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Localizing climate actions a way to achieve Nationally Determined Contributions

Pragya Sherchan, Programme Officer

Prakriti Resources Centre (PRC) 

“The Earth should not be a worse place after my life than it was when I was born here.” – Rob Stewart, a Canadian award-winning biologist, environmentalist, conservationist, photographer and filmmaker.

I picked up the quote because it nudged me into a brief indulgence in retrospection, and made me feel somewhat nostalgic too. My own little earth or my birthplace is already no longer what it used to be when I was a kid. This very thought or a kind of my own conclusion catapulted me to a vantage point from where I am seeing the awe-inspiring beauty of mother nature fading away fast, and her divine gifts losing the vibrancy of their lives.

Photo: Traditional architectural houses of Mustang: Lupra Village 

I belong to Mustang in Nepal, a beautiful mountainous region also known as the district beyond the mountains, desert of Nepal, forbidden kingdom, rain-shadow zone, etc. I grew up by playing in nature with nature. I found myself in complete harmony with the white and bright snow-capped mountains, and the snow and glacier-fed rivers and waterfalls. I’ve not yet forgotten the taste of cold and fresh natural spring water. The sprawling grassland just beneath the mountains studded with herds of yaks and sheep, the wild animals I used to frequently catch sight of, the sights and sounds of different species of birds that mesmerized me. Now I am living in Kathmandu due to my job. When I remember Mustang, memories of all these gifts of nature, which I always feel myself as a part of, immediately spring to my mind.  

Having opened my mind to you about how I feel about my place of birth, it is painful for me to tell you that Mustang is no longer the Mustang of my childhood. I am observing and noticing gradual changes in my surroundings. The ever-smiling mountains have started wearing gloomy faces. Fast snow-melting is gradually turning the mountains into black rocks. We have experienced sudden avalanches and recurring flash floods. Landslides are becoming prominent in Mustang in recent years. Mustang was also known as rain-shadow zone. So, traditionally as well as because of the climate and weather it has almost all existing houses there are made of mud and stone with mud flat roofs. But of late our roofs leak when it rains.  People are now building new concrete houses using corrugated sheets for roofing.

Needless to say Mustang is also famous for high-quality delicious apples, potatoes, and other vital grains and cereals. The production and qualities of these fruits and crops are declining due to new diseases, insects, unexpected and heavy rainfall and hail-storm, and less sunshine hour. Apple farming that began in 2053 BS (1996) in the villages called Lete, Taglung and Ghasa gradually expanded to other areas of Lower Mustang. But the three villages, which ushered in apple farming, do not have a single standing apple tree today. The delicious fruit is on the verge of extinction also in the lower Mustang areas. The Upper Mustang farmers are attracted towards apple farming as they are also observing good harvest and quality. In Nepal, the standard altitude for apple farming is 3,000 masl, but now it is growing even above 3,500 masl.   

Photo: Apple orchard in Lower Mustang: Khanti Village

These phenomena or illustrations lead me to relate them to the growing impacts of climate change in my place. Many villages and cities across the world are witnessing similar changes and suffering differently. Climatic hazards vary with topography. Mountains and ice-lands area are facing rapid ice and snow melting triggering Glacier Lakes Outburst Floods and sea-level rise. Coastal areas are hit by cyclones, hurricanes and sea-level rise. Landslides and flash floods are common in hills and the plains. Vulnerabilities to climatic hazards on a specific location depending on multiple factors and mainly livelihood base, ecological diversity, population and level of preparedness. Climate change is a common global problem but climatic hazards and their vulnerabilities are localized and vary with locations. So, we need local solutions to the problems of climate change.

Nepal is developing policies and plans to address climate change. National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Local Adaptation Plan for Action (LAPA), National Climate Change Policy and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are some of the key policy documents. These documents contain many good provisions that aim to build community resilience to climate change impacts. However, these policies are not rolled out fully and honestly. One of the main reasons behind their non-implementation is they are not localized yet. To begin with, localization calls for their contextualization and their integration into local government level planning and programming, effective implementation, monitoring changes, and building on experience and learning. Ironically, however, many local governments are not even familiar with these policies not to talk of their roles in addressing climate change and any initiative from their side. Localized climate actions would pave the way for identifying and applying effective and sustainable climate solutions protecting places like Mustang from falling victim to climate change, and complement the fulfillment of the country’s national and international commitments on climate change. 

