Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Address at the 1st National Forum on Climate Change

Phnom Penh, October 19, 2009

Your Venerable Monks,

Your Excellency Douglas Broderick, UN Coordinator in Cambodia,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear all Participants and Students,

Today, it is my privilege and pleasure to participate the 1st National Forum on Climate Change. I would like to extend my warm welcome to distinguished national and international representatives of the senate, the national assembly, government’s ministries and institutions, development partners, ambassadors to the Kingdom of Cambodia, NGOs, private sector, educational institutions, and all the participants.

As we already know, during the 1992 summit of the world leaders in Rio de Janeiro on sustainable development and the 21st agenda for guiding the world towards sustainable and equitable development, Cambodia was locked in the national reunification effort.

The 1993 Election, supported by the UN, gave birth to a coalition government but the civil war still existed. However, Cambodia managed to integrate itself into the international community and took part in addressing global issues.

In particular, Cambodia signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1995 which reflected its awareness on the issue as well as its determination and responsibility in the global effort to tackle climate change.

It was not until 1998 that Cambodia enjoyed the complete national peace and political stability for the first time during the last four decades, thanks to the Royal Government’s “Win-Win” policy and political will as well as determination in the cause of national unification. Currently, Cambodian people are striving to restore socio-economic development to improve the living standard and ensure national sustainable development, as stated in the Rectangular Strategy Phase II. We are implementing the task under the theme of “Climate Change” which cannot be ignored in the national development agenda and international relation.

This factor does not only require us to reconsider our national development plan and traditional methods in development effort, we must transform it into an opportunity for underpinning sustainable development in the face climate change.

In this spirit, the organization of the 1st National Forum on Climate Change is another crossroad in the history of Cambodia. This forum is a critical event and allows us to share information and experience with other regional countries. We can also exchange dialogue on critical issues and measures to tackle climate change and embed it in the formulation of national policies and plans, future implementation of various international agreements on climate change, financing for developing countries, transfer of technologies, emergency funding for the most vulnerable countries, especially adaptation measures and capacity building. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my profound gratitude to particular development partners and NGOs for supporting this important forum and taking part in tackling climate change.

The three main challenges of climate change are: increasing temperature, changes of rain patterns, changes of sea level which have direct and strong impact to least developing countries. As a country that just recovered from the civil war, and with limited development progress, Cambodia is vulnerable to the climate change, because Cambodia is a agricultural country with the majority of the population depend upon the agricultural products and other natural resources for their daily living. As stated clearly in Khmer proverb “Farming requires water, fighting requires food supply”, that is importance for our agriculture sector, our living and as well as the entire national development. Rice and Fish is our staple food, traditional and strategic. Within this context, the impacts caused by the climate change for agriculture, water resources, fisheries and people health and others will lead to severe food security and socio-economic development problems, as we have limited resources technically, financially and institutionally in response to the climate change.

The Royal Government of Cambodia, as a signatory of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocols, Cambodia is fully aware of the impact and will continue to do its best to implement this convention and protocol. In fact, in reducing the greenhouse effects we have implemented many Win-Win measures to support the sustainable development such as clean project mechanism, promotion of renewable energy, campaign on oil and energy saving, conservation of forest in national natural reserves and protected forest areas as well as voluntary activities of the private sector in the promotion of the use of renewable energy from agriculture wastes for their production, especially the use of bio-energy, rice husk and bio-gas for electricity production and cooking at the rural areas.

In forestry sector, we have implemented some projects by the forestry administration to reduce the greenhouse effects by the mitigation of the lose of forest, degradation of forest, preservation of forest as well as raising the living standard of the community within the projects whether inside or outside the national natural resources protected areas.

For the adaptation of climate change measures, the Royal Government of Cambodia has implemented program activities of adaptation of climate change in late 2006, which has 39 projects for implementation to response to immediate needs of communities to adapt themselves with climate change.

In agricultural sector, as I have already mentioned earlier, the climate changes, hence, it is necessary to change the practice of our farmers which has been traditionally carrying out, basically from rice transplanting to the use of rice seeds. Otherwise, we would not be able to ensure food security and development.

