The Council of Ministers approved Cambodia’s first ever long-term forest management plan on Friday, giving the government a set of policy objectives to span the next two decades.
Written with the aid of the Danish International Development Agency, the nearly 200-page National Forest Program aims to guide the sustainable management of Cambodia’s beleaguered forests until 2030.
Spokesman Phay Siphan said the council approved the plan, which takes effect immediately, with no major changes.
“We will use this plan to protect our forests. We will also use it as a roadmap to develop the forests,” said Thun Sarath, spokesman for the Forestry Administration.
Danida deputy head of mission Jacob Jepsen said the NFP diverges from the one- to five-year plans it replaces by focusing on climate change and aiming to draw revenue from increasingly popular carbon trading schemes.
Carbon trading requires governments and firms to pay developing countries to preserve their forests in the hope of offsetting carbon emissions. According to the UN, carbon trading could eventually earn Cambodia up to $200 million a year by some estimates—if it ever becomes part of a global and binding climate change deal.
At a forest conference attended by Asean and European Union delegates in Phnom Penh last week, Forestry Administration officials called such financing a “key program” of the forestry plan and said Cambodia had already set aside 272,000 hectares to run pilot programs.
Environmental groups, such as Global Witness and Conservation International, have said that the plan will only be as effective as its implementation and enforcement.
The projected $39 million budget for the plan’s first four years calls for $1 million for monitoring and reporting. The plan itself leaves the details of such a system to be worked out by the end of the year and notes that any independent monitoring “will be applied as found necessary and productive.”
(Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)