Climate Change To Slash Cambodia’s Productivity: Report

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Even if current levels of spending on climate change adaptation are maintained, rising temperatures in the Kingdom will continue to impact economic performance, reducing the country’s GDP by almost 10 percent by the year 2050, a report released Tuesday has found.

A farmer attempts to plant a mango tree in drought-stricken land in Svay Rieng province. KT/Mai Vireak

Cambodia’s GDP in 2015 was already 4.6 percent lower than it would have been without climate change, the study said.

The report, put together by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) in conjunction with the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) with the assistance of UNDP, assumes that the global rise in temperatures is kept below 2 degrees Celsius.

A hotter climate will result in reduced worker productivity, decreasing the GDP growth rate by an average of 0.3 percent every year between 2016 and 2050. This will delay the Kingdom’s accession to upper middle income country status by one year.

“Workers slowing down or becoming fatigued due to higher temperatures will be the main cause of GDP loss, accounting for 57 percent of the economic loss and damage caused by climate change in the country in 2050,” the report said.

The economic loss in Cambodia would be “significantly higher” than in other Southeast Asia nations, according to the study.

“Much of the focus of climate change spending has been on mitigation and adaptation measures in relation to natural disasters – but rising temperatures pose a bigger threat when it comes to the economic impact of climate change in Cambodia.”

Nick Beresford, UNDP’s country director, said in a press release that more research needs to be done on ways to protect supply chains and workers from heat stress, adding that in Cambodia, sectors such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture accounted for 52 percent of GDP in 2016.

“Current adaptation activities underestimate the importance of heat stress on these industries where air-conditioning is a rarity and workers are highly vulnerable,” said Mr Beresford.

The report concludes that additional research is needed so that new technological solutions and labour regulations can be put in place to protect workers and the economy.

An Asian Development Bank report published last year found that Southeast Asia is expected to be one of the most affected regions by heat extremes. Under the business-as-usual scenario, it could enter entirely new climate regimes due to the frequent occurrence of heat extremes that are unprecedented under current climate.

“Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable to flooding, since there is a concentration of low-lying populated deltas.

“Already, the number of record-breaking rainfall events has significantly increased over the last decades. The frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events may cause more severe flooding if the global temperature continues to rise,” the report said

According to ADB’s study, the economy and population of Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam have the highest exposure to floods in the region.

In 2016, nearly 235,000 hectares of rice plantations, across 16 different provinces in Cambodia, were affected by drought, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

George Edgar, the Ambassador of the European Union in Cambodia, said the report offers an opportunity to identify the most critical actions to protect Cambodia’s key economic sectors from the impacts of climate change.

Meanwhile, Maria Sargren, the Swedish Ambassador, highlighted the role of international climate finance and urged that private sector to increase investment in climate change adaptation. She added that the government can promote this type of investment by offering the right incentives.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.

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