Having said all this, I again feel like thinking about my own place, first. I am pinning my hope on the local government in my area (Mustang) would awaken to the urgency of taking action, and together with citizens like me and others start the process of localizing the existing policies and help Mustang to return to the Mustang of my childhood. Together, we might generate a “Mustang model”!!

MDB investment can support climate-resilient COVID-19 recovery in developing countries

Authors: Deborah Murphy, IISD and Prabin Man Singh, PRC

The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in disruptions to and a weakening of the global economy in 2020. This health crisis and its economic impacts have demanded the attention, management and resources of both Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and developing country governments. The NAP Global Network reports adaptation to climate change may not be a priority in the short term for some governments and mobilizing resources for adaptation may be challenging as governments grapple with the added expense of COVID-19 responses, revenue loss and increased debt.

While MDB and developing country government attention on adaptation finance may have taken a backseat to COVID-19 responses in 2020, it is critical that economic recovery programs incorporate adaptation and climate resilience. The impacts of climate change are increasingly evident. The five-year period from 2016 to 2020 is expected to be the warmest on record, contributing to such impacts as disappearing Arctic ice, rising oceans, and more droughts and floods. In Nepal, extreme rainfall in 2020 caused 445 flooding and landslide incidents that claimed about 430 lives and displaced more than 5,000 people. This flooding, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected over 185,0000 people and claimed more than 1,000 lives in Nepal as of early November 2020, has severely disrupted economic activity. Economic recovery programmes for Nepal require additional financing from both domestic and international sources.

MDBs are at the forefront of addressing the challenge of the pandemic in many developing countries, and have committed hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and grants to first help tackle the health emergency and then move toward stimulus measures for economic recovery. In Nepal, the Asian Development Bank has provided grant funds of US$ 3 million for COVID-19 emergency response and a US$ 250 million concessional loan that is focused on social protection for the poor and vulnerable and economic support especially for affected small businesses. The World Bank has provided a concessional loan of US$ 29 million for COVID-19 emergency response and a grant of US$ 10.85 million for a school sector response to COVID-19. In addition, the World Bank has approved almost US$1 billion in concessional loans in 2020 to sectors that are critical to an effective COVID-19 economic recovery, including agriculture, urban development, energy, trade, forestry and strengthened financial sector stability.

A key lesson emerging from our research project, “Mobilizing Development Finance for Adaptation” is that adaptation must remain at the forefront in MDB and developing country government planning and programming. The Prakriti Resources Centre is working with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to examine opportunities to scale up financing for adaptation from the perspective of developing countries and MDBs. The African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Kenya and Libelula in Peru are also research partners of this project that is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Our preliminary research tells us that sustainable recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic means that investment decisions taken today need to incorporate a longer-term perspective that promotes infrastructure, urban, and agricultural systems that are climate resilient. Additionally, crisis response needs to stress the importance of access to the environmental determinants of health – including water and sanitation, and nutritious food – and addressing the expected impact of climate change on these sectors. In the short term, this includes ensuring that MDB investment in COVID-19 recovery accounts for adaptation priorities; as well as highlighting the contribution that adaptation finance can make toward national social and economic development goals.

Raju Pandit Chhetri, Executive Director of PRC, highlighted the linkages between Nepal’s COVID-19 recovery response, the country’s emerging adaptation priorities, and World Bank programming. He remarked that, “The World Bank is supporting Nepal to develop an adaptation investment plan. It is critical that this plan be linked to and support national processes to develop Nepal’s National Adaptation Plan and to update the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).” Chhetri further explained that the updating of the NDC and development of the NAP offers opportunity to guide adaptation action in the country’s pandemic response. But a critical factor in scaling up MDB support for adaptation is that the request that come from developing country governments. Government officials responsible for adaptation need to be engaged in discussions with MDBs; and MDB officials need to learn from and draw on country-led adaptation processes to identify priority actions.

While adaptation may appear to less of a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency is not diminishing. MDBs and the Government of Nepal can work together to factor climate adaptation needs in COVID-19 recovery investments that promote inclusive, climate-resilient and sustainable systems and communities that encourage economic and social development.

 

Climate Concerns

United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) was held in Bonn, Germany in November. It was presided by Fiji—a small island developing state from Pacific region for the first time in the history of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Hence, this Conference of Parties (COP) was also popularly dubbed as the ‘Pacific COP’.

