Climate change is the long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns. While the climate of the earth has always gone through periods of change, modern scientific evidence demonstrates that increasing and rapid weather changes are occurring worldwide. The term ‘climate change’ refers to the result of human activity related to industrialization, deforestation and changes in land use.1
Cambodia is ranked as one of the most climate-vulnerable countries, not only in Southeast Asia,2 but the world. The Climate Risk Index ranks countries most affected by climate change in the period 1996–2015 based on extreme weather events. Cambodia ranked 13th out of 181 countries.3
Potential impacts of climate change were highlighted in an April 2018 report from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Council for Sustainable Development, Modelling of Climate Change Impacts on Growth.4 The report estimated that climate change could reduce Cambodia’s GDP by 2.5 percent by 2030 and by almost 10 percent by 2050. The fall is largely the result of reduced worker productivity following temperature increases, extreme events impacting on infrastructure and loss of crops.
Two-thirds of the loss could be avoided with improved policies, investment to adapt to climate change and measures to climate-proof infrastructure where possible.
Open Development Cambodia (ODC) forest cover 2014 report reveals a continuing trend in forest cover loss–particularly dense forest—across Cambodia since 1973.5 For the first time, the percentage of non-forest ground cover (48.4%) is larger than that of forest cover (47.7%).6 High rates of deforestation will contribute to greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions.
Cambodia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because the kingdom depends largely on climate-sensitive sectors including agriculture, land, water resources, forestry and fisheries.7 In a developing country with a weak adaptive capacity and limited infrastructure, rural households, especially women and other vulnerable groups, will struggle to cope with the impacts of climate change.8
Cambodia lost $1.5 billion – 10 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) – in 2015 from the negative effect of climate change, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In July 2016 the Bank announced a $96 million package to help the Kingdom cope with the loss of livelihoods and income due to extreme climatic events. If nothing is done to address this problem the country could lose a bigger percentage in the future, ADB warned.9
An analysis by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) applied climate projections for 2050 to today’s Mekong Basin economies. It found that future climate change could put up to 61% of Cambodia’s rural GDP per capita at risk.10 The 2050 climate projections would affect around 7 million Cambodians employed in the agricultural sector and about 240,000 in construction, causing a total economic impact of $1.5 billion.11
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) predicts that monthly temperatures will increase between 0.013 0C and 0.036 0C per year by 2099.12
The Cambodia Disaster Loss and Damage Analysis Report describes the disasters that have occurred in Cambodia from 1996 to 2013: flood (42%), drought (15%), fire (17%), storm (14%), lightning (7%) and pest outbreak (1%).13 During this period, disasters killed 2,050 people. Floods accounted for 53% of the total number lost.14
The RGC has policies and strategies in place to work towards socioeconomic, sustainable development in the climate change context. Cross-sectoral policies relevant to climate change in Cambodia include:
- National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2014-2018
- Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014–2023
- Green Growth Policy 2013-2030
- National Adaptation Plan of Action on Climate Change (2006)
- National Green Growth Roadmap (2009)
- Strategic National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction 2008-2013
- National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and Vulnerable (2011)
Last updated: 30 June 2018
- 1. Cambodia Human Development Report 2011, Building Resilience: The Future of Rural Livelihoods in the Face of Climate Change. Ministry of Environment of Cambodia and UNDP Cambodia, 2011.
- 2. Arief A. Yusuf, Herminia A. Francisco. Mapping Analysis. Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping for Southeast Asia. EEPSEA: 2009. Accessed 5 May 2015. http://www.eepsea.org/pub/tr/12324196651Mapping_Report.pdf
- 3. German Watch 2016. https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/publication/13503.pdf Accessed 20 July 2017.
- 4. Department of Climate Change 2018. http://www.camclimate.org.kh/en/policies/ncsd-news/445-445.html Accessed 30 June 2018.
- 5. “Forest Cover.” Open Development Cambodia. 10 April 2015. Accessed 5 May 2015. http://www.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/briefing/forest-cover/.
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. Ministry of Environment. Policy paper. Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014 – 2023. Ministry of Environment: 2014. Accessed 5 May 2015. http://www.camclimate.org.kh/en/documents-and-media/library/category/127-national-strategic-plan.html?download=474:cambodia-climate-change-strategic-plan-2014-2023-en-final.
- 8. Nang, Phirun. Working paper. Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods in Inclusive Growth: A Review of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptive Capacity in Cambodia. CDRI: 2013. Accessed 4 May 2015. http://www.cdri.org.kh/webdata/download/wp/wp82e.pdf
- 9. Chean Vannak, 2016, “10% of GDP lost to climate change”, Khmer Times, 4 July 2016
- 10. Talberth, John. Reytar, Katie. Climate Change in the Lower Mekong Basin. New York: United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 2014. Accessed 7 May 2015. http://mekongarcc.net/sites/default/files/usaid_marcc_values_at_risk_report_with_exesum-revised.pdf
- 11. Ibid.
- 12. Ministry of Environment. Policy paper. Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014 – 2023. Ministry of Environment: 2014. Accessed 5 May 2015. http://www.camclimate.org.kh/en/documents-and-media/library/category/127-national-strategic-plan.html?download=474:cambodia-climate-change-strategic-plan-2014-2023-en-final.
- 13. National Committee for Disaster Management (NCMD) and United Nations Development Programme in Cambodia (UNDP). Analysis report. Cambodia Disaster Loss and Damage Analysis Report 1996 – 2013. 2014. Accessed 7 May 2015. http://www.kh.undp.org/content/dam/cambodia/docs/EnvEnergy/Cambodia-Disaster-Loss-and-Damage-Analysis-Report%201996-%202013.pdf.
- 14. Ibid.