A consensus for action

  • Development cannot come at the cost of the air we breathe, the water we drink or the Nepal we leave behind
- Gagan Thapa, Kashish Das Shrestha
A consensus for action

Jun 4, 2014-

Over the years, on World Environment Day, we have regularly used this space to share our positions on environment issues that we considered key for that particular year. And throughout the year, we went on to pursue those ideas at a policy level and to bring them to public discourse from our respective capacities as best we could. Our opinions and ideas were always based on the most reliable, peer reviewed, scientific consensus on the issue we were addressing, all contextualised for Nepal. And they were always designed, in our view, to best serve Nepal’s development needs in the most sustainable way possible.

This year, Nepal has a unique and important opportunity: we have an elected Constituent Assembly (CA) writing a new constitution, and an elected Parliament with a strong development mandate. It is critical that both these bodies are fully engaged in perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation—environmental degradation and climate change.

The CA and Parliament

By Environment Day 2015, or this day next year, Nepal is expected to have its new constitution in place. It is of utmost importance, especially for those of us who work on environment issues, to ensure that the discourse shaping that constitution be viewed also through the lenses of intergenerational equity and social justice in the climate change context. The last CA already incorporated several progressive key issues, namely identifying and addressing climate change as a state duty and committing to maintain 40 percent forest coverage in Nepal. These commitments cannot be lost but must in fact be further built on.

At the Parliament, the people’s aspiration for development has been clearly noted. Massive infrastructure and development projects will take place for some years to come. But our perception of development must make a shift and we must make a clear stand that development at the cost of the environment and the ecology is not actually development at all, and environment conservation is not an obstruction to development. There are ample regional and global examples to make this case and there is no justification for Nepal to repeat others’, or even its own, mistakes.

Rather, it is time Nepal takes the lead both regionally and globally on sustainable development. Not just because we can but also because we must. Which is why, the next year is critical for Nepal’s sustainable development to ensure that we engage in informed policy discourses based on sound science.

It is in that spirit and manner that we worked on the 2009 Parliamentary Hearing on climate change, when Parliamentarians in the Natural Resources and Means Committee were still uncertain of climate science and its implications for Nepal. By the end of the last Natural Resource and Means Committee, we had covered issues of seed policies, forest management, energy development and natural resource extraction, amongst others, leading to several policy changes and implementation.

Calling for consensus:

The need to commit to these issues is greater than ever today for Nepal; it is an issue that intricately links us to the global community and vice-versa. It is also an issue that we need to champion with more defined commitments as the Chair of Least Developed Countries at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and here in the Saarc region. Nepal must also make its positions more prominent on a global stage, exhausting the many platforms that allow us to do so. And one such platform that is open not just to policy makers and official delegations, but to all Nepalis, is Consensus For Action, a campaign led by an international group of scientists.

Today, we endorse that campaign and commit to ensuring the positions it outlines to help us design better development policies. And we hope you too will endorse it on behalf of Nepal on the global stage, and also to let your local representatives know that development cannot come at the cost of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, or the Nepal we leave behind for the future. On this, we hope, we are in consensus.

 

Thapa is a Member of Parliament and Shreshta writes at SustainableNepal.org

Published: 05-06-2014 08:53

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