Former vice chairman of National Planning Commission Dr. DINESH CHANDRA DEVKOTA has been actively taking part in Nepal’s development sector. Dr. Devkota has also been actively taking part in the issues related to climate change at the policy level. As Nepal is going to take part in COP17 in Durban of South Africa, Dr. Devkota spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues related to climate change and development. Excerpts:
What is there to look up to in COP17?
Instead of asking what is there for Nepal in COP17, I see the COP 17 as a process. Frankly speaking, Nepal’s visible presence in COP has been seen just after COP 15. Although Nepal has been taking part in COPs from 1 to 14, they went unnoticed. Only after success of Jaandolan II, people have started to take part in all the activities more openly. This is the result of the current growing awareness on COP. The awareness level at bureaucracy and political level has grown as much. The issue of COP became a public agenda as the debates scale down to the civil society and NGOs level. The tradition to discuss and debate on climate change falls to grass roots. Thus, there is intense debate and discussions on climate change related issue, particularly COP. Although the Copenhagen accord is not a legally binding accord, Nepal has made association with the accord with three conditions. The conditions are: easy access to finance, enough finance and temperature level at 1.5.
What issue does Nepal need to raise there?
In COP 17, Nepal needs to raise the issue within the limitations of these three conditions. We also need to support the move to extend the tenure for Bali Action Plan of Action which is going to expire this year. We need to stress for easy access to transfer of technology and enhancement of Nepal’s capabilities. How can we enhance technology? We have to stress for enough finance and easy access to finance. There should not be any conditions in accessing the funds. We have to stress for the fund on which Nepal has easy access as well as the fund should be allocated through a system under which Nepal is able to spend.
What will be Nepal’s stand?
So far as temperature is concerned, Nepal should stress for the temperature level that protects Nepal’s Himalayan eco-system which will benefit all Hindkush region. As a coordinator of Least Developed Countries, Nepal should raise the issue faced by all LDCs. Nepal’s preparation showed that we continue to raise the issue of mountain countries as in the past two COP. Overall, Nepal has a clear agenda on REED Plus, climate resilience, particularly, PPCR and scaling up the renewable energy and how to go clean up mechanism. We need to move forward by enhancing our capacity.
Although Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change, it is yet to get adequate funds to implement programs. In this context, what role should Nepal have?
We need to request for more funds in the international arena. There are 48 LDC countries. Nepal started preparing NAPA document just three years ago when many LDCs had already handed it over. Similarly, we did have climate change policy, PPCR, vulnerability assessment and scale up renewal energy fund. Nepal needs to strongly raise the issues faced by LDCs. As a citizen of Nepal, what I can say is that Nepal needs to enhance its technical and other capabilities, otherwise we cannot justify international scientific community about our position. This is a major challenge. We have to have a strong argument to defend our stand that Nepal should stick on 1.5 degree Celsius. For this, we need to have data base to show the world community how snow will melt in case of rise of 1.5 degree Celsius temperature. We have to develop modeling about the loss of water in our rivers. We need to hit where we need support for capacity building.
How do you see Nepal’s delegation?
It is unfortunate to say that we are yet to develop a culture to work with the government. It is immaterial who leads the Nepal government at present when we talk about the agenda of Nepal with the outside world. We have to accept Nepal’s position. There is the need to have a close cooperation between the government and civil society as both of them have been working for poor people of Nepal.
At a time when the country’s farmers have been paying up to 17 percent interest rates to get the bank loans, some civil society organizations have been opposing the concessional climate loan with mere 0.5 interest rate. How do you look at this?
For instance, there was a hue and cry in pre-consultative meeting about the funding issue. Many raised the slogan: no loan to climate change. The slogan sounds good as it is bad to have loan. If the government cannot take loan, it is good to make arrangements for our private sector to move to take a long with just 0.5 percent interest rate per annum. If we cannot take the loan, there are many countries like Ghana, Bangladesh and other LDCs which have already expressed willingness for it. The state can decide whether the government wants it or not. First of all, we have to calculate how much Nepal has to bear in interests and other things. We need to decide such issues on the basis of reason and evidence, not on the basis of sentiment. You cannot develop the country by breaking the bar in Ratnapark.
It is said that Nepal’s civil society often objects to such moves without doing a detailed homework on the matter. How do you look at this?
‘No loan to climate change’ is a good slogan to read. At a time when Nepal government is borrowing the money from international agencies by paying much higher interest rate for the development projects, we must calculate pros and cons of the climate loan before taking any decision. We have to consult even the private sector about this fund. I am not defending the loan but my argument is that we have to decide the matter following intense study. In a country where farmers have been paying up to 15 percent per annum interest rate, the interest rate of 0.5 percent is much lesser. Since we are not a banker, we cannot say advantage and disadvantage about it. Thus, we have to invite private sector to see it. Instead of analyzing it professionally, we just take political agenda for loan. In a country, with frequent changes of government, the important thing is continuity in the process. Why don’t we ask cooperatives to take this concessional loan, if they can handle it?
Once again, what does Nepal need to do in COP17?
There is the need of more professional teams in early days on the issues like CDM, and REED. AWG, G77+China, European and umbrella organization, technology transfer, mountain and Carrabean country and LDCs will be discussed. They will be discussed in more than 20 sub sectors. We need to send not only 10 but 15 teams. We have to make one team one action and one team one issue and one team, one target. For this Ministry of Environment and civil society members and community representatives need to work together. This is because all of us are going to represent the people of Nepal. If we have differences in many issues, we need to fight tooth and nail inside home. Once we go outside, there is the need to have some sort of coordinative approach.