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Cambodia Heaps Praise on U.S.-Vietnam Climate Accord

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a press conference with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam May 23, 2016.

The two countries announced they would work to implement the Paris Agreement, an international agreement signed by 177 countries in April.

Officials and environmentalists have congratulated Vietnam and the United States on a recent climate changed agreement signed between the two former adversaries, saying the co-operation will have a positive impact on mitigating the effects of the phenomenon in the region.

On Sunday, the two countries announced they would work to implement the Paris Agreement, an international agreement signed by 177 countries in April.

The agreement signed last weekend covers energy policy, land use and carbon emissions, while emphasizing maintaining Vietnam’s rapid economic growth.

The U.S. will also assist Vietnam to build up its resilience to climate change, according to a statement released on Sunday.

This will include preserving forests and biodiversity, monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, investing in low-emissions technology, climate resilient agriculture techniques, improving the livelihoods of small-holder farmers, and managing coastal zones and mangrove forests.

Sao Sopheap, environment ministry spokesman, said Cambodia was still lacking in many of the tools needed to combat the threat of climate change.

“If the U.S. work in Vietnam is a success, it could contribute to mitigating climate change globally,” he said.

“Cambodia as well as other countries in the world welcomes and offers congratulations on the successful agreement of cooperative work between Vietnam and the U.S.” he added. “We want co-operation and support... that includes financial, technical, and human resources.”

Tek Vannara, director of the umbrella group NGO Forum, said the agreement would “more or less have a positive impact on Cambodia.”

“But we can’t forecast how big or how small the program will positively have on Cambodia,” he said.

“If the U.S. works with Cambodia on strengthening people’s capacity in regard to adapting to climate change in the agriculture sector, renewable energy and investment, that could fit with the climate change phenomenon, it would be good,” he added.

“If a project is to be done in Cambodia, the result will be directly seen, and some Cambodian people will be able to adapt to [climate change], and get new technical assistance regarding green growth development.”

Tek Vannara added that the most appealing factor coming out of the Vietnam-U.S. talks was that “Vietnam has a green growth development strategy,” which he said could significantly contribute to mitigating greenhouse emissions.

However, critics of the Cambodian government’s forestry policies say the willingness of the authorities to turn a blind eye to rampant illegal logging, often encouraged by Vietnamese demand and investment, cast doubt on Phnom Penh’s commitment to climate change mitigation.

“They could do the same thing in Cambodia, but Cambodia keeps annihilating the forest,” said Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum think tank.

“It keeps showing the lack of commitment to curbing environmental exploitation in Cambodia, so co-operation is limited.”

“I see that the world is eager to help Cambodia. A lot of money could flow into Cambodia to help support Cambodia, its government, and Cambodian people,” he said.

Sopheap denied that government policy had contributed to the rapid deforestation rate seen in Cambodia in recent decades.