RGC is paying great attention on the institutional capacity development. In 2006, we have established National Committee for the Management of Climate Change that is an inter-governmental institution having comprehensive mission related to policy formulation, coordination, enhancement of corporation etc., particularly in climate change. Recently, I accepted the request for chairing this international committee, which is a testimony of great attention of RGC on climate change because it is not only an environmental issue or separated sector, but a development issue that has inter-sectors in behavior and multi skills that involve duty of national ministries.

This national committee must primarily focus on mainstreaming of climate change into relevant sectors especially agriculture; water resources; forestry; industry and energy and health ensuring the sustainable agricultural development; growth of rice production; food security; sustainable development of industrial sector and energy; reduction of import of oil; the sustainable development of water resources and land; development of tourisms sector; culture and nature; the people’s health care and the construction of infrastructure that endure the condition of the changes of weather. At the same time, the important task is to strengthen the capacity of this secretariat that consists of professionals having work experience, technical ability and skilful management capacity from relevant ministries and institutions, aiming at ensuring effective operation and sustainable task of this national committee. In this regard, I would like to call for an increasing support and facilitation from all Development Partners with this national committee that is an RGC’s level official institution for policy framework, ensuring ownership and response to the specific need of Cambodia.

Climate change is a great challenge facing the world that has strong potential changing the development of human civilization, if we do not take serious and timely measure to cope with it. This issue does not stop at particular boundary of one nation because the world has only one atmosphere. Therefore, both rich and poor countries are affected by climate change. Unfortunately, poor countries are the ones that mostly affected from the crisis that was originated elsewhere, because they have very little resources to cope with climate change. Very often, governments of poor countries have very limited intervention through rescue operation and relief efforts after the crisis already occurred. As for those poor people they only have to endure the hardship from climate change. Indeed, those people have become accustomed to the loss of lives, properties, and crops every year, however, this adaptation can be considered as unsuccessful. This has created a moral issue for the world. Who is responsible for victims of climate change at Bangladesh’s Mekong Delta or those millions of people living on small remote islands who will lose their homes from rising sea level? Actually, those developed countries who created the problem in the first place should show more remorse and be the first to take accepted responsibility for their past and current deeds as stated in the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change. This is a karma for enjoying happiness and prosperity over someone else’ sorrow, especially, when it is done intentionally.

In two months, world leaders will convene for the 15th time in Copenhagen, Denmark to seek solutions for climate change by discussing on the creation of a new agreement after the end of the first phase of Kyoto Protocol in 2012. Although the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol has shown some limited achievements, but politically, this protocol revealed that all countries can help to reduce greenhouse gas emission and support sustainable development. In this sense, the principles as embedded in the Kyoto Protocol are still valuable for consideration in preparing the new agreement to tackle climate change. In general, Cambodia fully support climate change resolution measures based on critical principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which includes ”joint responsibility, but to a different degree”, “different requirement and unique situation of developing countries, especially, vulnerable countries to climate change and their right to promote sustainable development” and those preventive measures which allow them to take action even when science is unavailable.

Indeed, it will be difficult to expect a new agreement replacing the Kyoto Protocol at the end of this 15th Summit because there are many contrasting views on the matter. However, we hope that all countries will agree on some common points relating to the responsibility of each country in reducing greenhouse gas emission, assisting the adaptation measures those countries vulnerable to climate change, financing issue, transferring technology and building capacity for developing countries, especially, for the LDCs.

LDCs are the most vulnerable to climate change because their adaptation capacity is still limited. Therefore, those countries should be the prime target for receiving assistance, especially, for implementing their national sub-programs for adaptation to climate change and the financing of their adaptation projects should not be tied up with any condition at all based on the real circumstance and need of each community and country. Currently, there is very little budget of about $300 millions that can be used to finance adaptation activities at developing countries compares to their annual requirement which is estimated to be billions of dollars. In this sense, there should be a legal commitment in financing adaptation activities for vulnerable countries to avoid adding extra debt to those countries. For instance, countries as listed in Annex 1 of the Convention on Climate Change should provide more financing to support expenses of the adaptation activities in developing and vulnerable countries, which is the contract under Article 4 of the Convention.

