Print Edition - 2019-02-13  |  The Collegian

Nepal and the Paris Agreement

  • As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Nepal has joined the global fight against climate change, but much remains to be done
- Pukar Wagley

Feb 13, 2019-

Nepal is party to the United Nations Framework on Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) and has ratified the Paris Agreement, adopted during the 21st session of the UNFCCC. With a global objective of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and to mitigate the impacts of climate change, Nepal too signed up for the global fight against climate change.

In 2016, pursuant to Article 3 of the Paris Agreement, Nepal made Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commitments encouraging the use of renewable sources of energy and enhancing climate change adaptation. However, the past three years have witnessed no commendable endeavours from the state to foster resilience to climate change as per the purpose of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

Nepal contributes only 0.027 percent to global greenhouse emissions; however, it comes fourth on the list of countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Drought, excessive rainfall, floods, landslides, and the inundation of glacier lakes are some of the visible adverse impacts of climate change, which mostly affects the communities with poor socio-economic status. Through its NDC, Nepal has envisioned a Low Carbon Economic Development Strategy in the areas of energy, agriculture, industry, transport and so on. However, a lack of visionary state policies leaves room for pessimism regarding the success of the NDC.

Under the NDC, Nepal aims to decrease air pollution by 2025 through monitoring of sources of air pollution such as wastes, old and unmaintained vehicles, and industries. But how successful has the state been in reducing pollution on the streets of the Kathmandu Valley? Vehicles that do not qualify for emissions tests are being granted pollution clearance certificates (green stickers). Pollution arising from chaotic construction of roads is deteriorating the overall health of the Valley’s population. While the nation strides towards fulfilling the NDC, the right to health of individuals, maintained under the preamble of the Paris Agreement, should be understood as indivisible.

One of the major causes behind air pollution is the use of fossil fuels. To reduce dependency on fossil fuels, Nepal hopes to increase the share of electric vehicles by up to 20 percent by 2020 and has committed to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels in the transport sector by up to 50 percent by 2050. However, Nepal still consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels in the transportation sector. To achieve its NDC commitment, Nepal will have to import about 20,000 electric vehicles before 2020 ends. The Cabinet’s recent decision to buy 300 electric vehicles is a laudable effort; however, inadequate charging stations could undermine the government’s effort to ply those vehicles on the streets. Replacing diesel vehicles and introducing large number of green vehicles can be an uphill task, but there is no other option for the government if it resolves to make our cities green.

Furthermore, in Nepal, the energy mix pattern shows that about 87.1 percent of total energy comes from the burning of wood fuels. By 2020, Nepal hopes to expand its energy mix by expanding the share of renewable sources by 20 percent. As such, through the NDC, Nepal envisages dispensing bio-gas to more than 130,000 households, developing 1,000 institutional and 200 community bio-gas plants, constructing 4,000 improved water mills, and adding 25 MW of mini and micro hydropower. Undoubtedly, these renewable sources of energy can be veritable lifesavers, but we have always been carefree about the use of non-renewable energy. It has been over three years since the NDC has been communicated but the government’s declared priority to scale up production of the aforementioned sources of renewable energy has received minimal attention.

Forty percent of Nepal’s total area is under forest cover. Under the NDC, Nepal commits to maintain the same proportion of forest coverage to enhance carbon sequestration. By 2020, the nation will strive to reduce 14 million tons of CO2eq.  Lately, mega projects in Nepal have become one of the major causes behind mass deforestation.We are an underdeveloped country and developmental activities cannot be halted. But when such projects make large-scale deforestation necessary, the government should come up with a similar massive aforestation campaign to substitute for the loss of natural carbon reservoirs. Although Nepal makes a meager contribution to global greenhouse emissions, our geoposition remains very close to world’s top emitters—India and China. Trees have been playing significant roles by absorbing carbon-containing compounds, which would otherwise degrade Nepal’s biodiversity. Thus, the government must pursue NDC goals relentlessly and strive to reduce the targeted amount of CO2eq.

Climate change activists believe that anthropogenic activities have great potential of wreaking havoc to our civilisation. In light of this knowledge, awareness regarding climate change adaptation should be the core content of today‘s climate change discourse in Nepal. To enhance climate change adaptation, Nepal has aimed to reinforce implementation of an ‘Environment Friendly Local Governance Framework’ in municipalities and rural municipalities under the NDC. But launching campaigns on disaster risk management, organic farming, waste management, recycling, development of environment friendly bags, and the construction of green parking have not been the preferences of local governments yet. Unless the government invests to improve the adaptive capacity of local communities, children and people in vulnerable situations will certainly live their lives in jeopardy.

Each party under the Paris Agreement has communicated its post-2020 climate actions through their NDCs. Taking into consideration the common but differentiated responsibilities, Nepal has put forward some ambitious programmes to contribute to the global combat against climate change. Regrettably, we are still not on track to achieve our NDC targets. The issues of climate change have never found space in political discourse. There is a dearth of laws to regulate eco-friendly developmental activities and environmental impact assessments have mostly been flawed and biased.

Therefore, the government needs to carefully scrutinise the above-mentioned issues and promote economic development in a sustainable manner. We should understand that achieving NDC targets is not about merely fulfilling formal obligations; rather, it is an effort to increase the longevity of our planet for our children and the generations to come.

Wagley studies law at the Kathmandu School of Law

Published: 13-02-2019 11:44

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