A decade of high ambition for healthy forests

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With guest author: Sovanna Nhem, National Project Advisor, UNDP Cambodia & Jamil Mahmood, Project Specialist and REDD+ Coordinator at UNDP Cambodia

At the end of January in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the final meeting of the Joint PEB Meeting of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Project in Cambodia was held. This meeting marked the end of the 10-year cooperation of the FCPF and a decade of work for developing the National REDD+ Program full of successes and challenges. 


Cambodia is home to some of the most diverse forests and one of the largest regions in South-East Asia, such as Cardamon Mountain. These forests provide a home for a wide range of plant and animal species, and they are also deeply connected to the culture and economy of the country. Yet these forests are facing significant challenges. 


Estimates show that forest cover in Cambodia has declined from more than 57% in 2010 to about 45% in 20181. These losses are particularly concerning given the global climate crisis and the vulnerability of the country to the impacts of climate change, in terms of livelihoods, food insecurity and economic losses associated with the degradation of natural resources and response to local disasters such as floods or droughts. 

Facing climate crisis through working in forests and the role of FCPF  

Along with various technical partners and stakeholders linked to the forests, Cambodia through the FCPF Project was able to shape and develop the REDD+ Program and related components of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. Also, a wide range of policy and capacity development activities and a public dialogue were undertaken on managing forest resources, including the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. It allowed not only to increase transparency and improve forest governance but also to design an adequate political response to future challenges as Production Forest Strategic Plan


This work was the foundation of the ambitious climate action established by Cambodia. In its most recent NDC (2020), it pledged to cut overall GHG emissions by nearly 42% by 2030. It has also set a Long-Term Strategy (LTS) (2021) of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, which hinges on avoiding emissions and moving into carbon sinks through forestation in the Forest and Other Land Use (FOLU) sector.  


The success of these commitments is heavily dependent on efforts to halt deforestation and implement sustainable forest management practices along with protecting and conserving remaining forests.  


Moving from readiness to the implementation 

Through REDD+, Cambodia can balance its development priorities and climate commitments. REDD+ can generate revenues to finance the protection of remaining forests, expand forest coverage through reforestation and afforestation, and provide benefits and livelihoods for local communities. But in the short term, the financial constraints are massive. The Action and Investment Plan for REDD+ (2021), developed under FCPF, estimates the financial gap to USD 185 million by 2031.  


Unlocking the financing required to implement the identified REDD+ measures as well as take advantage of financing opportunities have been opened in the Paris Agreement, Cambodia is working to integrate private initiatives as well as government programs through a Nested Framework approach developed with funding from the FCPF and technical support from UNDP.  

Ensuring integrity through nesting 

About USD12 million has been generated through pilot REDD+ projects in Cambodia. However, these projects have often encountered challenges, such as being scattered across various locations and managed by different organizations using different methods for measuring performance. This could lead to inconsistent and unreliable emissions accounting, risk of double counting, and jeopardizing compliance with the Cambodia NDC’s forest targets. 


Nested Framework can help standardizing and organizing emissions measurement and reduction across individual projects, and national/subnational initiatives. It can improve the accuracy of emission and removal estimates and enhance transparency and reliability using common baseline and periodic benchmark measurements for different projects and jurisdictions. This can be especially useful in achieving the country's forest targets. This Framework also seeks to guide technical decisions and investments for the effective implementation of various REDD+ actions across the country in a way that ensures environmental integrity, social inclusion and gender equity. 


The Joint PEB Meeting turned out to be a success. During it, achievements and challenges faced by the FCPF project were reported to the Board as well as strategic partners, in addition to a detailed financial and technical performance report carried out by the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia and UNDP as the implementing agency. This information outlined the Project's exit strategy to move the national REDD+ program towards full implementation. Such measures were focused on continuing and accompanying the institutionalisation of REDD+ in the government organisation, strengthening the technical capacities to operate the REDD+ Program, especially at the provincial level, and ensuring long-term financing, given, for example, with a proposal to the GCF which will be submitted this year founded primarily by the FCPF's achievements. 



Editor’s Notes: 

1 Cambodia Forest Cover 2018 and Ministry of Environment 2020. (See: https://cambodia-redd.org/technical-report.html


For more detailed information about Cambodia’s REDD+ Strategy, visit: https://cambodia-redd.org 


To find out more about local forest communities in Cambodia, discover UNDP Climate and Forests’ 5-part multimedia series Voices from the Flooded Forest: Restoring the floodplains of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake