A matter of political will

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In February 2021, the Nepalese government signed a multi-million dollar agreement with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), through which Nepal can potentially access up to $45 million in by 2025 to mitigate its emissions.

“We signed the Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) in 2018, under which seven forest conservation activities are carried out,” said Deepak Kumar Kharal, co-secretary and head of the implementation center of REDD. “We are aiming to receive our first payment this year.”

To secure the funds, however, Nepal needs to reduce 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) through a combination of seven activities, such as establishing community forests and private sector forests, improving integration of land use planning to reduce forest conversion for infrastructure development and promote better management of existing protected areas in the country.

“The Ministry of Forests and Environment is currently conducting an audit in the TAL region, after which the World Bank will verify our reports and then provide us with the funding,” Kharal said.

The emission reduction program in the TAL region has been implemented since 2001. It includes more than 75 percent of the remaining forests of the Churia and Tarai hill range in southwestern Nepal. Protected areas are an important ecological corridor. It is a home base for many large mammals like tigers, leopards, elephants, rhinos and sloth bears, and grasslands, forests, small lakes and several wide and shallow rivers.

But despite two decades of commitment to forest and biodiversity conservation in the region, the government has often launched controversial projects and policies with disastrous environmental consequences.

From proposed excavations in the Chure region to the construction of a mega international airport in Nijgadh – all within TAL protected areas, the lack of political will and commitment to climate change within government is appalling, according to climate experts and advocates.

The illegal excavation of river bed materials in the Chure region has had extreme environmental consequences. The courses of the rivers have changed and many villages are flooded each year during the monsoon. These human-induced climatic disasters impact soil health, the soil formation process and directly affect agricultural land.

Another contested such proposal is the Nijgadh International Airport which was swept up in a storm due to its impact on the environment. According to an environmental and social impact study carried out by the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation in February 2017, more than 2.4 million small and large trees must be felled to build the airport. Conservationists say the results could be catastrophic for many animals that live in Nijgadh’s forests.

It is obvious that these measures taken by the government are in contradiction with the various global commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals, which climate advocates attribute to the lack of political will.

“What should have been a political program is just a weapon that political leaders can play with. Their development stories are in direct contradiction to the years of conservation efforts that have taken place,” said Tanuja Pandey, climate activist and third-year law student at the National Law College.

“While politicians on the one hand fiercely defend Nijgadh airport, our Prime Minister promises to increase forest cover. Such inconsistency indicates that we do not have enough policies to avert the impending crisis.

And time is running out to adapt to the climate crisis, say scientists who warn that a heartbreaking future is ahead of us and unfolding faster than expected.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its damning report released last month, clearly warns of the rapid and cumulative effects of climate change – on the economy, migration, health, energy systems, food and water security – across the world. , and in Nepal without aggressive climate finance.

Ecosystem collapse, species extinction, deadly heat waves, floods, glacial lake overflows, disease, mental stress, low agricultural productivity and environmental displacement are some of the “dangerous and widespread disruptions” that the world will face over the next two decades due to the global crisis. warming, the report predicts.

“The report reinforces what was already known before. But it highlights that all predictions are happening faster than expected,” said climate change and climate finance expert Madhukar Upadhya.

Climate experts therefore say that the new IPCC report urges the world to act quickly as predicted changes in the environment are happening sooner than expected.

“The situation is getting worse, and we know it. The report confirms that we are far from limiting the temperature to 1.5°C,” according to Manjeet Dhakal, head of the least developed countries (LDCs) assistance team at Climate Analytics. “We have to prepare for the worst.

According to the report, preparing for the worst and limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C calls for feasible and integrated mitigation and adaptation solutions that must be supported by climate finance.

“This report highlights the need for climate finance. The funds mobilized by the international community to combat climate change are insufficient. This does not meet the needs of developing countries,” says Dhakal. “At the same time, we need to empower our local, provincial and federal levels to deal with climate change in Nepal.”

If the temperature exceeds 1.5°C, the available evidence on projected climate risks indicates that adaptation measures are likely to be limited, their effectiveness reduced and their costs increased.

Nepal cannot solve the crisis on its own, says Bindu Bhandari, climate ambassador at Climate Interactive. However, she says immediate steps must be taken to build resilient infrastructure. She says it is crucial to invest in solutions that can solve multiple problems by ensuring health and well-being, equity and justice while protecting the climate and the economy.

For this, climate finance is imperative and central to achieving low-carbon and climate-resilient development, according to Raju Pandit Chhetri, director of the Prakriti Resources Center (PRC) which advocates for climate-friendly development policies and practices. the environment.

However, the access and implementation of climate finance in Nepal is of concern as climate change has not become a political agenda. Developed nations and multilateral agencies, meanwhile, have exaggerated their financial contributions to countries like Nepal.

A striking example is the Earthquake Housing Reconstruction Project launched by the World Bank after the 2015 earthquakes. was reported as funding for climate change adaptation.

Researchers from the Prakriti Resource Center found that the project overestimated $328 million in funding for climate change adaptation and resilient development in Nepal. Climate experts say such over-reporting of climate finance in Nepal is possible as there is no mechanism in place to assess whether the project really has the climate action component or not.

“Nepal receives development aid, which donors give voluntarily, and funds for climate action, as part of the global donor engagement. And often countries report their development aid as part of their global climate commitments, which we have no mechanism to verify, and that ultimately puts us at a disadvantage,” Chhetri said.

“Such over-reporting of climate finance means we are not getting the finance we need to address these climate issues.”

While climate finance is difficult to navigate, there is also a lack of comprehensive data on funds spent on climate action in Nepal.

“Since 2012, Nepal has received approximately $2 billion in development assistance. However, there is no data to specify the amount that has been specifically dedicated to climate finance,” says Chhetri. “We lack disintegrated data, which raises the question of whether funds have been sufficient or effective in helping to adapt to climate change.”

The lack of ownership by politicians of the climate issue as a political issue has impacted the number of funds we receive and has prevented us from holding sending countries accountable for their contributions to climate change which is affecting Nepal from disproportionately.

“Such a lack of data on climate finance prevents us from holding donors – who are also global emitters – accountable for their global climate actions,” adds Chhetri.

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