Nepal could start meeting its own NDCs by picking the lowest-hanging fruit: switching to electric buses, two-wheelers and private cars.
Radha Wagle, joint secretary at the Ministry of Forests and head of its Environment Division was in the Nepal delegation in Glasgow, admits that the country’s commitment to net zero is ambitious: “We have made strong commitments, and some of them are conditional on financial aid, capacity enhancement, implementation support, and human resources.”
In its second NDC in 2020, Nepal set a target to increase sales of electric vehicles to cover 90% of private passenger vehicles and 60% of public vehicles by 2030 to reduce petrol and diesel imports by nearly one-third.
Nepal’s budget this year is Rs1.6 trillion but it has already imported Rs 100 billion worth of petroleum products in the past six months – 60% of all imports. With falling exports, remittances from Nepalis abroad and dropping foreign currency reserves, Nepal just cannot afford a bigger import bill.
“Addressing climate change is not solving only the environmental issues,” said Dhakal, “there are a lot of economic opportunities. Shifting to clean energy makes a lot of sense. It creates jobs, cleans up the environment, and reduces imports. We have the resources, it is all about management.”
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The number of vehicles in Nepal is increasing at around 14% annually, so energy security will be a strategic issue. Tuladhar says it will be particularly important to electrify buses to reduce fuel consumption by these vehicles that travel all day, and also reduce the demand for private vehicles.
“This will require more incenstives for public transport operators to purchase electric buses and infrastructure such as charging stations,” he adds.
Nepal’s main advantage is that it has the potential to generate cheap hydropower with which it can electrify the transport sector, replace LPG use with induction stoves. With new plants under construction, the country is expected to generate more than 3,500MW by 2030, which will exceed demand.
As an adviser to the chair of the LDC group at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Manjeet Dhakal says Nepal’s priority must be hydropower-led growth. “Nepal is on track to graduate to middle-income status by 2025, but just one climate-related catastrophe in the Himalaya could jeopardise economic growth,” he warns.
Indeed, Radha Wagle Nepal needs international support to help communities most vulnerable to climate-induced disasters to cope. “Our main challenges are financial resources, institutional capacity, and localised climate actions, and also a strong governance system,” she says.
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