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Region Not Ready for Climate Change: Experts

Environmental experts warned Thursday that climate change will affect all countries in Southeast Asia and that the region is not yet ready for the risk.

“Across Asean, the ten countries have yet to willingly, individually map the vulnerability or piece together the regional map for Southeast Asia [and] they are all very vulnerable,” Simon Tay, president of the Singapore Institute for International Affairs and a fellow at the Asia Society said during a discussion on climate change at George Washington University in Washington. “They are all equally vulnerable not just physically but economically.”

Asean comprises Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Most of the countries are coastal, making them more vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

“Climate change will impact all across the region,” Rebecca Ng, program officer for the World Wildlife Federation, told VOA Khmer at the auditorium Thursday. “In the coastal areas, you’ll see a lot of coastal erosion, sea level rises and inundation. On land, there could be drought or flooding.”

Nations should go beyond a local approach and seek regional cooperation to mitigate the damage, she said.

Cambodia does not yet have a national strategy to adapt to the impact of climate change.

The government is undertaking a vulnerability assessment in sectors like agriculture, water resources, coastal areas and health. The result is expected at the end of 2009, which will help in discussing and finding solutions at the national level.

As an agricultural nation, Cambodia’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions come mainly from rice, methane production and the emission of carbon dioxide, said Tin Ponlok, coordinator for the Ministry of Environment’s climate change adaptation program.

Over 80 percent of the Cambodian population resides in rural areas and relies heavily on agricultural production.