Climate Change in NEPAL: Gearing up for Copenhagen

Nepal GlacierNepal is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change, and is gearing up to make its presence felt at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, the government says.

“We will definitely put our case strongly, because our country is one of the most vulnerable in the world due to climate change,” Prime Minister Madhav Kumar told IRIN.

“The discussion on climate change in the government is very serious, and we will definitely make our voices heard strongly,” he said.

According to a 28 August 2009 report by aid agency Oxfam, millions of rural poor in Nepal could face hunger because of the effects of climate change.

It said changing weather patterns, including an increase in extreme temperatures, more intense rainfall and increased unpredictability, had dramatically reduced crop production. Farmers were increasingly unable to properly feed themselves, and were sinking into debt.

Glaciers receding fast

Himalayan glaciers are receding faster than in any other part of the world, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the resulting meltwater could trigger flooding, avalanches and the destruction of land within a few decades.

Nepal has around 3,250 glaciers, and hundreds of millions of people in South Asia depend on the rivers they help to sustain, according to the Ministry of Environment. Since 1964, there have been more than 13 reported glacial lake outbursts causing damage to livestock, property, environmental resources and infrastructure in Nepal’s mountain areas,.

“The risks are growing, especially for people living in mountainous areas, and we are taking this message to Copenhagen,” Environment Minister Thakur Prasad Sharma told IRIN.

Countries like Nepal, which are poor and vulnerable to climate change, desperately need more international support, both financially and technically, he said. “Our hope rests on the world leaders of powerful nations to make historic decisions in Copenhagen.”

Nepal needs help from the international donor community with its climate change adaptation programmes, said Gagan Thapa, a member of parliament.

Change of heart?

Aid workers previously critical of what they said was the government’s lack of interest in climate change are now more upbeat.

“We have been campaigning with political leaders at the highest level, and are optimistic that [the] voice of Nepal will be much stronger,” said Anil Manandhar, WWF’s country representative for Nepal.

Nepal will not only speak out on the need for climate change adaptation support, but will also push for countries to commit to reducing CO2 emissions, he said, adding that Nepal was expecting industrialized nations to help sustain the livelihoods of the poorest people in the region.

Environmentalists fear, however, that poor countries like Nepal, which are heavily dependent on foreign aid, may lack the leverage to exert pressure on developed nations. “It’s going to be very difficult for us to say [to developed nations] that climate change is your fault, and that you have to support us, when we already know that all the aid is from these same countries,” said mountain environment activist Dawa Steven Sherpa.


4 September 2009 (IRIN)

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