It has been forty-seven years since the inception of the categorization of countries as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and only five countries have graduated so far. Four countries, Bhutan, Sao Tome and Principe, Kiribati and Solomon Islands are recommended for graduation this year while Nepal’s graduation recommendation is terminated upon its request. According to the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), the subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) who recommends a country for graduation, Nepal as well as Timor-Leste was not recommended for graduation this time even if they met the required criteria because of economic and political challenges. These will be reviewed and considered for graduation again in the next triennial review i.e. in 2021 AD if they still meet the criteria. And for Nepal, the criteria are likely to be met again provided the government’s announcements.
Access to climate funds
The LDCs, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the African States are the countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and Nepal is also one of them. That is why these countries are getting special focus on climate change adaptation measures. The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDC Fund) was established in 2001 AD under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is being managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with an aim to help the LDCs to prepare and implement their National Adaptation Program of Actions (NAPA) to climate change. The officials of Nepal working in the area of climate change never forget to mention this LDC fund when talked about the issues regarding climate change. So the graduation proposal should obviously have shocked, at least once, those officials from the then Ministry of Population and Environment (MOPE) and Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MOFSC) (now Ministry of Forests and Environment) as these are the concerned ministries mostly dealing with climate change issues in Nepal. So, when Nepal graduates from the category of the LDC in the next review, i.e. in 2021 AD, will it be able to cope with the climatic changes without access to the LDC fund after that?
Will Nepal be able to fulfil its Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement when the financial supports it is getting now are also cut?
Some months ago, after the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Agreement, chief of the Climate Change Management Division of Nepal and Nepal’s focal person for the UNFCCC (Dr. Ram Prasad Lamsal) was saying that the USA’s withdrawal was not a problem for Nepal. One of his logic behind this was that Nepal would get money from the LDC fund and it was not only the USA that would provide money to this fund. This also shows that government officials were quite relaxed because of the money that Nepal is likely to receive from the LDC fund.
It is not only the LDC fund Nepal will lose access to after the graduation. The Green Climate Fund (GCF), a part of financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, also pays particular attention to the needs of the LDCs, SIDS and the African States. The fifty per cent of the ‘adaptation budget’, which in turn is fifty per cent of the total 100$ billion annual disbursement post 2020 AD, is targeted towards these countries, which Nepal will not receive after graduation from the LDC status.
Are we ready?
Change in climate is an ongoing process and so is adaptation. Only graduating a country from the list of the LDCs does not significantly reduce the vulnerability to climate change unless sufficient mitigation measures are also carried out. The thing now is – will we be able to adapt to the changes in the future climate without access to those funds which are meant for adaptation programs in the LDCs? We should have already been able for that now because Nepal is already liable for graduation but is postponed only upon our special request.
Normally, we will have three years grace period for the LDC graduation to come into effect. So, within coming six to seven years, will we be able to fully adapt to the climatic changes without major help from the adaptation mechanisms that are particularly aimed at countries like Nepal? Because Nepal will not get special attention after that, as it is getting now as a member of the LDCs. We must be able on our own, at least for that time period until another mechanism is formulated to facilitate ‘graduated yet vulnerable to climate change’ countries. And we should start raising this issue in the climate negotiations now if such mechanism is necessary for us.
Also, Nepal states in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) paper to the Paris Agreement that it needs bilateral and multilateral support in eleven priority areas to meet the targets it has mentioned, the first being formulation and implementation of National Adaptation Plans (NAP) and implementation of already formulated NAPA. Will it be able to fulfil its NDC when the financial supports it is getting now are also cut?