A decade ago, climate change was not a term used often outside of expert scientific forums.
Fast forward to the present, last week saw an unprecedented international climate strike involving school children and young people, and last Monday the UN concluded a three-day high-level Climate Action Summit, attended by world leaders.
Climate change is now an emergency. When did we veer off track in protecting our planet?
We are running out of time and we must act now to reverse the course.
Emphasising the need for collective action, the UN says we have just 11 years to prevent a climate change catastrophe that could result in the extinction of a million species due to human activity.
Cambodia’s geographical location in the Mekong River and Tonle Sap basin, limited ability to adapt, and limited resources and capacity in rural areas pose tough challenges in dealing with climate change (according to a USAid report).
Climate change has exerted damaging impacts on five key areas –agriculture and food security, by reducing crop yields and reducing available agricultural land. Water resources, by decreasing water quality for drinking, freshwater availability, and by causing unpredictable changes in water flow.
It has also impacted human health by increasing heat stress, reducing water and food supply, and increasing water- and vector-borne disease. Fisheries by reducing fish production and causing the loss of livelihoods.
And ecosystems through the loss of livelihoods causing the loss of habitats and biodiversity.
Cambodia is not alone in dealing with adverse impacts caused by climatic events.
This is why all countries must act together now and fast to solve this problem.
What can we do?
A large part of the answer is to reduce carbon emissions by investing rapidly in green growth.
Clean and sustainable energy, transport, agriculture and industry means cheaper energy, more and better jobs, cleaner air, better health and nutrition, more liveable towns and cities, and an enriched natural environment.
The UK, in partnership with Italy, has been nominated to host COP26 by the UN Western European and Others Group (WEOG).
We will build on the legacy of previous COPs and work with the UN secretary-general to take forward the outcomes of the UN Climate Action Summit, and with Chile, who are hosting COP25 in December.
The nomination, to be submitted for final approval at COP25 in Santiago de Chile from December 2-13, will lead the UK to host the COP26 in Glasgow at the end of 2020, while
Italy will organise several important preparatory events, including the “Youth COP”, the “Pre-COP” and other important initiatives, with a focus also on Africa.
Energy efficiency key
The UK’s legally binding Climate Change Act committed us to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 from 1990 levels.
We have already reduced emissions by 43 per cent despite our economy growing by 72 per cent in that time.
We are the first major economy to signal our intention to end our contribution to global warming entirely.
All unabated coal-fired power stations will close by 2025.
Over 30 per cent of the UK’s electricity is already generated from renewable sources.
And we now produce 40 per cent of the world’s offshore wind.
Furthermore, our actions are not only implemented at home.
We have pledged at least £5.8 billion ($7.1 billion) from 2016-20 of UK International Climate Finance to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Similarly, Italy has reduced its CO2 equivalent emissions from 518 tonnes in 1990 to 427 tonnes, with a stable decrease in the past few years.
Together with our EU partners, we have committed – under the Paris Agreement – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
Energy efficiency is key to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Italy plans to improve it by 43 per cent, well above the 2030 EU target set at 32.5 per cent.
Moreover, Italy has been one of Europe’s forerunners in implementing smart metering systems to help households keep track of their electricity consumption – 36 million smart meters have been installed at the national level.
According to the European Commission, the Italian smart metering system was already the most efficient in Europe, and, since 2017, we have put in place a second generation of smart meters in order to facilitate even more an efficient energy management.
Highest level ambition
This is in line with Italy’s world-wide leading role – in the period 2013-20, Italy significantly “over achieved” the CO2 estimated reduction, thanks also to the development of renewable energies, which stood at more than 18 per cent of total energy consumption in 2018 (thus surpassing the EU’s targets of 17 per cent set for 2020), with a quota on electricity generation of 39.7 per cent (out of which 49 per cent is hydro and 40 per cent wind and solar).
Italy has pledged a total of €250 million as its national contribution to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.
Through our partnership, Italy and the UK have committed ourselves to promote the highest level of ambition possible for the next COP26 and to encourage the adoption of concrete actions capable of achieving the qualitative leap necessary for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.
This is a particularly significant development, one that strengthens the strategic cooperation between Italy and the UK on the subject of climate change.
We now have a demanding job, which is to keep the climate change challenge at the centre of the global agenda and with an increasingly ambitious approach to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
We know this is a massive task, but we are positive that together we can make sure that climate change will get the attention and above all the solutions it deserves.
We are acting now so that our future generations will be able to live on a healthy, sustainable planet.
Tina Redshaw is the UK Ambassador to Cambodia. Lorenzo Galanti is the Italian Ambassador to Cambodia.