Friday, 3 December, 2021

Nepal’s Climate Concerns

Though Nepal’s contribution in the emissions of atmosphere heating greenhouse gases is negligible, it is bearing the brunt of changing climate triggered by rising temperatures. We have been witnessing more and more irregular and extreme weather phenomena, notably the excessive post-monsoon rains that devastated ready-to-harvest paddy crops across the country, causing huge losses quite recently. Even during the monsoon days, rains were falling in extreme proportions, causing massive landslides, flashfloods and inundation. In mid-June when the monsoon of this year had just started, massive flash flood and debris flow in the Melamchi River caused colossal damage to the capital valley’s water supply project. For a mountainous country like Nepal, such events bring untold catastrophes and resultant losses of lives and properties.

Due to fragile topographies, the adverse impacts of temperature rise in Nepal are larger than the global average. Snow melt and glacial retreat are on rising trend over the decades. Formation of glacial lakes is increasing in number and depths, raising the danger of flash floods resulting from possible busting. Some such events have already happened and risks are rising for the future. Disasters, whether they are triggered by torrential monsoon rains or glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), cause widespread destruction on settlements, farmlands, bridges, roads, powerhouses and other development projects.

It is this climate vulnerability faced by a least developed mountainous country like Nepal, that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was highlighting the other day when he was addressing the UN climate change summit (CoP26) in Glasgow, UK. Scientists say that the rate of warming is higher in the Himalayan mountains, and in this respect, the adverse impacts are experienced in the accelerated form. Nepal being a mountainous country, the climate induced risks are naturally higher. At this important global forum, the Prime Minister urged the world leaders to recognise the specific climate vulnerability of high mountains and make it a priority agenda in any climate negotiations. The climate vulnerability of a country like Nepal is precipitated by the fact that it is less capable and ill-equipped to take adaptation measures.

Nepal is committed to act against climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement of 2015 but all nations have to act on the principle of climate justice if desired results are to be achieved. There has to be a shared responsibility with differentiated contributions to deal with this problem. Developed nations that have larger shares in carbon pollution should take fair share of responsibility too, and assist poor and under developed nations to adapt to climate change effects and switch to cleaner mode of energy use. For this, climate financing, technology transfer and capacity building have to move ahead in tandem. The outstanding and exemplary measures Nepal has taken on habitat conservation, afforestation and forest regeneration and enhanced ecological services should be duly rewarded and compensated because these measures are important for carbon absorption.

In line with the Paris accord’s vision of limiting global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, Nepal aims to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Net-zero emission or carbon neutrality is a nation’s ability and action to absorb total amount of carbon it emits. Nepal has prepared and submitted its ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) document which aims to decarbonise its economy in all sectors. Life and livelihoods of grassroots Nepali people are highly climate sensitive and they need to be adapted to the changed climate situation. In this regard, Prime Minister Deuba has said that the country’s Local Adaptation Plan of Action reaches out to address the problems faced by the most vulnerable communities.