Low-income developing countries such as Cambodia will suffer the worst effects of global climate change, including food insecurity and lower agricultural output, according to a new U.N. report released Monday.
The report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II combines the research of more than 300 scientists from 70 countries. They predict severe repercussions across the world as temperatures and oceans rise.
The report presents an extensive regional analysis that identifies Southeast Asia—and Cambodia in particular—as particularly vulnerable to changes in climate due to an overreliance on fishing and rice production for livelihoods.
“Assessing climate change impacts together with the high share of fisheries as a source of income showed that Cambodia’s economy is one of the most vulnerable to climate change,” the report says.
Over the past 30 to 50 years, climate change has increased temperatures, causing an increase in wet-season flooding and dry season drought in the Lower Mekong region.
“Agricultural output has been noticeably impacted by intensified floods and droughts, which caused almost 90 percent of rice production losses in Cambodia during 1996-2000,” the report says. “Vietnam and Cambodia are two of the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts on fisheries.”
In November, the government launched its 10-year Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan, a blueprint to deal with climate-induced natural disasters.
According to the Environment Ministry, about $250 million has been generated by mostly external donors in the past three to four years to support projects by groups working to ameliorate the effects of climate change.
Yet Socheath Sou, secretary of the Cambodia Climate Change Network, a coalition of conservation groups, worries that not enough work is being done on the ground to prepare farming and fishing communities.
“Strategies alone do not help much. If there is going to be policy interventions, there needs to be a focus on community priorities that take into account the reality on the ground, where climate change differs according to the area,” he said.
Tin Ponlock, director of the Ministry of Environment’s climate change office, said Cambodia was well prepared to deal with the problem.
“In terms of coordinating with the various climate change groups and collaborating with different research projects, we have supported the mainstreaming of climate change into government policy—but there is always room for improvement,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)