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Cambodia’s climate change plan for Energy Sector (2021-2023)

As the world makes changes to move towards sustainability, developing nations are joining to duly set their national sustainability targets, including the energy sector. Cambodia has also released a plan to revamp its energy sector to move away from dirty sources of power to renewable sources.

Cambodia is one of the lowest electrified countries in the world. Much of its energy is dependent on three sources i.e., Coal, hydroelectric and imports. Under the Paris climate deal, Cambodia has a nationally determined contribution target of 25 percent of renewable energy.
Hydropower is abundantly available in Cambodia but many believe that it is not truly a renewable source of energy given it creates water disruptions which adversely affect biodiversity. Cambodia is already harvesting hydropower from mighty Mekong River and it constitutes a major portion of its domestic generation capabilities. Solar generation in Cambodia is negligible but it has bright potential to harvest it in future.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy has devised a plan for the implementation of the Climate Change Action Plan for Energy Sector 2021-2023. This has been devised under the light of the Kingdoms’ Rectangular Strategy Phase IV to realize the Cambodia Vision 2050. The broad goal includes increasing sustainable power generation and ensuring cheaper power.

The vision document realizes the threat of climate change and mentions that “Climate change is a threat not only to the energy sector but to development of the whole country because its impact has affected all Cambodian important sectors.” It rightly recognizes the need to adopt selective policies for “reducing GHG emissions and increasing adaptation capacity that could ensure that Cambodia can achieve low carbon development and climate resiliency.” It cautions that energy sector growth needs to be guarded from adverse effects of climate change too.

The Plan includes improving energy efficiency in the short run, energy diversification through renewable energy adoption in the medium term and introduction of path-breaking technologies in the longer run. In 2020, the energy sector accounted for 12% of total greenhouse gas emissions and the plan aims to cut the emissions. Under the NDC, the nation has committed to decrease GHG emissions in the energy sector by 21.3%. Some of the priority changes that the kingdom hopes to achieve under the 2021-2023 energy plan are as follows: Lower electricity price, expand network coverage and increase electricity stability; Implement mitigation measures for cutting GHG emissions; Undertake climate change vulnerability assessment and adaption measures of the energy infrastructures; Increase institutional capacity for technology transfer, human capacity building, and research and development among others; Minimize the environmental and social impact; Maximize feasible use of renewable energy; et cetera.

The strategy that Phnom Penh will adopt to respond to climate change will be mitigation and adoption. Outlining this, the document mentions some benefits like “increased local employment due to decentralized energy production.” It also adds that “reducing GHG emissions have also provided health benefits e.g. through lower urban air pollution concentrations.” It concludes that “successful mitigation measures can also lead to potential cost savings due to a reduced need for adaptation actions.”

For the National Climate Change Response Strategies, the energy sector has setup the following objectives: promote Climate resilience through improving food, water and energy security; reduce sectoral, regional, gender vulnerability and health risks to climate change impacts; ensuring security of biodiversity and environment; adoption of low-carbon planning and technologies; improve capacities, knowledge and awareness among the population; adaptive social protection and participatory approaches to reduce climate change impacts; strengthen institutions and coordination frameworks for national climate change responses and active participation in local and global processes.

Cambodia looks forward to refining the above plan in the coming years with relevant stakeholders and handholding the population. The document promises to scale-up existing actions and propose new dedicated actions for energy infrastructure that addresses climate change and promotes low-carbon development.

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