Even as Nepal’s delegates at virtual meetings preparing for a Climate Summit in Glasgow in November were raising the issue of risk from the climate crisis last week, in the real world the monsoon season got off to a devastating start.
There could not have been a starker reminder of just how a changing climate leads to extreme weather. Record rainfall last week unleashed floods that killed more than 50 people, damaged 12 hydroelectric plants and washed away roads, bridges and homes across Central Nepal. The heavy rains followed a five-month winter drought that set off unprecedented nationwide wildfires.
Nepali climate experts raised concerns at the meetings that due recognition was not being given to mountain ecosystems and helping poorer countries to deal with the impact of the climate crisis in the run-up to the Glasgow climate summit, officially called the Conference of Parties 26 (CoP26).
Nepal has one of the lowest per capita carbon footprints in the world, but it is on the list of countries most vulnerable to changes in the climate. Even in the best-case scenario for limited global average temperature by reducing carbon emissions, the Himalaya will lose more than one-third of its ice during this century.
“Even if we are successful in limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, it will be equivalent to an 1.8°C rise in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and we will be losing 36% snow by the end of the century,” said Arun Bhatta, an undersecretary at the Ministry of Forests and Environment.
What happens to the Himalaya will have serious implications for 650 million people across Asia who depend on rivers that originate here, Bhatta told the three-week virtual preparatory sessions that ended on 17 June.
Many other countries in the sessions raised concern about inadequate discussion on how least-developed countries can be compensated for loss and damage from climate-induced disasters, and for measures to adapt to new threats from global warming.
Nepali delegates underlined the need to prioritise mountain eco-systems, climate financing for poorer countries and unmet pledges for climate financing from developed countries. They said there was a differential impact of the climate emergency on the Himalaya that needed specific attention and international support.
The virtual meetings were held to prepare key agenda items for the Glasgow Summit, which because of the pandemic, will probably not be an in-person conference in November. The meetings were hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of which Nepal is a party and signatory of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Throughout the three weeks of virtual meetings, delegates discussed adaptation, loss and damage, the carbon market, and reporting under the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), climate finance, agriculture and the National Adaptation Plan (NAP).