The forestry target is the most do-able, because Nepal’s total forest area is already at 44.74% — we just have to make sure no more trees are cut in the next nine years. So, no Nijgad.
But we have no idea how the government expects to help all Nepalis adapt to climate impact. That goal is so vague and non-measureable as to be meaningless.
And then there is the aim to be ‘net-zero’ by 2045. Net-zero is an excuse to keep burning fossil fuel, hoping that forests somewhere will absorb the carbon. Besides, net-zero will not protect citizens from toxic emissions car tailpipes and smokestacks.
Nepal’s commitment is conditional upon financial support, and there may be a strong moral argument for ‘loss and damage’ compensation because the country only contributes 0.5% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
However, we do not have to wait for donors in order to switch from petro-energy to hydro, solar and wind. Tax rebates for electric public transport, subsidies for cooking appliances, switching industries like cement, steel and manufacturing to electricity just need political will.
As we have argued here before, Nepal needs to do this not so much to avert a planetary emergency, but to save our economy from collapse, and to protect the public from breathing poisonous air.
Every year, Kathmandu’s pollution level sets a new record. This spring, the Valley’s air quality index (AQI) hit nearly 700 because of vehicular emissions combined with wildfire smoke. This was 40 times the level deemed safe to breathe by WHO’s new guidelines. Covid patients at ICUs across the country are being replaced by people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Given Nepal’s small carbon footprint, we might even attain net-zero status before 2045 because vehicles manufacturers are going electric, so we could not import diesel buses after 2030 even if we wanted to. But government policy must align with our Glasgow pledges. The on-again-off-again tax rebated on EVs in the past four years does not bode well for the future.
In addition, Nepalis need help to adapt to cope with the water crisis and resulting food insecurity as well as the impact of weather-related disasters like Melamchi and Manang this year.
After returning from lobbying rich country delegates in Glasgow, Nepali activists and scientists should now turn their attention to putting pressure on our own government to get climate smart.