Today is World Meteorological Day and Muhibuddin Usamah argues that achieving a climate-ready Cambodia requires multi-faceted interventions – shifting the mentality of policy makers from response to one that is geared towards preparedness, adaptation and multi-sectoral collaboration.
Increasing climatic events has exacerbated the frequency, severity and unpredictability of disasters in Cambodia. The most common types include cyclones, windstorms, flood and drought. Major floods in the last two decades have impacted the country’s GDP. Damages from the 2013 floods, for instance, was estimated at $356 million and affected 1.7 million people. Cambodia also ranks high among drought-prone countries in the Asia-Pacific, experiencing drought at least 17 times. The 2016 drought alone directly affected 2.5 million people and indirectly impacted the rest of the country.
Cambodians become even more vulnerable to such impacts when socio-economic and institutional capacities are highly limited, particularly in responding to, managing and preventing climate-related disasters.
To build resilience, Cambodia needs to be equipped with adaptation and mitigation measures, from establishing national policies and their implementation strategies, to capacity building:
1. Prioritise climate adaptation actions and disaster management. Implementation strategies must be in place at the national and local levels, based on the Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan, Strategic Action Plan and Law on Disaster Management. Monitoring the annual progress of the plan is crucial and must be communicated to the public. This could be an important baseline in reporting on the country’s commitment towards achieving global climate change treaties, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement. An established policy also includes proper allocation of budget for risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
2. Perform risk analysis for improved identification and understanding of climate change impact, highlighting the importance of climate and disaster risk assessment, from national and sub-national level down to community-based assessments.
3. Integrate climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction in all levels of policy. This is about translation of the policy into programmable actions such as implementing mitigating measures in areas prone to the impact of climatic disasters. Risk analysis should guide priority actions and areas. Risk-informed land use planning and establishing building codes are some examples of policy being implemented.
4. Early warning systems must be linked to preparedness or contingency plans. Integrating technology and community-based early warning is an important approach for a people-centered early warning system. Given Cambodia’s geographical vulnerability, multi-scaled hydro-meteorological modeling would be needed to develop forecast capability, linked with transboundary initiatives from the upstream and downstream. Supports in installing/upgrading Automatic Weather and Hydro Stations across the country would be more impactful if coupled with the community-based preparedness plan.
5. Build the capacity of various stakeholders that link policy, risk assessment and community preparedness. Climate action must include community preparedness to enhance their capacity to respond and adapt. A real-time forecasting system set-up by a technical institution is a powerful tool that will help translate climate information for early warning and effective contingency planning (including who does what and when). This also includes building the capacity of government officials in post-disaster needs assessment and recovery.
Multi-sectoral collaboration – from weather-related data analysis to forecast, dissemination and strengthening community capacity – is the underlying requirement for building a climate-smart Cambodia. Collaboration with wider stakeholders should further be enhanced such as between all levels of government or inter-ministry, with non-profit organisations, academia and the private sector. This can be achieved, for example, through inclusion of various climate actions as part of the private sector’s corporate social responsibility.
Achieving a climate-ready Cambodia thus requires multi-faceted interventions. Shifting the mentality from response to one that is geared towards preparedness, adaptation and multi-sectoral collaboration is key.
While the above-mentioned are not fixed solutions that address the complexities of achieving Weather-Ready, Climate-Smart Nation status, being climate-ready is emphasized at both the policy maker level and at the community level. It is important to address and combine these two levels of approaches in the whole spectrum of climate change adaptation, mitigation and disaster management.
Muhibuddin Usamah is project manager at the United Nations Development Programme in Cambodia (Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning System in Cambodia).