The major polluters must change their outlook

Published in The Kathmandu Post – This link https://tkpo.st/2N8FYTn

In each of the annual climate change conferences of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—known as Conference of Parties (COP)—Nepal has highlighted the effects of climate change in the Himalayas and the impacts of rapidly melting snow and retreating glaciers on livelihood and tourism, among others. The delegates also say that ‘adaptation’ to climate change is the key priority, not mitigation of climate change. True Nepal’s contribution to the total global annual Green House Gas (GHG) emission is only 0.027 percent, so it does not have considerable impact on global warming, and reducing this will also not play a considerable role in mitigation if compared with the top polluters like China or the US which emit an equivalent amount of GHGs within a few hours. Hence it seems reasonable that the key priority is adaptation, not mitigation.

Enough financing is undoubtedly one of the requirements for coping with the impacts of climate change for countries that are highly vulnerable. The delegates also lobby for easier access to climate finance from funds like the Green Climate Fund. They emphasise for easier access and more financial support to build climate-resilient infrastructures and for investment in low carbon technologies. But what is missing is that the delegates do not have any strategies to create pressure on the top emitters to curb their GHG emissions.

The delegates only lament about the impacts of climate change and ask for more financial help to cope with those impacts. Be it for adaptation or mitigation actions, the focus seems to be centred only on funding. But unless the top emitters curb their emissions, no national policies or plans will stop the ice from melting rapidly, glaciers from retreating, wetlands from drying, rainfall from getting erratic and so on. Why do Nepal’s delegates present themselves only as victims and ask for more help? It is not wrong to ask for help (financial or technological or otherwise) to cope with the burden caused mainly by other countries? But until when?

Research has shown that the impacts are very likely to increase in the coming future, even more so in the Himalayas. Some traditional and indigenous knowledge is helping to deal with the impacts until now. And to cope with the increased and more severe impacts, there will be a need for more resources. When Nepal, and other countries like it, are already suffering from the relatively mild effects of climate change, it will definitely not have the means to cope as the effects get worse. Is it not time to create more pressure on the top emitters to curb their GHG emissions rather than only asking for the financial help to cope with the changes?

On a positive note, the government has initiated a global platform for dialogue—the Sagarmatha Sambaad—to discuss and inform the world of its climate vulnerability and need for urgent action. But it is not that the polluters are not aware of the situation. They are choosing not to commit enough to reduction targets. The recent stalemate in COP 25 was a symptom of this.

But the question is not of pleading for loss and damage compensation alone. Nepal must stand strong with other developing nations to push major emitters to apply climate-conscious technology in their own countries first. We have the choice to either present ourselves again only as victims and plead for action and compensation, or to take a bold decision to make them rethink (especially in the coming, first Sagarmatha Sambaad). Otherwise, in the long run, we will only have two choices—either begging for help or suffering in silence.

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