Cambodia at ‘Extreme Risk’ of Climate Change Impact

A new index ranking the exposure of countries to the impact of climate change has placed Cam­bo­dia in the category of countries at “extreme risk” from future shifts in climate.

Cambodia was placed 27th in a group of 28 nations at “extreme risk” of climate change impacts, alongside 22 African countries, according to the report by Maple­croft, a British-based firm that provides global risk intelligence for businesses. The international stu­dy found that Cambodia is vulnerable due to its limited ability to mitigate the risks caused by chan­ges in climate.

The list, comprising 166 countries, was topped by Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan. Norway was found to be the country least at risk.

The “Climate Change Risk Re­port 2009/10” does not include climate change predictions, but in­stead focuses on the ability of societies, economies and communities to adapt to climate chan­ges—that according to Maple­croft is likely to be the major factor determining climate impacts during the next 10 years.

The report’s findings, released earlier this month, were based on information on economy, in­stitutions and governance, security of resources, vulnerability of ec­osystems, poverty and devel­op­ment levels, and settlements and infrastructure.

Cambodia will have particular difficulty adapting to changes in patterns of natural hazards—such as droughts, flooding and sea level rise—because of its lack of development, high poverty levels and vulnerability of natural resour­ces, according to Maplecroft. The state of the country’s economy, institutions and government also make it hard to shield the country from these hazards, the report states.

“The interrelated nature of global risks mean that ineffective adaptation to climate change will make the world more vulnerable to other risks such as energy, food and water security, infectious diseases such as malaria, displacement, political instability and even conflict,” Maplecroft Director Alyson Warhurst said in the report.

Another index on carbon dioxide emissions contained in the re­port ranked Cambodia among countries with the lowest per capita emissions from burning fossil fuels, at 179th out of 183 countries. But in terms of increasing carbon dioxide emissions due to de­forestation, Cambodia ranked 16th, while Peru and Brazil top­ped the list. Carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas” that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Tin Ponlok, Cambodia national coordinator for climate change policy, said yesterday that the ranking “reflects the situation of Cambodia as a less developed country with limited technical and financial capacity to deal with climate change.” According to Mr Ponlok, the question for Cambo­dia is: “How do you support socio-economic development under climate change?”

He said the Ministry of Environ­ment’s $200 million National Ad­aptation Program of Action has proposed 39 projects to address immediate needs to adapt to climate change and prevent hazards, but he added that only two programs are receiving international funding so far.

Estimates for the annual global cost of adaptive measures to help developing countries deal with climate change range up to hundreds of billions of dollars, Mr Pon­lok said, adding, “There is only a few hundred million available now.”

Brian Lund, East Asia regional director for Oxfam America, said that Cambodia is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts “because of its location and lack of resources to invest.”

“[T]he country is just beginning to look more comprehensively at longer-term preparedness and response to impacts, such as flooding from heavy rainfall in some areas and reduced crop yields from lack of rainfall in others,” he said in an e-mail.

The most important issue for Cambodia is a lack of available resources, Mr Lund said, adding that the global community “is still dragging its feet” in making funds available to vulnerable countries such as Cambodia.

Oxfam also announced yesterday that on Sept 23 it will be launching a one-year climate change program aimed at raising awareness of climate change issues among Cambodian government officials.

(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)


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