While the UN climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, last week produced no commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Cambodia is set to benefit from an agreement to set up a $100-billion fund to help poor countries deal with climate change.
In particular, Cambodia stands to benefit from the new deal on REDD-or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation-a mechanism that could offer the country a powerful incentive to protect its dwindling forests, a climate change expert said.
Andrew Mears, climate change adviser at the UN Development Program, said Monday that the Cancun conference had been a “very pragmatic meeting,” which focused on reaching agreements on climate funding, REDD and transferring technology to help developing countries like Cambodia.
At climate talks in Copenhagen last year, countries failed to agree on any issues related to emissions cuts, while a much-anticipated deal on REDD fell through and only $30 billion in global climate funds was made available.
Mr Mears said that in Cancun countries had reached an agreement on “all the key decisions” regarding REDD and he added that remaining issues surrounding the regulation of carbon credit markets would probably be worked out next year.
The REDD deal would provide strong support for preserving Cambodia’s forests in the coming years, Mr Mears said, as the government had already implemented policies and studies to support REDD projects.
Currently there are several REDD pilot projects under way in Cambodia.
“The country is already mobilizing and the agreements in Cancun means there’s opportunities emerging,” he said, adding that “a significant amount of money” should flow to REDD projects in Cambodia in about five years.
Under the REDD mechanism, the heaviest polluting nations pay to protect the shrinking forests of poor countries, allowing them to offset some of their own emissions.
By some optimistic estimates REDD trading could earn Cambodia $200 million annually. According to Mr Mears, this figure was “very rubbery,” but he said that given the Cambodia’s high forest cover-59 percent by government estimates-it would be one the countries in the region that could benefit most from REDD.
Tin Ponlok, national project coordinator for the Ministry of Environment’s climate change office, said the Cancun agreement was “fairly substantial” and could serve as a step toward a comprehensive global climate deal “in a year or two.”
He said the new global climate fund signaled more climate funds would become available for Cambodia in the coming years.
“The most important outcome for us is the financing for climate change adaptation,” he said, explaining that climate funding was badly needed as the government had so far only secured funding for two projects out of the 39 projects proposed in its $200-million National Adaptation Program of Action.
Brian Lund, regional director of Oxfam America’s East Asia Regional Office, said Oxfam had seen “positive steps” at Cancun, such as the establishment of the global climate fund, which would directly benefit Cambodia.
Mr Lund said while the Cancun agreement failed to come up with a binding agreement on emission reductions, it “does prevent backsliding on the targets currently on the table, and lays out a path to move toward them.”