COP 28: Nepal’s proactive approach to secure compensation on the world stage

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Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal left for the UAE on Wednesday night to participate in COP 28.

The draft of Dahal’s speech for COP 28 in Dubai, scheduled from November 30 to December 12, has been prepared. However, it remains uncertain whether Dahal will solely inform the global community about the adverse impacts Nepal has endured due to climate change or will issue a stern warning to developed nations. The goal might be to secure their commitment, along with support from the international climate fund, for compensating the effects suffered by Nepal.

Experts, however, argue that Nepal, a country experiencing disproportionate harm despite playing a minor role in climate change, has not sufficiently prepared its case for seeking compensation.

Maheshwar Dhakal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Environment says that comprehensive preparations have been undertaken for COP 28. The government team is actively engaged in the UAE to organise a ‘side event’ during COP 28.

Leading up to COP 28, the government have been engaged in numerous preparatory activities. The Ministry of Forestry reported that discussions took place at various levels on how to approach this year’s COP.

In anticipation of COP 28, Prime Minister Dahal has publicly expressed the intention to internationalise the impact of climate change on Nepal and pursue compensation. Prior to the conference, on November 19, during a public address in Rukum East, Dahal emphasised the need to bring attention to the challenges faced by Nepal due to climate change on the international stage.

Dahal has argued that Nepal has received insufficient funds from developed nations to address the impacts of climate change.

“It is our right to secure increased funding from developed countries. This year’s emphasis will be on that,” Dahal said.

Calling on developed countries to fulfil commitments

Because erstwhile rain-shadow zones such as Manang and Mustang are receiving more rainfall, it can also affect apple farming there. This photo was taken in Chame of Manang, in November 2018 Photo: Shashwat Pant/File
Because erstwhile rain-shadow zones such as Manang and Mustang are receiving more rainfall, it can also affect apple farming there. This photo was taken in Chame of Manang, in November 2018 Photo: Shashwat Pant/File

Officials who are part of Dahal’s delegation say Nepal will call on the international community to demonstrate seriousness by highlighting Nepal’s commitments in various international forums, presenting the action plan formulated according to established goals, and providing updates on its implementation status.

There is a growing sentiment that Nepal should enhance cooperation with countries significantly contributing to carbon emissions, the primary cause of global temperature rise, and actively pursue compensation for the resulting adverse effects. However, government officials express reservations, citing doubts about whether the voice of Nepal will be effectively heard due to insufficient preparation and groundwork.

“The Prime Minister is strongly in favour of Nepal raising its issues in COP 28 and has asked various organisations to prepare for it accordingly”, says an official of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.

The official highlighted that critical issues have been pinpointed in numerous government-level discussions leading up to COP 28, and the Prime Minister will prioritise addressing all three during his visit.

Maheshwar Dhakal, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment, shared that, under the Prime Minister’s leadership, a high-level side event titled ‘Question of the mountains: Who will save us from the climate crisis?’ is being organised. Dhakal further mentioned that Nepal will host 36 events, and will have a separate pavilion at COP 28.

“We want to show how much Nepal has been impacted by climate change and share our stories with the rest of the world. We will show where were have been successful and where we have failed. We have photos and videos of how the climate crisis has impacted us,” says Dhakal.

Clear focus

Tsho Rolpa Lake in the Rolwaling Valley is identified as one of the high-priority and potentially hazardous glacial lakes in the Nepal Himalayas.

Dhakal highlighted that, during COP 28, the emphasis will be on three significant issues. Firstly, the discussion will revolve around strategies to maximize climate finance for Nepal. Secondly, there will be an effort to exert pressure on the global community to diminish the usage of biofuels. Lastly, the focus will also be on how Nepal can benefit from the transfer of innovations and technologies. These key topics will be given prominence in the discussions at COP 28.

“On one hand, our mountains are melting due to higher carbon emissions from other countries, and on the other hand, approximately 2 billion people in India and Bangladesh benefit from the water originating in our mountains, protected forests, and mountains,” says Dhakal. “The only people who are at risk are Nepalis.”

Additionally, Dhakal highlights the campaign advocating for compensation as a rightful claim rather than as an afterthought or mere formality.

Environmentalist Bhushan Tuladhar believes the government is going to COP 28 with a proper plan. Having been part of various discussions himself, Tuladhar feels the government’s plan for conducting side meetings and interactions at COP 28 was positive.

