Nepal, is fourth most climate vulnerable countries in the world


Sharada Khatri-

Experts, discussion negotiators and a group of stakeholders working in the field of climate change have urged the government to strive for securing financial and technological support from the international community in its fight against climate change. Nepal, as one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, is due to take part in the global conference on climate change next month in Katowice, Poland.

During the consultation programme considered as part of government’s preparation for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), climate experts have called on the government to raise its concerns strongly at the gathering and seek required assistance for tackling adverse effects of climate change. for Nature Conservation, pointed out that Nepal had not been able to receive international support that it deserves in view of the challenges it faces.

“As one of the most climate change vulnerable countries in the world, we should put in extra efforts for receiving financial and technical support,” said Bajracharya, adding that the delegation participating in the COP24 should again strongly raise the issue of melting Himalayas due to climate change.

Nepal has prepared a Status Paper for COP24 incorporating possible impacts to the mountainous nation, its efforts so far, policies and programmes, and challenges. The Nepali delegation, led by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, will also take part in various events on the sidelines during the conference.

Climate change experts and scientists gathered in Kathmandu say that climate change will have severe impacts on agriculture and biodiversity sectors with the changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, new diseases and pests like Tuta absoluta.

“Climate change will have more impacts on agro-biodiversity. Agriculture will be highly affected. Climate change and heat stress are already killng be population and equally affecting other animals,” said Arun Prakash Bhatta, an undersecretary at the Climate Change Management Division under the Ministry of Forest and Environment. “There will be new diseases and pests emerging. Tuta absoluta, which was first identified in Kathmandu and surrounding districts like Bhaktapur and Kavre, has spread across the country now.”

Nepal has been termed the fourth most vulnerable country in the world in terms of climate change effects. The adverse effects of climate change are already visible in various sectors across the country.

As a mountainous country lying in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, a zone highly vulnerable to climate change, Nepal is likely to witness a harsh future receiving effects on health, agriculture and livelihood, among other sectors.

Impacts of climate change in the form of increased extreme weather events, spiked temperature, altered rainfall patterndrop in crop production, and growth of invasive alien plants are felt in the country, according to climate scientists gathered at a tw0-day event in Kathmandu.

“Mountains are more vulnerable to climate change than any other ecosystems. The magnitude of the warming increases with altitude. Mountains are warming faster than plains thus our lives and livelihood are directly under a hanging sword,” said Tirtha Bahadur Shrestha, a botanist and conservationist.

According to Shrestha, some 30 years ago, the country had vast grazing areas above the treeline—the line or altitude above which no trees grow—which has shrunk due to the invasion of shrubby plants. The phenomenon can be linked to climate change.

“There is a whole new challenge for conservation biologists to monitor these changes. Mosquitos are already climbing upwards and have reached as high as Humla and Jumla,” said Shrestha. “We may expect the treeline to move higher and higher, reaching closer to high mountains or areas where snowfall begins.”

According to the government report, Nepal’s average annual maximum temperature has gone up by 0.056 degrees Celsius every year, signs that the country’s climate has been warming up.

The latest landmark study in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, which covers 3,500 kilometres across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, has projected an alarming future for countries like Nepal.

The region is known for drinking water and fresh air, among other environmental services, to the region’s 240 million population and serving a total of 1.65 billion people dependent upon 10 major rivers that originate in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region.

The study concluded that even the most ambitious Paris Agreement goal—of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—by the end of the century would lead to an increase of 2.1 degrees and the melting of one-third of the region’s glaciers.

“The region including Nepal will warm up even if the world stabilises by 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Arun Bhakta Shrestha, senior climate change specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. “Most of the people live downstream, but whatever happens in the upper mountains spills down and affects people living in the plains.” The 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference—popularly known as COP25—is currently being held in Madrid, Spain. A meeting of representatives from 197 countries, the conference will run till December 13. That the meeting is occurring is a miracle, and a testament to the cooperation between the Chilean and Spanish governments and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat—the venue shifted at the last moment due to political unrest in Chile, the original hosts.

COP25 is taking place four years after the Paris Agreement. It has also been one year since the guidelines for its implementation, known as the Paris Rulebook, were agreed upon at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. COP25 will discuss the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which was unable to be resolved even at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany earlier this year. Article 6 is crucial as it encourages governments to implement their national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions targets, known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs, through market and non-market approaches with voluntary international cooperation. It necessarily leads to the creation of a global tradable system for emissions and allows for there to be a price on carbon.

The special reports generated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are the main scientific basis for the parties’ decision-making in COP25. Core areas of negotiation include loss and damage, technology development and transfer and capacity building, and climate finance. The participating countries need to submit their updated NDCs by 2020, and the main challenge of COP25 is to encourage them to increase ambition and enhance implementation to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Countries must become more ambitious, as this will significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

Nepal is considered one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world due to its fragile mountain ecosystems and poverty nexus. Poor and marginalised people in Nepal—particularly women, children, senior citizens, people with disability, and those living in rural areas—are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Nepal thus encourages the parties to come up with ambitious NDCs by 2020 in both adaptation and mitigation measures so that the objectives of the Paris Agreement can be achieved by the stipulated time.

Nepal would like to give special priority to three areas in COP25, considering the unique needs and circumstances of the fragile mountainous region: climate finance, technology transfer, and sharing of best practices. We expect to engage in in-depth discussions of loss and damage, technology development and transfer, transparency, capacity building, climate finance, as well as formal and informal networks. Nepal would like COP25 to implement Article 6 with the assurance that financing will be provided and technology transfers will occur to benefit the least developing countries (LDCs), to make them more climate-resilient. We believe the choice to implement Article 6 is clear if the parties are honest and sincere in their commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Mountainous countries like Nepal have been experiencing a faster increase in temperature than the global rate. This has significant negative impacts on people’s livelihoods, economies, and ecological systems. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 90 percent of major disasters over the last 20 years have been weather-related. This results in massive losses, both human and economic, every year. In April 2019, a tornado killed 30 people in the lowlands of Nepal within 25 minutes. These extreme weather events cause fear and a loss of confidence among Nepalis.

Thus, special financial mechanisms for ‘loss and damage’ should be established to provide compensation for the victims of climate change. Similarly, we need to have enhanced support for climate-smart technologies to implement our action plans in a timely manner and achieve our long-term goal of tackling the climate crisis. Nepal, therefore, encourages the international community, particularly developed and industrial countries, to increase their mitigation ambition with climate finance to support the LDC’s capacity to adapt. An ambitious plan of action is needed to tackle the challenges of our current global climate crisis in order to secure the survival of present and future generations.

In order to cope with the increasing impacts of climate change, Nepal has been formulating new plans and actions to create a climate-resilient society. The government has endorsed a new climate change policy in 2019, enacted climate law, and approved the Local Adaptation Plans of Action Framework (LAPA Framework) to facilitate climate action on the ground. The updated nationally determined contributions are also being revised.

To increase awareness of Nepal’s climate vulnerability and the urgent need for environmental protection, the government is planning to organise a flagship international forum called the Sagarmatha Dialogue in April next year. Ultimately, it will demonstrate why climate action now is so vital for the future of humanity.

Climate change is a global issue—we have no alternative except to take shared responsibility and address it. COP25 is a milestone in our fight against climate change. It is time for the international community to take action with urgency and immediacy.

writer Khatri Member- Society of Environmental Journalist USA

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