As Nepal is hosting the International Conference of Mountain Countries on climate change on April 5-6 and preparation for the meeting is at the last stage, secretary at the ministry KRISHNA GYAWALI spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on the agenda and issues of the conference. Excerpts:
As Nepal is said to be in the leading role for raising the issues of mountain countries, what is there for us in the forthcoming International Conference of Mountain Countries on climate change?
Nepal has been involved in the mountain agenda for quite a long time. The establishment of ICIMOD headquarters in Nepal was one of the important aspects in this regard. Although ICIMOD covers eight countries of Hindukush Himalayan region, this gives Nepal an opportunity to get involved in the mountain agenda. This conference is different because we want to link it with the climate change negotiations. Nepal’s active participation in climate change negotiations is very new. Although Nepal has already taken part in 17 COPs, we have started our active participation just after Bali or COP 8 and COP 9. Nepal has shown its own presence in COP 15 Copenhagen, hosting a cabinet meeting at the highest mountain in Kalapatthar.
What is the difference between the past efforts and the present ones?
There are some major differences in International Conference of Mountain Countries and Nepal’s past involvement in raising mountain agenda. Firstly, this is for the first time Nepal is holding such a big international gathering of representatives of mountain countries. Our target is to make it as ministerial level meeting. Of course, all the invitees may not attend due to their own compulsions. However, our efforts will be to make it a high level ministerial meeting.
What agenda does Nepal have?
We want to raise the agenda of mountain countries which are the most vulnerable to climate changes. We have some commonalities with all mountain countries. For instance, economy of all the mountain countries is based on mountain ecology and agriculture is a mainstay for all of us. Our tourism is based on mountains. Our mountains are water towers, as well as watersheds.
Why is water matter?
As water is a major issue now, our conference is expected to promote the water issue. Another important issue is food security. As a country with varied climatic zone, Nepal has diversity. Nepal can show the world community an example of how climate resilient, climate friendly and climate adaptable agriculture is viable. Other important issue will be energy.
How do you see the possibility to tap renewable energy?
As a mountain country, Nepal is rich in renewable energy. Our current definition incorporates micro hydro only. We have solar, wind and biomass. Micro hydro has potential of over 22,000 MW. We have yet to tap the renewable energy. Our efforts will be to see how climate change affects water, energy, agriculture and bio-diversity. Mitigation and adaptation are important components of climate change.
What are the challenges before Nepal?
We have been facing many negative consequences of climate change like rise of temperature and change in precipitation patterns and annual average rainfall. Nepal’s glaciers are vulnerable. Due to this, Nepal is fourth highly vulnerable country in the world. Our share in global warming is minimal but it will affect us. Our contribution to climate change may be smaller but our activities increase the green house.
How do you see our level of participation?
Our level of participation is high in the COP. Our presence was formidable and we are able to hold the international conference. Nepal had declared during the COP that Nepal would host a meeting of mountain countries to highlight the problems faced by mountain countries. This is our initiative. We need a forum to raise our own agenda. We have been using the Least Developed Countries forum for this. Out of 14 , there are various countries from different regions. Our aim is not to replace or displace LDC through this new initiative. What we want is to create a new initiative. There are various groups in COP like the Latin American Countries, Iceland country and African countries. We also want to have a group for mountain countries to deal with the problems faced by mountain countries. The group can be formed on the basis of commonalities.
How do you see the potentials?
There are potentials and opportunities and risks and challenge on the other side. There is high fragility as well. Our needs are very different. If there is a threat in mountains, there is threat downstream as well.
What mountain country needs?
We need resources, technologies according to our needs and sustainable and affordable capacities building at individual and institutional level as well as governmental and non-governmental level. We need to involve the private sector, NGOs sector and other stakeholders with the government. We want to see gross capacity of the country. If we can put our views in climate change negotiations, we can make a difference. There are various funds including Least Development Fund, Developing Countries Fund, special climate change fund, adaptation fund and green climate fund. This will help to scale up our capacity in technology, finance and capacity. First there was no ministerial level meeting, second we link it with climate change and third separate group to increase our access in climate change fund.
How do you see the conference?
This is just an event and we can transform this into process like Mountain Initiative. Mountain conference is a one time event and Mountain Initiative is a process. It is impossible to hold the conference all the time. There is the need to institutionalize the issue coming out from the meeting. We will try to build a platform.
How the mountain agenda is important in Rio+?
As Rio+20 summit is going to be held in Brazil in June, we need to carry the opinions of mountain countries there. There are several regional level institutions to look at the mountain issue. For instance, ICIMOD looks at the problems of Hindukush mountain. We need a global institution that can look at the mountain countries from around the world. More than a dozen ministers will take part and large number of international experts are coming to Nepal. This grouping will include developed, developing and least developed countries. We want to bring together all countries with mountainous countries. We will officially ask for a place for mountains as an agenda of Rio+. We will launch mountain events, energy, water security, food security and bio-diversity. Along with this, there is also the issue of social and cultural things.
Are you going to discuss socio cultural sides of mountain?
The mountain regions have their own socio-cultural commonalities. We also want to include this. People in the mountains are facing problems. Mountain communities will be there. Mountain is not a static identity but it is a living identity. Mountain inherently means mountain community. For instance, Sherpas are the communities with special identity with mountains. We want to bring the resolution calling it Kathmandu call for global action on climate change and mountains.