Cambodia Warned of Global Warming Threat

By 2025 the world could be two to four degrees hotter than it is today and the havoc wreaked by global warming will hurt the developing world the most, Monique Barbut, chief executive officer of the Global Environment Facility, said Thursday in Phnom Penh.

“Countries like Cambodia are very vulnerable,” Barbut said. Not only is Cambodia, like Africa, al­ready hot; existing problems, of food supply and environmental da­m­age alike, will only get worse as the world gets hotter, she said.

The GEF is a $3.16 billion fund that helps developing countries deal with climate change and promotes sustainable development, largely through programs implemented by the UN and the World Bank.

Richer nations, like the US, which industrialized without environmental controls, can afford to prepare themselves for the effects of global warming, but poorer na­tions, like Cambodia, which must comply with global environmental protocols even as they struggle to develop their economies, cannot.

Part of the GEF’s mission is to pay the extra costs associated with development that does not contribute to global warming—and that doesn’t come cheap: Since 1991, GEF has provided $6.8 billion in grants to more than 1,900 projects in 160 developing countries.

“We have to help,” Barbut said. “There is no way [developing countries] can deal with it themselves.”

Take rice. Global warming could decrease yields dramatically. One of the 13 programs GEF is funding in Cambodia aims to boost rice yields 200 to 300 percent though improved farming techniques. But Barbut says today’s bumper crop will be tomorrow’s subsistence farming if the planet gets significantly warmer.

“We are trying to test new crops and technologies so we can ensure that 15 years from now, you get at least the same amount as you are getting today,” she said. “If it’s three times higher today, in 15 years, we are almost sure it will be at the level it is today.”

Environment Minister Mok Mareth said GEF’s funds brought “great hope” to Cambodia and urged all nations to do their part to protect the environment. Barbut said that over the next three years, GEF plans to spend an additional $8 to $10 million in Cambodia to help prevent further climate change and ease its impact.

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