20 Mar 2017 – The global climate change and associated shifts in weather pattern are not an abstruse notion but an alarming reality today. Climate change is the alteration in statistical distribution of weather patterns for an extended period that disturbs the balance in ecosystem, hence creating havoc. According to World Bank Statistical Yearbook 2014, global CO2 emission has already crossed 35 mmt/yr and is in increasing trend ever since the last century. Climate change is real; and speaking quite simply, it is the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced. As Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change quotes, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal”. The climate change study of NASA provides evidences for rapid climate change like sea level rise, global temperature rise, warming ocean, shrinking ice sheets, declining Arctic ice, glacial retreat, extreme events, ocean acidifications, decreased snow cover and many more.
The consequences of climate change will affect the biosphere on many levels from coral bleachingto dying forest to species extinction. The human infrastructures will be threatened by the changing climate such as encroachment of coastlines, stress to energy grid, and shifting structures as results of melting permafrost. A warming climate threatens mountain snowpack, fresh water supplies and hydropowerthat serve millions of people. Changes in climate and precipitation patterns will impact agriculture and food security. Populations that are already vulnerable by sea level rise and in terms of food security are poised for the greatest hardships. Political unrest, migration of refugees and global economic impacts are all possible outcomes.
After decades of warnings from scientists about climate change, governments started coming together in the 1980s to combat the problem. The FoxNews traces a timeline of key moments in the diplomatic efforts to stop global warming leading up to the U.N.Climate Conference in Paris (COP 21) and Marrakech (COP 22).
There are several challenges and consequences being faced by the developing and underdeveloped countries. Talking about countries like Nepal, a populous mountainous country encompassing most portion of the Himalayas with diverse climatic zones within 190 km of distance dwelled by 27.8 million (World Bank) people. Nepal is rich in natural resources like snow clad mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, rivulets, flora and fauna, medicinal herbs, forest resources and others. Nepal is also a global biodiversity hub comprising 118 ecosystems, 75 categories of vegetation, and 35 types of forest. The people of Nepal, particularly the rural poor, are directly dependent on natural resources for survival; and a significant portion of Nepal’s economy comes from climate-sensitive industries such as agriculture, forestry, and ecotourism. Because of both the considerable biodiversity and economic and geographic profile, Nepal is ranked 13th in the world in terms of climate change vulnerability (2012 Climate Change Risk Atlas). An increase in soil erosion, landslides, flash floods and droughts have been reported in recent years across the country, with increased intensity and impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the Nepalese. The analysis suggests that 1.9 million people are highly climate vulnerable and another 10 million are increasingly at risk, with climate change likely to increase this number significantly in the future. (NAPA Document 2010)
The mountain, hill and plain landscapes also support a highly diverse array of cultures and livelihoods. Each of these many socio-economic systems is custom-tailored to take advantage of the opportunities offered by specific micro-climates and localized ecosystems and to respond to the constraints they impose on livelihoods. Global Circulation Model (GCM) projections indicate that the temperature over Nepal will increase between 0.50°C and 2.00°C with a multi-model mean of 1.40°C by the 2030s and between 3.00°C and 6.30°C, with a multi-model mean of 4.70°C by the 2090s. GCM outputs suggest that extremely hot days (the hottest 5% of days)between the period 1970-1999 and 2070-2099 are projected to increase by up to 55%. According to the shift assessment of the upper tree limit and tree line recruitment done by NAST (National Academy of Science and Technology), during the interval of 1900 to 2012, upper limit has shifted at a rate of 10.8m/year with the upslope shifting of 110m than 1911 tree line reference.
Although climate change and its impacts pose a potential risk to our biodiversity and socio-economic ways of life, this cloud of despair still has a silver lining to be optimistic about. Nepal has been combating hard to adapt to the effects of climate change and move towards climate resilience. One of the most important points to consider is the fact that most of the energy produced here is clean and from perpetual source. Nepal, being the second richest country in inland water resources in the world, produces 92% of its national grid energy via hydropower. Although the total potential for hydropower production is 83,000 MW; of which less than one percent (700 MW) is currently harnessed – the annual renewable energy potential sums up to 226,460 GWh comprising solar PV, wind and hydro. (UNDP, 2013)
In December 2009, Government of Nepal held the world’s highest altitude cabinet meeting on the slopes of Mount Everest to highlight the danger that global warming poses to Himalayan glaciers. The Everest Declaration included provisions like increasing the protected areas of country’s land from 20 to 25 percent, and developing communities’ capacity to cope with changing climate in addition to urging the developed nations to curb the carbon dioxide emission and simultaneously to contribute 1.5% of their GDP to Climate Fund to decrease greenhouse gases to pre-industrialization levels.
