Former vice chairman of National Planning Commission DINESH CHANDRA DEVKOTA, Ph.D, is one of the leading supporters of the Mountain Initiative, an international initiative to forge an alliance among mountain countries in the context of climate change. During his tenure as a vice chair and member of NPC, Dr. Devkota strongly pursued the cause to hold the International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate change. As Nepal is holding the mountain meet, Dr. Devkota spoke to New Spotlight on various issues regarding the initiative. Excerpts:
How do you view the forthcoming International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change?
This is going to be a great time for Nepal. I am very proud to say that the idea to hold the International Conference of Mountain Countries in Nepal was proposed during 15 COP in Copenhagen. It was then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who very courageously and boldly proposed this alliance during his address to COP 15. Although mountain countries had been voicing their concerns in COP meetings independently, it was for the first time the initiative was taken to raise their collective voices. Former prime minister Nepal deserves thanks for this contribution.
Why do you think International Conference on Mountain countries is important for Nepal?
With over 13 percent total population covering areas of 25 percent surface of earth, climate change is going to make a major impact in the livelihood of the people living in the world, including Nepal. This way this is important for Nepal. Apart from this, mountain areas also provide essential eco-system, goods and services to the billions of people living in the downstream. At a time when there is lack of implementation of various international deliberations, including the UNFCCC and Rio +, processes, this meeting will put pressure on countries to raise their common voices. Besides, there are inadequate global efforts in addressing ongoing UNFCCC process on adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, finance and capacity building. It is going to be held in the context of mountain countries being unable to effectively influence the negotiations at COP meetings and various multilateral environmental agreements.
What are going to be major issues which will be discussed in the conference?
The discussions will take place in the areas, like change in natural vegetation, shift of vegetation types, eco-tones, eco-regions, and loss of productivity. The meeting will also discuss the impacts on forest and bio-diversity of species due to climate change. One of the major issues will be too much and too little water. The conference will also discuss cross-border implications of glacier melting and GLOFs. Rapid rate of ice and snow melting and its impact on region’s fresh water resources will also be discussed.
What are the major issues of mountain countries in the context of global warming?
Studies have already shown that global climate change poses a grave threat to the global mountain systems. The rate of warming on the mountains is faster than the plans due to GHG aerosols. Similarly, high elevation plants and animals are losing habitat area as they move higher. Due to weather change, availability of fresh water for environment flows and for human uses is seriously affected.
How do you see the Mountain Initiative in the context of Hind Kush Himalayan region?
There is inadequate and complex funding system. Current status of mountains in terms of conservation and development is poor. Climate change is aggravating the already bad situation created by globalization, bio-diversity loss and rapid socio-economic changes.
The trans-boundary aspects of mountain eco-system services call for regional cooperation. The HKH mountains are important for their role as water towers of Asia, bio-diversity hotspots, shelter for fragile fauna and flora species. China and India can play important roles in the regional cooperation in HKH region. China and India have 17 percent and 14 percent of the respective country’s areas in HKH region.
It is important for Nepal too. According to climate change vulnerability assessments, more than 1.9 million people are highly climate vulnerable with 10 million increasingly at risk of higher temperature increase. The annual temperature is to increase at an average of 1.2 degrees Celsius by 2030, 1.7 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 3 degrees by 2100.
Similarly, precipitation patterns will also change. Annual average precipitation over Nepal is decreasing at the rate of 9.8 mm per decade.
How do you justify the rationale behind mountain initiative?
The agenda 21 (chapter 13) adopted during the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the declarations of the International Year of Mountains 2002 highlighted the need to recognize and mainstream sustainable mountain development in national development plans and programs. More than 1.9 million people are highly climate vulnerable, with 10 million increasingly at risk as per climate change vulnerability assessments. The change in the precipitation and temperature will affect livelihood of people living in mountain areas.
What outcome would you expect from the Mountain Initiative meeting?
It will create a common understanding among mountain countries on climate change impacts on mountains and mountain communities in order to present their common priorities in international climate change negotiations UNFCCC and others including the upcoming Rio+ 20 Summit. Another important aspect of the initiative is to build a consensus towards institutionalizing the Mountain Initiative process and creating a common understanding on sustainable mountain development. This will launch a long term journey.