Climate Change: Implementing the Commitments

Nepal's NDC submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat on 08 December 2020 mentions USD 25 billion and USD 3.4 billion to achieve 'conditional' and 'unconditional' targets respectively.

May 13, 2021, 4:51 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 14, No. 18, June 04, 2021 (Jestha 21, 2078) Publisher: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Climate change is imposing an existential threat to human beings, other life-forms and ecosystems. Several Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement (PA) have submitted their updated or second nationally determined contribution (NDC) in December 2020. NDCs of developing countries, including Least Developed Country (LDC) Parties include 'conditional' targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. It means, they will implement their major contributions or commitments, subject to the availability of funding and technologies

Nepal's NDC submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat on 08 December 2020 mentions USD 25 billion and USD 3.4 billion to achieve 'conditional' and 'unconditional' targets respectively. NDC also aims to achieve net-zero GHGs emissions or be a carbon-neutral country by 2050. Unconditional targets are related to the generation of 5,000 MW by 2030, sales of e-vehicles, development of a 200km electric rail network, and promotion of improved cooking stoves and biogas. Cooking stoves, micro-hydro, and biogas were developed in the last decade as clean development mechanism (CDM) projects after Nepal's 'realistic' negotiation with Kyoto Protocol (KP) Parties on methodological issues in 2007. This contributed a lot to develop CDM projects in Nepal as per Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, and reduce GHGs emissions, though negligible.

Rejoining the Paris Agreement, US President Joe Biden convened a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate on 22-23 April 2021. World's leaders announced new climate targets to reduce GHGs emissions so as to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.50C. Leaders committed to undertake innovative pathways to a net-zero economy. Many statements focused on promoting clean energy technologies. Bangladesh (chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum), Bhutan (chair of the LDC Group to UNFCCC) and India attended the Leaders Summit from South Asia.

US commitment to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide GHGs emissions by 2030 is a strong signal of the new government to the global community to implement the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, US plan to double 2024 their annual public climate finance to developing countries may be rewarding for many developing countries and LDCs to achieve their commitments. The political desire of the Head of the State or Government would greatly influence the decisions of the CoP26 of the UNFCCC to be held in Glasgow, the United Kingdom in November 2021. Leaders may express their desire for climate ambition in G7 and G20 meetings as well.

US President has linked climate actions with creating new jobs and improving the economy. This might greatly contribute to build capacity, develop appropriate technologies, generate clean energy, reduce GHG emissions, improve the economy, and channel additional funding for actions in climate-vulnerable countries.

Political commitments on climate ambition and finance have been made during the CoVID-19 pandemic. Lack of or inadequate investment in innovative solutions may promote even environmentally sensitive 'fossil-fuel-based economic growth. If so, funding and technology problems will continue to be a major challenge to comply with the global responsibility for avoiding or reducing GHGs emissions. This may create a 'tragedy of the common resource - the climate'. This may also affect the commitment of the developed country Parties to the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement to provide additional funding and technology to climate-vulnerable countries - the LDCs. If so, climate change will further adversely affect the economic sectors such as agriculture, water resources, tourism etc. The Prime Minister of Nepal hoped, 'The UK, as the host of Cop26, to push hard for an ambitious climate deal – a deal that should contain financial support and capacity-building for climate-vulnerable countries' (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/may/10/nepalcovid-uk-g7).

In May-June 2021, virtual meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) to the UNFCCC, KP and PA will discuss several agenda items for the effective implementation of these legally binding instruments. This meeting is expected 'not to make any decisions or conclusions on agenda items, including the National Adaptation Plan, and extension of the mandate of the LDC Expert Group. Nepal's participation may be crucial in SBs' meetings in view of her 'conditional ambitious targets' in NDC2; 'non-continuation in negotiations of important agenda items for Nepal, and 'non-responsive commitments' including in regional meetings. SBs sessions may refresh understanding and sharing our challenges, concerns and needs to cope with climate change impacts in this pandemic situation. As SBs will start on 31 May 2021, it is high time to think of Nepal's preparations for this Bonn session.

The Government has issued a National Environment Policy (2019) with the aim of ensuring the 'right' to survive in a clean and healthy environment by controlling pollution, managing wastes and promoting greenery. A number of policies have been grouped under (i) pollution prevention, control and reduction; (ii) environmental mainstreaming; (iii) environmental justice; (iv) participation; (v) sustainable development; and (vi) governance, research and capacity building. It commits to review this 2019 policy every five years. A research paper on environment policy is accepted in April 2021 for publication. Authors (few working in policy formulating government Ministry) analyzed Nepal's environmental policy from perspectives of policy actors and institutions and drew inferences on increasing involvement of non-governmental (and donor) actors in setting the context and framing of environmental policies, and domination of government officials, experts and international organizations in selecting tools of action. The authors recommended adopting a transdisciplinary policy-making approach (https://www. sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/ S1462901121001052). This reflects 'ownership' over the policy, and helps to guess reasons for 'non-implementation of policies that require skills, commitment, funding and technologies. The possibility of translating policies into action exists in the new techno-administrative leadership in the policy formulating institution.

Realization of the existential threats of climate change has moved from the scientific community to the political level. Politicians representing highlands (mountains), drylands, lowlands, or islands are continuously raising impacts of climate change and have made commitments to reducing GHGs emissions, even if their GHGs contribution is negligible. Importantly, high GHGs emitting countries have also committed to adopt innovative clean energy development pathways to substantially reduce their GHGs emissions. Developing countries, including LDCs and Island States, have urged developed countries to provide additional funding and technologies to adapt and build resilience to climate change. In order to translate 'leaders' commitment' and 'conditional targets' in NDCs into action, the time has come to make climate change 'people's agenda'.

batu uprety111.jpg

Batu Uprety

Former Joint-Secretary and Chief of Climate Change Management Division, Ministry of Environment (then), and former Team Leader, National Adaptation Plan (NAP) formulation process. E-mail: upretybk@gmail.com

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