”We Need Focused Adaptation Actions” Vishwendra Paswan

As Nepal is celebrating the World Environment Day 2016, Vishwendra Paswan, Minister for Population and Environment spoke to NEW SPOTLIGH on various issues. Excerpts:

June 3, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.9 No 22, June 3,2016 (Jesth 21)

The World Environment Day (June 5) is approaching us. As a focal ministry, how is your ministry going to observe this Day? What are the major activities that have been planned to celebrate the World Environment Day in Nepal?

It is a very important occasion for Nepal to make commitments and review our policies and programs. This year we are celebrating the day with the slogan of Go Wild for Life: Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade. As Nepal has made major achievements in wild life conservation, this slogan inspires us to continue our efforts. As usual, I will promote Nepal as a green and clean country, by promoting bicycle.

You started the cycling campaign, immediately after you became a minister. What are you doing now in promoting cycling in the Kathmandu Valley?

I launched a campaign to promote cycling in the Kathmandu Valley in order to reduce fossil fuel consumption and emission of air pollutants. Pollution is affecting our health and we are investing lots of money to cure pollution-related diseases. My campaign will continue to encourage people to use cycle as an environment-friendly means of transportation. Cycling has multiple benefits to human health. Everybody has supported my campaign in principle. Several youths have started to ride bicycles. I have realized the challenges and barriers. I am developing a strategy to promote cycling in urban areas to reduce pollution. I urge everybody to support this campaign and use cycles as your means of daily transportation.

You attended the Paris Climate Change Conference. Nepal has signed the Paris Agreement in April 2016 at New Yor . How are you going to implement the Paris Agreement?

Very important and timely question! Yes, Paris Agreement is a compromise to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission. All countries should be involved in reducing GHGs emissions and in protecting the planet. We reached the Agreement in Paris. We tried to include mountain issues in the Agreement.

Nepal has already signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April 2016 upon the call of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban-Ki Moon. As a signatory, Nepal should ratify the Paris Agreement and implement it effectively. The Ministry is fully aware of it and is working on the ratification process.

After my return from Paris, Nepal submitted the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). This also contributes to implement the Paris Agreement, reduce GHGs emissions and promote climate change adaptation in Nepal.

What are your priorities on climate change?

You know, the impact of climate change in the mountains is very serious. We don't emit GHGs but we are greatly affected by climate change. Temperature is rising and our snows are melting very fast. We have to protect out Himalayas, mountains, people and resources from climate change impacts. Climate-induced disasters are claiming lives of the people and property. For this, we are implementing a few activities to lower down the water from the glacier lakes such as Imja, and flood control measures in the Terai.

What about mountain agenda?

We must focus on mountain agenda. You might know, Nepal has organized a mountain conference and a cabinet meeting at Kalapatthar, and is giving high priority to address the adverse impacts of climate change in the mountains. But we need to work more forcefully on mountain issues. So we first need to protect our mountains from climate change impacts. I realize the urgent need for a mountain conference to discuss on issues and challenges, share good practices and solutions, and develop a mechanism to work together for the benefit of the people living both in the mountains and the low land.

Can you elaborate on some climate change related activities under implementation in Nepal?

We are implementing Nepal Climate Change Support Program, popularly known as LAPA project, in mid and far west Nepal. It is a very successful program. Local people are benefitting very much from climate change adaptation activities. Our LAPA was also recognized during Paris Conference. Based on the experiences and learning, we need to scale up this LAPA activity in the whole country, from east to west and south to north.

How do you see the role of Nepal’s development partners?

They have been very supportive to implement the climate change and environment programs. I would like to take this opportunity to thank DFID and EU for their support to implement LAPAs and I would urge, from your magazine, to our friendly-countries, development partners, UN agencies, and multilateral agencies for more support to implement LAPAs all over the country. Many people have appreciated this program both in Nepal and abroad. I hope, this program will greatly help our poor and climate vulnerable people to adapt and build resilience to climate change impacts. Journalists should also prepare and publish cases of good practices. It is necessary to inform stakeholders on good and bad practices and learn from past mistakes.

Do you have any initiative on institutional strengthening on climate change?

On 28 May 2016, the Minister for Finance emphasized in his budget speech to strengthen country capacity to harness the international climate change finance. As Nepal is adversely affected from climate change, we need more resources to address these impacts. A Climate Finance Management Section is recently established in the Ministry of Population and Environment to access climate finance from multiple sources. I hope, this Section will work effectively in the coming days. This institutional arrangement will open a number of avenues in accessing climate finance in Nepal. I would urge all to provide technical and financial support to Nepal to help Nepali people to adapt to climate change impacts.

How are you going to address long-term impacts of climate change in Nepal?

That's a very important question again! As I told you previously, we did not create the climate change problem but we are greatly affected by it. So we need to focus on climate change adaptation actions to help our people to build their capacity to adapt to climate change impacts. Our existing projects focus on most urgent and immediate adaptation options. The NCCSP is implementing adaptation actions to address the immediate needs.

What is the state of NAP?

We have already initiated a process to formulate National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to address medium and long-termadaptation needs of the country. It will be a very important document to guide us for future planning and integration of climate change adaptation into different sectors. A team of experts is already mobilized to support the government for NAP formulation process. In the near future, the concerned stakeholders will be fully engaged in government-led NAP formulation process. I am very proud to say I have initiated the NAP process in Nepal.

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