When tackling climate change and accelerating low carbon development in Nepal has been our top priority for some time now, we cannot let any of our actions fail and starve adaptation action on its very foundation. When there is not much in our historical records to show how environmental and climate adversities were dealt centuries ago, there is a common consensus that we did not have this issue as worse as now in the known history of the country. This is primarily because, for ages, we have had a limited population, demanding much less from the nature, and that too with diverse ecosystem and equally diverse culture and traditions offering inherent solutions in the form of indigenous ecological knowledge and socio-cultural practices such as the barter system filling up the production and distribution gaps. However, this perfection was never meant to persist indefinitely. Thus, as the time passed by, the population increased, so did our greed. Forests degraded and forest coverage declined, water resources became scarce and contaminated, fertile soil continued eroding, atmosphere got loaded with more dose of anthropogenic pollution, urban centres turned to “hot pans “and wild lives continued disappearing at the cost of our desperateness for modernization, development and a lavish life style. When there is nothing bad wants to be modern and live a better life, our unsustainable and undesirable approach to gradually transit from “what we were” to “what we are” and “what we are dreaming to be”, created a lot of problem. The magnitude of this problem was worse, as this was a global trend, and people from other parts of the world that we refer as early industrialized nations seemed to have over-smarted and overtaken us, not only in developing their countries first, but also in ruining the world first. By nature, we human are selfish beings, who “taketh more than giveth back”. However, that selfishness needs some wisdom attached to it as we prepare to tackle the issues like climate change and poverty. We need to accept that modernization doesn’t sustain at the cost of ruining natural capital, destroying social capital, and just by riding the back of not-so-thriving financial capital, when the government institutions are far more weaker than any time before, policy corruption is at its peak, and most actors - from ordinary citizen to bureaucracy and political leadership, all are trying to reap the benefits without caring about it’s implications (someone else’s loss).
When the least developed countries like Nepal are battling against climate change, it is obvious that the focus will be placed on adaptation and mitigation seen as secondary. When the climate change terminologies used by a specific group of people (experts) may leave the ordinary people puzzled most of the time, it is responsibility of all of us to demystify this “secret science” by communicating in simpler languages that can be understood by the majority of the population – “science for society”, especially when the issues is as basic as adaptation. Climate crisis deserves more attention than plain jargon. Let us accept the fact – “adaptation is never a new thing-in-making”. Humans have been practicing socio-economic and ecological adaptations to environmental adversities and variabilities, including climate change, for ages through development of suitable practices (such as early examples of irrigation, insurance and weather forecasting), cultures, and technologies, enabling them to enhance local environmental conditions and living. Even in the academic circle, the discussion on adaptation has received attention as early as 1970s, first within the Club of Rome, then within cold-war time institution International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) following publication of C. S. Holling’s Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management in 1978, and later within the IPCC debates, until now. When the discussion about mitigation and adaptation as the most effective responses to climate change is omnipresent in the scientific community since then, as E. Lisa F. Schipper nicely summarises, our historical focus on adaptation has been on individual and ecosystem adaptation in response to growing understanding about transforming nature-based systems, that, at one point, could breach the non-reversible ecological threshold. The adaptation issues have received more attention mainly after 1990s, thanks to some deliberate efforts to categorically differentiate them. You may blame them as academic politics or appreciate as more organised efforts to understand them individually and in-connection, but the fact is, this eventually helped to get the adaptation process formally recognised and acted upon within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) mechanism. This also aided in establishing view mitigation and adaptation need different thinking, approach and policy as well as scientific fora to develop more and be more effective. This change at the UNFCCC level, eventually opened door for current form of adaptation finance and transformed adaptation actions into something big in quick succession, despite the global economic setback started in 2007/08. With this flow, Nepal too hugely benefitted as everything we see now presented as adaptation in Nepal have happened in last two decades, such as Nepal National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Local Adaptation Plan of Action (LAPA), National Climate Policy, Nepal-Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), Nepal Climate Change Support Programme (NCCSP) and work-in-progress National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to name a few. However, this separation between adaptation and mitigation also started creating a gulf of understanding between two communities working on these now “differentiated topics” and has partly contributed to their ideological crisis. As a result, climate solutions somehow, suddenly, started appearing as “segregated efforts” from what they should be – “integrated efforts”. And now, it has gone too far, esp. when we see some so called experts, unhesitatingly claiming adaptation is for least developed and developing countries whereas the mitigation is exclusive responsibility of the developed countries, or say those who industrialised first, polluted the environment first, and are now are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
This was the turning point; we started wrong approach –a rather fragmented approach, to solve the "Planetary Catastrophe" that does not leave a single aspect of our life unharmed. Wisdom says, adaptation is a package deal for our very survival in the changing climate and comprises of efforts related to “struggle” and “cooperation” combined, a shift from Darwin’s early concept of “struggle for existence”. In addition, if it is so, how can we continue separating mitigation from adaptation and still expect to develop a complete solution? Doesn’t this seem like, the legendary Kalidas cutting the branch of a tree on which he was sitting? What kind of solutions are we expecting out of it?
Given this and also considering prevailing geo-political chaos, socio-economic divide, ecological crisis, religio-cultural conflicts we are living with, and how global approaches to solve this crisis are changing, we need to recognise and embrace the following, in our plans and of course, actions:
For detailed analysis, please read the articles below, The first article appears in an open access journal, whereas the second can be shared for non-profit purposes (mail: tekjungmahat.at.gmail.com).
Climate finance and green growth: Option analysis for Nepal:
Mahat, Tek Jung, LuděkBláha, BatuUprety, and Michal Bittner. "Climate finance and green growth: reconsidering climate-related institutions, investments, and priorities in Nepal." Environmental Sciences Europe 31, no. 1 (2019): 46.
Framing green economy in mountainous countries like Nepal:
Rueff, H., Kohler, T., Mahat, T. J., &Ariza, C. (2015). Can the green economy enhance sustainable mountain development? The potential role of awareness building. Environmental science & policy, 49, 85-94.