Panel Urges Cambodia To Prepare for Climate Change Funds

Cambodia and its foreign donors have far to go before the country can handle the financial aid pledged to combat rising global temperatures in Copenhagen last December, panelists at the first of three climate change debates around Phnom Penh said yesterday.

Government delegates from around the world failed to settle on binding carbon emissions cuts when they converged on the Danish capital for the highly anticipated UN-sponsored talks late last year. But they did pledge $30 billion to help the poorest countries cope with the effects of those emissions between 2010 and 2012, and promised to find $100 billion a year for the cause by 2020.

The Environment Ministry and British Embassy are co-hosting the debates to spur discussions about what the Copenhagen Accord means for Cambodia. Everyone from government officials in Phnom Penh to rice farmers in Kom­pong Thom, many badly af­fected by Ty­phoon Ketsana last year, blame the region’s increasingly erratic weather on man-made climate change.

“The meeting in Copenhagen did not bring any new agreement…for solving climate change,” Environ­ment Ministry Secretary of State Thuk Kroeun Vutha told the conference. “However, the Copenhagen Ac­cord has provided hope for seeking the solution.”

But before developing countries like Cambodia get to benefit, both donors and recipients will need to set up transparent monitoring and reporting schemes to make sure the promised money hits its mark.

“It is one of the key issues we have to work for in the future,” European Union Charge d’Affaires Rafael Dochao Moreno told the audience of some 200 students gathered at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“We’re not there yet and everybody acknowledges that,” Koen Everaert, an EU attache working on climate change issues, said during a break in the event.

But progress is being made.

As he spoke, Mr Moreno said, delegates from across the EU were meeting in Brussels to decide exactly how much money to pledge to­ward Cambodia’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, possibly as much as $60 million. And it was only last month that the UN and EU donors pledged just over $9 million to launch the Cambodian Climate Change Alliance, an attempt to coordinate both government and non-government efforts.

At least as important as serving their own ends, the programs could also help Cambodia tap into the even larger funds promised in Copenhagen.

“These two are the two major mechanisms in the country today not only to start and kick off climate change contributions [from donors], but to prepare the country for future contributions,” Mr Everaert said.

Other panelists included British Ambassador Andrew Mace, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative Lay Khim and NGO Forum Envi­ron­­ment Program coordinator Seng Sovathana.


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