Similarly, Government of Nepal has initiated various programs like “Hariyo Ban”, “Chure Conservation Program” and watershed conservation under the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation to preserve the existing biodiversity and combat the changing climate patterns. The growing popularity of eco village concept and insitu conservation of endangered species in natural parks and reserves are all run very succinctly. Few initiatives like Community Forestry and Leasehold Forestry Programs even received global acclaim due to their effectiveness in forest conservation. A recent government survey shows that the forest cover has increased by five percent from earlier 39.6% (1998) to 44.74% (2016) of the total land area in the last decade- a green light for hope.
Initiatives like “Zero Carbon Nepal- Vision 2030” have been launched under National Planning Commission with approval of Confederation of Nepalese Industries to promote green economy and low carbon development by developing “Made in Zero Carbon Nepal” label for every Nepalese product that not only strengthens our economy but also establishes our identity as a carbon neutral country.
To this date, while the political debate over climate change has already been settled over the backdrop of various scientific facts published, countries around the world have started to come together to solve the issue. The developed countries and emerging economies lead in total carbon dioxide emissions while the developing and the least developed countries that have less share for carbon emission must suffer more. According to the Trading Economics Data, the 20 developed nations produce 80% of the total carbon while the rest world produces just 20%.
Analysing Nepal’s data, CO2 emissions per capita here is 0.14 metric tons while carbon sequestration capacity of our forest is as high as 3.1 tC/ha/yr (ICIMOD, 2013). In a global scenario of greenhouse gases emission, Nepal is not just a carbon neutral country, but a carbon negative country offering a net carbon sink through our lush green forests. The forests of Nepal store more than 913 million metric tons of carbon as of 2014(Journal of Forest and Livelihood).
Nepal signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on June 12, 1992, and ratified it on May 2, 1994. It is also a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol and became party to the conference from December 2005. As a party to the Convention, Nepal is obliged and committed to acting against the earth’s climate change and the adverse effects of human activities.
According to the voluntary schemes of the Kyoto Protocol, Nepal could earn the revenue of NRs. 4.5 billion, 11 billion and 18.4 billion at the rate of $5, $12, and $20 per ton CO2 sequestration respectively even if half of the existing forest area could be registered for the carbon credits. In addition to the above, Nepal can be at a position to reap a huge chunk of financial flow through the sale of the permissible average which has surplus of 0.07 ton CO2 per capita if the mechanism could be established under the emerging issue of the Polluter Pays Principle.
The world’s forests and forest soils currently store more than 1 trillion tonnes of carbon, twice the amount floating free in the atmosphere. Thus, increasing storage and preventingthe stored carbon from being released back to the atmosphere are two of the most important measures for combating global warming and conserving the environment.
The outside world should all learn from the progress made by Nepal in sector of forest conservation and use of clean energy in combating the climate change. Although Nepal being a small agrarian country contributing 0.016% of global Greenhouse gas emissions, the initiatives taken in such seriousness are reflective of our unfathomable love for nature and mother earth. These efforts are not only an act for solidarity; they are also an investment for our common future, contributing to green, healthy, and naturally liveable earth.
Banskota, K., Karky, B.S., & Skutsch, M. (2012). Reducing carbon emission linking community managed forests in the Himalayas. Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.
DFRS, (2015). Forest resources of Nepal (1987‐2014). Kathmandu: Department of Forest Research and Survey, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation.
Dhungana, S.P., Oli, B.N., & Mandal, R.A. (2014). Claiming a bird in hand: Economic potential of plantation in Nepal under clean development mechanism. Journal of Forests and Livelihood. 12(1): 18‐27.
DoF, (2016). Forest cover change analysis of the Terai districts (1990/91‐2015/16). Kathmandu: Department of Forests. FAO, (2014). Global forest resource assessment 2014. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Liau, J., & Rasul, G.(2007). Climate change, the Himalayan mountains and ICIMOD. Sustainable Mountain Development. 53. Schoene, D., & Netto, M. (2005). The Kyoto protocol: What does it mean for forest and forestry. Unasylva. 222 (56).
Shree Prasad Devkota is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace,