A Change of Guard

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Friday, 29 April 2016

Gov’t seeks to incentivise green practices

A range of solar panels are on display at Australian solar energy company Star8 International's showroom in Phnom Penh. Kimberley McCosker

Gov’t seeks to incentivise green practices
Thu, 28 April 2016 ppp
Kali Kotoski

Members of the government and private sector met yesterday in Phnom Penh to discuss ideas and solutions aimed at facilitating the growth of eco-friendly technologies and practices in Cambodia.

Speaking at a forum organised by EuroCham, E Vuthy, adviser to the Ministry of Environment, said the government was committed to pushing forward an overreaching environmental code, which, once completed, will secure a regulatory framework for sustainable private and public sector initiatives.

However, while releasing few details or a dedicated timeline for implantation, he said the code had been bogged down by a lack of human resources and dedicated inter-ministerial coordination.

“The current laws concerning the environmental code have been done in a piecemeal matter across numerous ministries without reliable or effective regulations to promote a green strategy,” said Vuthy, who also chairs the technical working group tasked with creating the code.

“Most of the laws on the books date back to the 1990s and don’t conform to the country’s current industrial climate.”

Vuthy said the Environment Ministry was working with both the public and private sector to finalise a coherent draft that brings all stakeholders together.

He praised the private sector for leading green business solutions, adding that the environmental code would “try to establish a clear regulatory framework for sustainable energy that could see a joint credit mechanism for investment”.

The mechanism, he said, would bring relief to the private sector that typically has to shell out large amounts of start-up capital.

However, he added, “that historically, implementation has been a very complex mechanism. The questions we face are ones of overlapping legislation, a limited time frame to implement and a lack of human resources.”

Carlo Figà Talamanca, chief executive of Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise (SGFE), applauded the government’s willingness to work with the private sector on developing strategies.

His company, which produces “green charcoal” from recycled charcoal remnants and discarded coconut shells, received a three-year value-added-tax (VAT) exemption at the beginning of 2016.

“A simple VAT exemption has allowed for my product to become more competitive within the cooking fuel market,” he said.

Talamanca added that if more incentives were offered, the private sector would jump on board, which could spur more innovative business solutions across the green spectrum.

Ken Sereyrotha, deputy secretary-general for the National Council for Sustainable Development, agreed that the government should take the lead in incentivising green solutions.

However, he warned that innovation must be within a viable Cambodian context that provides forward-thinking long-term sustainability.

“We believe strongly that a set of exemptions would help increase green business in Cambodia. But we have to strategise and adopt positive solutions because we don’t want Cambodia to be a dumping site for outdated technology.”

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