PHNOM PENH —
The European Union ambassador on Wednesday called on the Cambodian government to help combat climate change, foremost by reducing red tape for communities who want to form groups to protect what remains of the country’s forests.
Large swaths of forest can act as a carbon sink, pulling CO2, a major greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere. But Cambodia has seen a steady decline of its forest cover in recent decades, as commercial development and illegal logging continue.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, EU Ambassador Jean Francois Cautain said the Cambodian government should allow local communities to protect the last 2 million hectares of the country’s forest.
Cambodia is already feeling the effects of a changing climate, in droughts during the rainy season, he said. “Look at the weather for the last two weeks. In Phnom Penh, there is no rain. We all know that it should have been raining for the last three weeks.”
Drought could have severe effects on a country like Cambodia, which relies on agriculture, he said. “Obviously, it could have dramatic effects on the population.”
Tek Vannara, executive director of NGO Forum, told VOA Khmer that about 450 community forest groups have already formed across the country, though only about a third are officially recognized by the government. Civic groups are asking for a faster recognition process, as well as a budget allocated to them, he said.
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and its forestry department could not immediately be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Cambodia continues to lose forest cover. A report last year from Maryland University estimates that the country lost just over 7 percent of its forest between 2000 and 2012, in provinces nationwide.