COP23 was designed to be more a technical and process-oriented COP, as it needed to assist in the drafting of the ‘rule book’ for the implementation of Paris Agreement by 2018. However, expectations were also high as a highly climate vulnerable island country was chairing the meeting. The conference started with several references to the recent extreme events such as flooding in South Asia, hurricanes in the Caribbean and prolonged droughts in East Africa that had taken a huge toll on human life and property. This climate-induced evidence was highlighted with the aim to raise ambition and fulfill the expectations for the poor and vulnerable countries in tackling climate change.

Crucial times

The Bonn climate talks took place at a time when the United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter with biggest historical responsibility, had decided to leave the Paris Agreement.  Till date, 170 countries have ratified Paris Agreement and are committed to tackling climate change. With the US opting out, there is uncertainty on how the climate mitigation targets and the finance needed to address climate actions in the developing countries can be met. Many developing countries are worried that US may not do its bit in climate actions and provide finance to Green Climate Fund (GCF). Other developed countries like Canada, Norway and the European Union are also nervous that they might be pressured to take on additional burden after US withdrawal.

Climate finance was one of the major sticking issues at COP but was largely limited to procedural matters and no significant decisions were made. The developed countries mostly reiterated their commitments made in 2009 to jointly mobilize US$100 billion per year by 2020 in the form of long-term finance. The developing countries fought tooth and nail to secure the future of the Adaptation Fund. Currently, this international climate Fund established in 2001 to support adaptation actions in the developing countries sits under Kyoto Protocol. As a token relief, some developed countries including Germany and Sweden pledged around US$93 million into Adaptation Fund and US$92 million to Least Developed Countries Fund. These pledges provided some respite to the empty baskets that were established to support the poor and climate vulnerable countries. 

Another major expectation from the Fiji Presidency was the advancement of loss and damage agenda that has been put to low profile for long. This issue is associated with permanent, irrecoverable and long-term effects caused by extreme events due to climate change. Small island countries have been championing this issue at the climate talks. However, when Fiji was presiding the meeting, Association of Small Island Developing States could not hang on to it for long. Additional finance sought to address this issue was ignored by the developed countries. The discussion was procrastinated to another round of ‘expert dialogue’. 

In Bonn, one of the major symbolic wins for developing countries was pressuring the developed countries to agree on a process to review and enhance pre-2020 actions over the next two years. This was possible through leadership of China. Pre-2020 actions bind the developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions and provide finance to the developing countries. COP23 also set a path to a crucial process for 2018 called the ‘Facilitative Dialogue’ that was agreed two years ago in Paris. Fiji presidency renamed the expression ‘Facilitative Dialogue’ to ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, which is the Pacific concept for inclusive, transparent and constructive debate. Talanoa dialogue will hold series of discussions and assess whether the current climate mitigation action is in line with keeping the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This dialogue will also be informed by the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming of 1.5°C that will be released in October 2018. The result of the dialogue is expected to feed into the climate ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that countries have to submit to UNFCCC every five years. 

As an important achievement for the Fiji Presidency, it successfully declared the ‘Fiji Momentum for Ambition’ comprising of three elements—pre-2020 implementation and ambition, Talanoa dialogue and Completion of the work programme under the Paris Agreement. These elements should assist in raising the climate ambition and implementing the Paris Agreement.

Mixed reactions

After the conference ended, many developing countries had a mixed reaction to the final outcome. With no major announcements on climate finance and lack of predictability, transparency and accountability in the long term finance, developing countries especially the poor and most vulnerable countries found it extremely hard to find success in this COP. The issue of loss and damage was almost sidelined at this island COP. The presence of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron could not stir much optimism among the poor vulnerable developing countries. 

Climate negotiators will have a busy year of 2018 in advancing the ‘Fiji Momentum for Ambition’ that will determine the successful writing of the Paris Agreement ‘rule book’ by COP24 in Poland next year. Paris Agreement was more of a political agreement but the technocrats will have to put this into action through a clearly defined stringent ‘rule book’. Failing to do so by the end of next year means Paris Agreement will end up in a bad destiny. This would be disastrous for both humanity and ecology. Underdeveloped and highly vulnerable countries like Nepal will be the first to suffer the most.

The author is the executive director of Prakriti Resources Centre. He attended COP23 held in Bonn, Germany. 

@rajupchhetri

Original post: My Republica