rulebook), detailingthe rules for putting the agreement into practice. Adopting these new rules at the next UN climate conference (COP24) in December in Katowice, Poland, is vital to enable us to track and demonstrate the progress being made around the world and give all sides – developed and developing countries alike – a framework to deliver on our shared vision.

Cambodia Climate Change Alliance
In Europe, the EU is welladvanced in putting in place its domestic legislative framework todeliver its target of cutting domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

This includes, for example, revising the EU emissions trading system for the period after 2020and integrating land use in our climate legislation. Initial calculations show that with the agreed legislation fully implemented emission reductions will be quite a bit higher than 40 per cent.

In parallel, we are looking beyond 2030. The European Commission is preparing a proposal for a strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The Commission will make its proposal ahead of COP24 to provide a solid foundation for an EU-wide debate.

At the same time, we are stepping up international cooperation and support to partners outside the EU, through policy dialogues, capacity-building projects and climate finance. The EU, its member states and the European Investment Bank contributed €20.2 billion ($23.5 billion) in public climate finance towards developing countries in 2016.

This represents a 15 per cent increase compared to the previous year, as well as roughly half of global public climate finance. The EU remains committed to the collective goal of mobilising $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020 from a variety of sources to support action in developing countries.

In Cambodia, the EU is supporting the Royal Government’sefforts to address climate change through funding of the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance. This alliance helps ministries in adapting their activities and planning to tackle climate change. It helps to steer public and private investments into a more climate friendly direction, and supports local communities in adaptation to climate change.

The EU also supports the conservation and sustainable use of forests, which have an important role to play in the fight against climate change, by absorbing harmful CO2 from the atmosphere, and regulating local climatic conditions.

The production of energy from renewable, environmentally friendly sources such as solar energy is key to ensuring that economic growth does not come at the expense of climate stability.

At a time where solar energy costs have fallen dramatically, the huge potential of solar energy for sustainable development needs to be fully exploited in Cambodia.

The EU supports the adoption and distribution of solar energy technologies in Cambodia. Solar energy isa viable alternative to more environmentally damaging technologies such as energy generated from large hydropower dams and coal.

While the Paris Agreement sets the direction of travel, the journey has only just begun. Over the coming months and years, all countries will need to foster the right environment to enable this transformation to continue.

Low-emission and climate-resilient growth is possible for countries at all levels of income and brings multiple and tangible benefits for people, the economy and the environment. The EU is committed to work with Cambodia as well as all partners to continue this journey together.

HE Mr George Edgar is Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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