With the aim to create an enabling environment for sustainable development, Cambodia launched a new two-year project which aspires to provide innovative solutions for addressing environmental degradation, growing waste, and access to affordable, sustainable and clean energy. 

“With funding from Sweden and financial and technical support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), this new project will test and demonstrate innovative approaches to protect natural resources and environment, to reduce waste, and to provide clean and affordable energy,” said H.E. Dr. Tin Ponlok, Secretary General of the  National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD). 

In recent decades, Cambodia has undergone rapid economic growth, with Gross National Income per capita growing from USD300 in 2000 to USD1,230 in 2017 (current prices, World Bank). Moving forward, Cambodia now faces developmental challenges, in sustaining its economic growth in a manner that fully integrates the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To assist Cambodia in achieving this ambitious agenda, the project seeks to address three sets of environmental challenges: 1) degradation of natural resources, 2) growing volume of waste, and 3) access to affordable and clean energy. 

To ensure sustainability of Cambodia’s natural resources, the Royal Government of Cambodia has expanded protected areas to cover 40% of the total land. The next challenge is how to effectively manage this vast area. This project aims to empower rural communities to actively engage in sustainable management of resources and seek to mobilise financial resources through innovative financing schemes to ensure the conservation and protection of vital natural resources.

The rapidly growing volume of solid waste has become particularly alarming in major cities. Phnom Penh, for instance, generates more than 2,300 ton of waste per day and more than 80% of this waste consists of recyclable materials. However, current waste management practices focus mainly on collection and disposal without formal sorting, recycling, or reuse of waste. By introducing the “circular economy” concept, this project will promote new approaches for both producers and consumers to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle materials, with the aim to minimize environmental impacts, as well as to create new economic opportunities. These approaches will include promotion of new technologies and waste-to-energy options, new regulations to promote recycling, and strategic communication against plastic. 

Finally, this project will support Cambodia in closing the electricity divide and going the last mile to bring power to citizens. The Royal Government has committed to making electricity available nationwide by 2020 and connecting 70% of households with grid electrification by 2030. This project will unlock the potential of solar energy by removing policy, technical and financial barriers with the aim of providing reliable and affordable electricity access to those living in remote off-grid communities.

“A circular economy, with more solar energy and better protection of natural resources, presents a way for Cambodia to continue rapid progress towards upper middle income status, but to do so more sustainably and with much better health and social outcomes,” said Nick Beresford, UNDP Resident Representative. “Many recently arrived upper middle-income countries are facing huge bills and serious social stresses as they try and clean up after fast but environmentally damaging economic growth. This is however avoidable – if corrective action is taken now.”

“The Government of Sweden is delighted to support this project as we strive to promote innovative approaches to sustaining natural resources, developing a circular economy and expanding energy access in order to assist Cambodia’s move towards environmental sustainability,” said H.E. Maria Sargren, Sweden’s Ambassador to Cambodia.