“Negotiation within the COP is a different matter, but the way the government has identified the issues by holding the National Conference on Climate Change is positive”, he said. “Now it will be interesting to see how the government create pressure by showing how climate change has impacted Nepal. We should be assertive and demand compensation from the rest of the world.”

The bigger picture

A site of the Melamchi Water Supply Project site that was severely affected by a flood in June 2021.
A site of the Melamchi Water Supply Project site that was severely affected by a flood in June 2021.

Nepal has consistently highlighted its commitment to prioritising the reduction of high-rate carbon emissions, identified as a primary factor driving climate change. The country has developed an action plan and initiated its implementation. Despite these efforts, there is a challenge in getting countries with significant carbon emissions to compensate those nations that bear the brunt of climate change impacts.

Recognising the urgency to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it becomes critical for nations with substantial carbon emissions to contribute more significantly to global efforts.

Countries like Nepal, located in the vulnerable high Himalayan region, are particularly susceptible to the rapid and severe impacts of climate change. These nations face the formidable challenge of mitigating these effects with limited resources while safeguarding local communities.

Environmentalists, including Tuladhar, suggest that Nepal can engage with the global community on various platforms to discuss the risks stemming from climate change and its implications for development priorities. Given the escalating frequency of disasters such as floods, landslides, droughts, and fires in Nepal, addressing climate change has become a pressing and multifaceted concern for the country.

The reduction in mountain snowfall and the heightened risk of glacier breakage have become evident, underscoring the impacts of climate change. In a significant prelude to the Climate Conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Nepal. During his visit, he personally observed the effects of climate change by touring Everest and the Annapurna base camp, gaining firsthand insights into the environmental challenges faced by the country.

“During his Nepal visit, the UN Secretary-General effectively communicated the Himalayan region’s climate change impacts, emphasising the risk of Nepal falling into a destructive cycle. This message, taken to COP 28, becomes a tool to exert pressure on nations needing heightened responsibility, urging global cooperation to address the urgent situation,” says Tuladhar.

Joining hands with least developed countries

Mustang region seen without snow in November 2018 from Throng Pass. Photo: Shashwat Pant

According to the climate change report from the Ministry of Forestry, Nepal is already grappling with issues like climate-related disasters, food security challenges, and water scarcity due to the failure of major carbon-emitting countries to fulfil their commitments.

In the broader context of shared challenges among developing countries, Nepal, as the chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC), is positioned to advocate for common issues. The sixth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stresses that the climate adaptation gap in developing nations, including Nepal, is substantial. The slow implementation of temperature rise reduction plans is expected to exacerbate this gap, emphasizing the critical need for accelerated action and international collaboration.

Despite commitments, the flow of climate finance in Nepal is limited. According to the government, Nepal needs USD 21 billion US dollars to implement adaptation priorities by 2030. Initiatives are also necessary to facilitate easy access for Nepal to established funds dedicated to adaptation.

Experts have also recommended that the government should consider expanding the size of internationally established funds such as the Green Climate Fund (Green Fund) and others. Additionally, they suggest simplifying the process for utilising these funds to enhance their accessibility and effectiveness in addressing climate-related challenges.

That is not going to be easy as Nepal will have to lobby to remove the obstacles and establish direct access to the climate fund by making a commitment to increase the capacity to use such funds. Experts argue that COP 28 presents a significant opportunity to engage with relevant agencies and discuss issues surrounding inequality and other challenges observed in the allocation of funds.

Environmentalist Tuladhar says the government’s actions following COP 28 will also be of utmost importance.

“It’s not just about what Nepal brings to or takes away from COP; equally important is how the other 50 weeks of the year align with the climate change impact reduction plan,” he says. “Developing the capacity for this is a challenging question.”

Rupak Sapkota, the advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, says that there will be a resounding call at COP 28 for climate finance facilities to be swiftly, efficiently, and easily accessible for least developed and developing countries like Nepal.

According to Sapkota, Nepal will actively advocate and take a leading role in bringing the concerns of mountainous regions to the forefront, building on the message delivered to the world by the United Nations Secretary-General.

He says Nepal’s approach will now be limited to beg funds from the climate change funds but rather to draw global attention under the banner of ‘climate justice.’ This highlights a stance that focuses on fairness and equitable treatment in addressing the impacts of climate change, particularly for nations like Nepal.

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Ghimire is a senior business journalist at Onlinekhabar.

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