Cambodia: Climate Risk Profile

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Cambodia is endowed with a rich natural resource base, essential for livelihoods and food security, and threatened by changing climatic conditions. Driven by strong performance in the garment and tourism sectors, Cambodia experienced sustained high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates from 1994 to 2015 (average of 7.5 percent), which in turn saw the poverty rate decline sharply from 2007 to 2014 (from 48 percent to 14 percent). Cambodia has a robust informal economy, which provides employment for nearly 60 percent of Cambodians. Still, changing climatic conditions present an ongoing threat to achievement of the county’s sustainable development goals. In 2015, adverse climate impacts resulted in losses of approximately $1.5 billion, equivalent to 10 percent of annual GDP. The country is particularly challenged given low adaptive capacity, still prevalent poverty, and its geographic location in the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Basins. These basins are characterized by a flood-pulse hydrology with significant fluctuations in water levels between wet and dry seasons. In the wet season, the Tonle Sap Lake’s surface area increases from 2,500 square kilometers (km2 ) to 12,500 km2 . The flood-pulse system supports flooded forests, grasslands, and wetlands as well as one of the world’s most diverse and productive inland fisheries. It also largely supplies the country’s freshwater resources for agriculture. Agricultural and fishery activities comprise about 27 and 12 percent of GDP respectively and are essential for food security and livelihoods. Increased temperatures, drought, and changes in seasonal rainfall patterns, in combination with extensive damming for hydropower throughout the Mekong Basin, threaten to impact food security and human health through reduced freshwater availability and, in turn, agricultural and fishery production. Cambodia further experiences extreme weather events such as flash floods following particularly heavy rainfall during monsoon season (May to October), as well as tropical storms such as 2009’s Typhoon Ketsana, which impacted 180,000 households and caused 43 deaths and many injuries. (2,5,6,8,17,26,30,32,36)