It is very encouraging to know that recently the European Union has pledged and is considering to provide a budget of 2 to 15 billion US Dollars annually to poor countries for implementing their adaptation measures.

Relating to the future agreement after the Kyoto Protocol, Cambodia fully supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emission through avoiding forest degradation and destruction and forest conservation because the loss of tropical forest has contributed to about 20% of gas emission annually around the world. However, the success of this mechanism could be assured only with a good incentive scheme, justice and justified economic cost of legal relative to illegal use of forest. In addition to carbon absorption, forest protection and conservation brought a lot of benefits to community, country and the world. They include non-timber forest products for community, protecting watershed, regulating water level, fertilizing land, absorbing rain water, correcting weather condition, conserving biodiversities, etc. Local community should be the ultimate beneficiaries from this sort of projects. However, allocation of resources to transform forest into carbon absorbed reservoir should not compete with effort to promote the reduction of green house gas emission, which has been done by promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, technology transfer to poor countries as well as the effort of developed countries to reduce emissions.

The effort of either reducing green-house gas emission or adapting to climate change could not be success without transfer modern technology to developing countries, especially to the least developing countries. This is well taken in Article IV of Climate Change Convention and Bali Roadmap.

This is a win-win solution for the world climate because developing countries could bypass traditional method of economic development, instead they increase efficiency, reduce environmental pollution and green-house gas to support sustainable socio-economic development. Nevertheless, market mechanism failed to encourage technology transfer, because it is driven by profit and does not have any mechanism to add environmental impacts. Moreover, new technologies that do less harm to environment are expensive and protected by global patens, which is a reason of less attractiveness to private sector. In this regards, measures based on supply-demand are not sufficient to drive technology transfer. To fill out the gap, governments of developed world should take more actions to ensure that climate-friendly technology could be transferred to developing countries. In short, monitoring and market mechanism are two complementary measures for technology transfer under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, they should transfer technologies as an excuse to get rid of obsolete technologies that are harmful to human, climate or experiment of unreliable technologies, which its impacts are unpredictable. Technology transfer should be comprehensive by including specialized tools, information, capacity building and financial resources. In this regards, South-South cooperation should be added to North-South Cooperation to encourage for technology transfer with low cost.

Climate change is a result of market failure. Open cycle of market system is following: extract natural resources, produce, consume, emit back to the environment. The absent of mechanism to include environmental impacts to cost of production and proliferation of consumerism culture worldwide lead to excessively extract of natural resources, especially fossil fuel, and emit green-house gas to a highest level of human history. This life-and-dead challenge is a historic test from human being to show their capabilities to survive their lives and civilizations. In this regard, an individual, an institution, a country has their respective role to address this life-and-dead issue according to its abilities, competencies, roles, responsibilities and its contributions to the causes of these issues.

In context of Cambodia, the immediate priority are following: prepare policy, strategy and action plan on climate change; streamline climate change into sectoral policy and plan; create climate change fund to mobilize resources for implementing projects on adaptation to climate change and reducing green-house gas emission; strengthen institution and technical capacity, cooperation and coordination and research studies; strengthen role of private sector, and prepare to join the 15th summit of members of Climate Change Convention.

With limited capacities and resources, but with high policy commitment, Cambodia is ready to contribute and share responsibilities to future of human being with world effort to address issue of climate change following the principles of UN Framework Convention for Climate Change. We strongly hope that commitment from Cambodia would inspire similar commitment from our development partner.

I believe that the next two days forum would offer a good venue for us to understand, learn and discuss on some important topics that lead to some pragmatic recommendations that could be used to support sustainable development under framework of climate change.

Finally, I would like to wish you all the four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Happiness and Strength and I would like to declare the opening of the First National Forum on Climate Change.

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