Building Greener Future For Nepal

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The impacts of climate change owe to the anthropogenic activities aimed at advancing human welfare. The Industrial Revolution started in Britain in the 18th century. Since then, there has been a surge in industrial activities. People have been engaging in activities beneficial to himself without paying heed to the environment. Factories have flourished, transport has expanded and new technologies have been adopted. In the process, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of all kinds have increased. Effluents from factories, exhaust fumes from vehicles and use of chemicals and aerosols have all contributed to what is popularly known as climate change. 

Climate change has assumed the proportions of a global concern. Almost all the countries, whether developed or undeveloped, have been in the grip of this menacing global phenomenon. Some of the impacts of climate change are landslides, floods, torrential rains, drought, soil erosion and severe storms. In recent times, severe storms have pummeled the USA and floods in Afghanistan have killed hundreds of people. The impacts of climate change have also manifested themselves in Nepal, although the country contributes very little to climate change. 

Climate deal

Worried that climate change would produce dire consequences if its impacts were not controlled in time, 196 parties made a historic Paris Agreement in 2015, aiming at attaining the goals of climate change mitigation, adaptation and finance. Despite the agreement and efforts on the part of the countries around the world, not much progress has been achieved so far. Temperature rises have been threatening coastal countries and territories, putting them at risk of submerging in the ocean. The Maldives is one of the countries that are likely to submerge in the ocean. As in the rest of the world, temperatures have been rising in South Asia, which includes, among others, Nepal. The impacts of climate change are already seen in Nepal. The country is likely to suffer further climate change-induced disasters in the near future. The impacts of climate change affect the livelihoods of people, the environment, the economy and even development activities. 

It is estimated that the temperatures in Nepal will rise by 0.9 degrees Celsius during the 2016-2045 period under a medium-range emissions pathway. The impacts will be such that winters are likely to be drier, while summers are likely to be wetter with up to a three times increase in rainfall. Such extreme climatic conditions will not be fit for agricultural production and other purposes. Besides, there will be adverse effects of climate change-induced disasters. It is surmised that river floods could affect 350,000 people in 2030 vis-à-vis 157,000 people in 2010. In Nepal, floods and landslides are major hazards caused by climate change. In southern and urban areas, floods and heatwaves are a major concern, whereas in northern areas, the major problems of concern are soil erosion, landslides, water stress and glacier lake overflows. 

The impacts of climate change are disproportionate; women, children, indigenous people and marginalised communities are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than other groups are. In Nepal, agriculture and energy sectors are the key sources of air pollution with severe economic implications. Use of biomass, transport, open burning and industrial activities are the chief culprits for engendering air pollution. Agricultures contributes 54 per cent of the total emissions, whereas the energy sector’s share stands at 28 per cent. During the 2012-19 period, Nepal’s emissions increased by 26.9 per cent owing to the growing energy used in agriculture. In 2019, the agriculture and energy sectors contributed 28.3 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively to Nepal’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Nepal has a legal mechanism designed to counteract the impacts of climate change. The National Climate Change Policy, 2019; the Solid Waste Management Policy, 2022; and the Land Use Regulations, 2022 are the major polices. However, implementation of these policies is weak. The government and the stakeholders concerned should pay heed to implementing these policies in earnest to fight climate change. The government should take concrete measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change and leave no stone unturned to address the risks associated with climate change. For this, an adaptation mechanism should be in place. In order to cut down on fossil fuels, hydropower potential needs to be fully utilised. In recent times, there has been satisfactory headway in hydropower development. Moreover, unplanned urbanisation needs to be managed well. 

Safety nets

Climate change impacts people’s livelihoods, agricultural productivity and food security. The resilience of people and communities needs to be strengthened through early warning systems and shock-responsive safety nets. For this, training needs to be imparted to people. Nepal has three tiers of government. All the three-tier governments should be enabled to manage disaster risks.  It would be pertinent to mention that the International Expert Dialogue on Mountains, People and Climate Change: Local Leadership for Adaptation – From Mountains to the Sea was held in Kathmandu from May 23 to May 24. During the meet, experts opined that local communities are struggling with the impacts of climate change and that a focus on adaptation to fight climate change is grossly inadequate. 

Women are facing the brunt of climate change, but there is lack of gender-responsive technologies and polices for adaptation. Sub-national governments are not capable of mitigating the impacts of climate change as they lack technical and scientific capabilities. Funding for climate adaptation programmes should be increased so as to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and that the process of obtaining funding from the Climate Fund be simplified. Climate change is a global phenomenon. The government, agencies and other stakeholders must act now to reduce the impacts of climate change before it is too late so that a greener future for the country can be ensured. 

(Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000.)

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