Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure for me to speak at the opening of this important national meeting about circular economy as an innovative solution for waste management in Cambodia.

First, I would like to thank the National Committee for Subnational Democratic Development (NCDDS) and the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) and the Embassy of Sweden for their leadership and support for ongoing and future initiatives related to circular economy and waste management.

A few weeks ago, the Second World Circular Economy forum was held in Japan. This forum brought together more than 1,000 participants from over 80 countries, including the high-level government delegation from Cambodia, who are present today.

The forum urged the global community to rethink our current economic development models and highlighted circular economy as a solution to two sets of environmental challenges facing the earth.

The first challenge is climate change. The recent special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which predicted global warming of minimally 1.5 degrees made headlines everywhere.

Already, human-induced warming has risen to approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels.  To avoid a global climate catastrophe, the IPCC argued for the necessity of urgent action across the globe.

The second challenge faced by the global community is the unsustainable use of material resources.

According to the International Resource Panel (2017), today we currently extract around 90 billion tons of primary natural resources per year, and this vast amount is on track to double by 2050. The consequence is enormous and constantly increasing pressures on natural resources and biodiversity. Moreover, it leads to growing problems with waste, and pollution.

During the forum, it was highlighted that we may have as little as a decade to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Temperature rise beyond this number is foreseen to lead to unprecedented climate disasters worldwide. Already, we are losing natural capital and biodiversity to such an extent that scientists are talking about extinction of important species. This depletion of natural resources will affect people, especially the poor, who depend on resources for their living and, indeed, survival, everywhere.

This calls for radical changes to our current economic paradigm. There is therefore an urgent need to be proactive and find ways of dealing with the daunting challenges that we now face. To mitigate climate change threats and to sustain our vital natural resources and biodiversity for future generations, we urgently need to find ways to transform how our economy operates and how we use and consume our resources.

Current economic models are linear, moving from extraction, to production, consumption and disposal. By improving resource efficiency, promoting the use of renewable and clean energy, and 3Rs (reuse, recycle and reduce) of materials and waste, we need to transition to a non-waste based circular economy.

Wide adoption of circular economy models can significantly reduce the use of natural resources and energy, as well as the volume of waste, Greenhouse gas emission, and air pollution. But the benefits of circular economy go beyond environmental issues.

Improving efficiency in material use and energy, for example, is also a way of reducing the costs of production and of increasing the competitiveness of business. Furthermore, circular economy can also generate new economic value. An example is turning waste into energy, which offers the twin benefits of generating energy while saving costs on waste storage and treatment.

A number of developing countries including China, Indonesia, Brazil are now moving towards this new circular economic paradigm.

Ladies and gentlemen

For today’s meeting, we introduce and present circular economy, particularly, as innovative environmental and economic solutions for the challenge which Cambodia faces in relation to waste management.

With the rapid growth in its economy and population, Cambodia now faces the new challenge of growing volume of municipal and industrial waste.

At the national level, total waste generation per annum is expected to grow from 33 million tons in 2017 to 99 million tons in 2050.

Solid waste disposal in municipal landfills has drastically increased from 318,000 ton per annum in 2004 to 1.5 million ton per annum in 2017. If the volume of waste continues to increase at this rapid speed, this will likely exceed the capacity of all existing landfills in Cambodia in the near future. This situation is particularly alarming in major cities such as Phnom Penh.

It is notable that more than 90 % of all this waste is found to consists of recyclable materials including organic, plastic and textile

At present, however, waste is collected by private companies and disposed at open landfills without any formal large-scale sorting, recycling, or reuse of waste.  One of the reasons relates to limited knowledge of how to promote 3Rs of waste at the large scale, including how to turn waste into energy.

In this context, this meeting introduces the concept of a circular economy as an innovative solution for solid waste management, not only to reduce the overall volume of waste but also to reduce greenhouse gas emission, and other environmental and public health hazards.

If circular economy model is applied for waste management in Cambodia, instead of being disposed, waste would be treated as “new products or energy” to be reused and recycled, to add new economic values for the economy.

Yet, operationalization of this new concept would require creation of an enabling policy environment and designing and testing workable circular economy business models for Cambodia waste management.

Ladies and gentlemen

Today’s meeting is important because it aims to identify priority policies, as well as business and public actions to promote circular economy solutions for waste management.

Realizing the shift towards a circular economy will require a strategic coalition among government, business communities, development partners and civil society. Collective efforts at many scales are needed to achieve a decisive shift towards a sustainable economy.

Today’s event provides a crucial opportunity to bring the relevant stakeholders together. The aim is to:

·       Initiate a dialogue about municipal and industrial waste management in Cambodia;

·       Share innovative 3R (reuse, recycling and reduction) solutions on waste management;

·       Identify new business models for solid waste management; and

·       Explore sets of recommended actions for future collaboration

In other words, the goal is to identify concrete circular economy options, which we can all work towards.

I would like to end by quoting Nelson Mandela

"Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world."

We look forward to working together towards a circular economy that will make it possible for our children to have a bright future.

Thank you

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