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Working Together to Address Climate Change

William E. Todd, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia Share:

PHNOM PENH, March 24, 2014 – During Cambodia’s dry season, I have noticed how low the Mekong River’s water level has dropped.  Water is our most precious resource, and without a reliable supply, we cannot grow food, produce energy, and sustain the environment.  March 22 was World Water Day, a time to recognize the importance water plays in our daily lives.  The day is also a reminder that Cambodia’s natural resources are vulnerable to the impact of climate change.  Recently, a concerned university student asked me, “What can Cambodians do about climate change?”
First, I believe everyone has an obligation to confront the reality of climate change.  Since it has no boundaries, climate change affects all of us.  Globally, 12 of the hottest 13 years on record have occurred since 2000.  Regionally, scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to longer and more unpredictable monsoon seasons and more extreme weather.  By 2025, researchers predict that Cambodia will experience an increase in average temperature, a longer and warmer dry season, and more rainfall during the wet season, all of which will have a major impact on agricultural productivity and food security.  The number and severity of floods and droughts will likely increase and affect millions of Cambodian farmers.  As we witnessed in October 2013, damaging floods can wipe out a sizeable amount of Cambodia’s rice production.
Through President Obama’s Global Climate Change Initiative and Climate Action Plan, the United States is making an effort to address global climate change.  Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions, and we are working with other countries to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
I am encouraged that the Royal Government of Cambodia is acting on the need to address climate change.  Over the past 10 years, Cambodia has completed important policy and development activities, such as the 2013-2030 National Policy and Strategic Development Plan on Green Development, the National Adaptation Programme of Action for Climate Change, and the Green Growth Road Map.  In 2010, Cambodia was selected as a pilot country under the Climate Investment Fund, which is bringing in millions of dollars in grants to promote climate resilience across many areas, including water resources and agriculture.  Limited resources, however, have prevented Cambodia from tackling some of the formidable challenges related to climate change.  Cambodia’s need for economic growth has led to conversion of forests for industrial agriculture plantations.  Infrastructure projects to address growing energy needs, such as hydropower dams, pose further threats to Cambodia’s forests, biodiversity, and rivers.  It is important to remember that Cambodia’s precious forests not only provide livelihoods for a large number Cambodians, but the forests’ ability to hold carbon helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the entire world, further helping to combat global climate change.
          Angry hot Earth!
I believe we can overcome these challenges by working together.  Last year, Cambodia and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding on low emissions and climate resilient development in the country.  This new partnership with Cambodia’s National Climate Change Committee identifies areas for bilateral cooperation to promote economic growth activities that minimize greenhouse gas emissions.  Our two governments are also collaborating to mitigate climate change by conserving more than one million hectares of forests and plains in Cambodia.  In partnership with the Cambodian government, civil society, and the private sector, the U.S.-funded Supporting Forests and Biodiversity project aims to reduce deforestation rates and greenhouse gas emissions by improving the management of forests.
Cambodia’s farmers, and the millions of people who depend on the crops they grow, face many challenges caused by changing weather patterns.  Cambodia HARVEST, an integrated food security and climate change program, is helping thousands of farmers increase their income, improve food security, and adapt to the consequences of climate change.  As part of its work with rice farmers, HARVEST introduced flood- and drought-tolerant seed varieties that allow farmers to delay or accelerate planting according to unpredictable weather conditions.  I have visited several HARVEST-supported farms, and it has been gratifying to see how the program helps participating farmers and their families boost their standard of living by evening out crop production.
The United States remains committed to partnering with the Royal Government of Cambodia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.  I am hopeful these efforts will enable Cambodia to sustain future agricultural production and economic growth.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech last month in which he outlined America’s global engagement on climate change.  He said, “Ultimately, every nation on Earth has a responsibility to do its part if we have any hope of leaving our future generations the safe and healthy planet that they deserve.”  I strongly believe that, working together, the United States and Cambodia can do much to address this responsibility.

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