Moeko Saito-Jensen is giving a speech in National Circular Economy Strategy and Action Plan workshop

1) HE Vann Monineath, Secretary General, National Council for Sustainable Developemnt (NCSD)

2) HE Ngann Phirun, Deputy provincial Governor

3) HE Pou Li, Deputy governor of Kep province

3) HE Dr Ngin Lina, Deputy Secretary General, NCSD

4) Mr. Taing Meng Eang, Director of the Department of Green Economy, NCSD

5) Mr Sun Kung, Director of Provincial Department of Environment, Siem Rea

6) Mr. Som Piseth, Vice Director of Kamponchan province,

Excellences, Distinguished Guests, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.

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Good morning. I am delighted to join this important consultation workshop to review and discuss the draft of the "Circular Economy Strategy and Action Plan".

First, I would like to congratulate the National Council for Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Environment for their leadership in organizing this consultation meeting. I would also thank the Embassy of Sweden for providing funding support for this work under the Building an Enabling Environment for Sustainable Development project.

Our sincere thanks also go to the deputy provincial governor for hosting us, and to government officials from the MoE, NCSD, and the line ministries, as well as to our development partners and civil society, who are here today to help improve the the strategy.

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As everyone realizes, 2020 is a year that could never have been imagined.

It began with bush fires in Australia, which burned over 6 million ha of forests, and killed more than 10 billion animals.

Then the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic came, which is still threatening millions of lives all over the world.

If we pause for a moment, we can notice that interactions with our environment have a lot to with the occurrence of both events.

Rising global temperature intensified the fires and the damages in Australia.  As for Covid-19, there is strong evidence that it originated in bats that spread to humans through intermediaries. The only other wildlife species known to be living with coronaviruses are pangolins, which are also the world’s most illegally traded mammal. 

This year has been yet another wakeup call for people across the planet.

More and more people are thinking about what we value in our lives with families and friends and what we value in our environments.

Along with the daily devastating news, we do hear about positive stories about peoples’ increasing appreciation of their natural environments. This is also the case in Cambodia. During Khmer New Year, people travelled across the country—to Siem Reap, Kep, Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri, or Kratie—to experience and re-discover the beauty of the country of wonder. 

But this year also made very clear that current modes of development, premised on mass destruction of natural resources is neither sustainable nor safe.

They point to the urgent need to tackle two fundamental environmental challenges.

First is climate change.

According to the latest report (WMO), global temperatures could exceed crucial 1.5 C target above pre-industrial levels within the next five years. Across the planet, any additional temperature rise will intensify climate disasters—larger typhoons, bigger floods, more severe droughts and increasing forest fires—as we are indeed already observing.

Second is unsustainable use of natural resources.

Today, we extract around 90 billion tons of primary natural resources per year. This puts enormous pressures on both natural resources and biodiversity. Already many species are critically endangered or went extinct. The unsustainable extraction and disposal of resources also creates rapidly growing problems with waste and pollution.

These problems are also relevant in Cambodia.

Due to increasing incidents of floods and droughts, Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Similar to many other countries, rapid economic and population growth has led to environmental challenges. They include degradation of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, energy shortages, and growing levels of air pollution, and waste volumes.

To sustain vital environment for future generations and ensure their safe future, there is urgency to transform the way in which the economy operates, and the ways we use materials and dispose waste.

Current economic models are linear. They begin with extraction of resources, which are turned into products, which are consumed, and which are thrown away.

Today we will introduce and discuss a very different circular model. The circular economy offers a range of solutions to present and future environmental challenges.

The circular economy seeks to decouple economic growth from adverse environmental impacts by closing the loops of the entire value chain.  It promotes the use of sustainable materials and clean, renewable energy. It promotes improved efficiency for production, and sustainable consumption. And it promotes efficient recycling of materials as well as energy recovery.

Widespread adoption of circular economy models can significantly reduce the use of natural resources and energy. It can also reduce waste volumes, Greenhouse gas emission, and air pollution. In addition, improved efficiency can reduce the costs of production and to increase the competitiveness of business and economy.

In the case of waste management in Cambodia, more than 70 % of the waste are recyclable organic or plastic materials. Even so, at this moment untreated waste is disposed at open landfills without large scale intervention to reuse or recycle these materials.  

With the introduction of circular economy, instead of being wasted, these materials would be treated as “new products or energy.” They would be reused and recycled, and they would add value to the economy.

Landfill in Cambodia.

 

Ladies and gentlemen

Today’s meeting is a milestone for Cambodia.   

This Strategy and Action Plan is of critical importance. It outlines the overall roadmap, and priority actions, which will move Cambodia towards a circular economy.

Yet the effectiveness of new strategy will depend on improved awareness and behavioral change among stakeholders. It is important that people learn to understand the relations between their actions and environmental consequences, so they can participate in shaping a sustainable future for the country.

Fundamental to the transition to Circular Economy is effective involvement from all stakeholders.

·      The Government has an important role to create an enabling environment by developing regulations and by providing economic and financial incentives.

·      Academic institutions are important in order to improve and share knowledge and to build the capacities necessary to adopt circular economy approaches.

·      The private sector has to drive innovation, mobilize scalable investments, and transform their business models.

·      Citizens must adopt sustainable consumption lifestyles.

The circular economy strategy has strong potential to catalyze positive environmental change and guide sustainable development pathways for Cambodia.

It has been our privilege to contribute to this important work led by NCSD and MoE. We look forward to strengthening our collaboration and partnership.

Thank you very much for being here today. I hope for a productive meeting and wish everyone good health.

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