[The Kathmandu Post] CoP27 and focus on mitigation

सेप्टेम्बर 12, 2022

Aditya Acharya

September 10, 2022

More than a decade ago, in September 2010, Nepal prepared its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). A year later, on December 7, 2011, the then Minister of Environment of Nepal Hemraj Tater delivered a statement at the 17th Conference of Parties (CoP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa saying, “We have a very low capacity, technology and financial resources to withstand or adapt to (the effects of climate change). We contribute least to climate change, yet we face the greatest of the burden.”

And now, after more than 10 years, we are saying the same thing: Our country is highly vulnerable to climate change; we don’t have enough financial and technological resources to implement our plans; and we face the most threats despite our negligible contribution to climate change, and so on. Another thing we have been telling lately is that developed countries must compensate for the “loss and damage” that is occurring in our country as a result of extreme weather events caused by climate change. This is likely to be a hot agenda during CoP27, which will be held in Egypt this November.

Increasing hazards

Reports state that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as precipitation extremes, landslides, flash floods and droughts have increased in Nepal in recent years. We have witnessed many of them with our own eyes. So why have things not improved but instead gotten worse? Even though the exact figure is not available, Nepal has received millions of dollars from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and many other donor organisations and countries for climate action—be it in the form of loans or grants.

It is true that all the help pledged by developed countries has not been delivered. But even with the amount of help that has been delivered so far, there should have been some improvements at least. It is worth mentioning here that vulnerability to climate change is a function of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, i.e., vulnerability=exposure+sensitivity-adaptive capacity. Vulnerability to climate change can be highly reduced if we significantly increase our adaptive capacity. But despite all our efforts and priorities for adaptation, studies show that our adaptive capacity has continuously decreased as reported in the ND-GAIN (Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative) index. This shows that either the effects of climate change are increasing so hugely that the rate of our adaptive capacity has become negative or we have not utilised international help effectively to increase our adaptive capacity.

Focus on mitigation

Mitigation of climate change prevents, or at least reduces, the chances of occurrence of climate hazards, whereas adaptation and compensation for loss and damage only provide a sense of relief after the occurrence of hazards, mainly for humans. No living organism other than humans can predict, or even understand humans’ prediction of climate change and each extreme climate event occurs as a shock for them. And no amount of money can compensate for the loss of living lives. Hence, utmost importance should be given to mitigating climate change now. So, with the same set of adaptation-focused agendas that Nepal has been putting for discussion in the CoP for more than a decade, we cannot expect the situation to get better when we have clearly seen that it has gotten worse now than in the past. It is time we shifted the focus to mitigation. One might say that countries around the world have already expressed their commitments—the nationally determined contributions (NDCs)—to reduce their emissions. Still, those commitments are not enough to meet the goals to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius as agreed in the Paris Agreement.

The role we can play

Geographically, greenhouse gas emissions—the sole cause of climate change—are highly concentrated; almost 80 percent of emissions come from 20 countries (EU considered as a country). But the effects are worldwide. This also shows that giving higher, or even equal priority for adaptation actions over mitigation is illogical if we are to think sustainably. Mitigation measures taken in 20 countries will significantly halt the pace of climate change that otherwise calls for the need for more intense adaptation actions in each country around the world, including Nepal. If we do not change the way we negotiate in international climate talks like the CoP—10 years from now, or even later—Nepal (along with all other developing countries) will still be asking for more and more financial and technological help from the developed countries to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change because the frequency and severity of impacts are ever increasing and are unlikely to stop under the current emission scenarios.

Hence, the main message is that the world needs to focus more on mitigation now so that the costs of adaptation and the extent of loss and damage will not keep increasing in the future. Blaming the developed countries for their historical emissions alone will not help at all. What Nepal and other developing countries need to do now is create more and more pressure (including diplomatic pressures ) on the top emitters to reduce their emissions during each international climate negotiation, including in the CoP27. This is not to say that the importance given to adaptation actions and the issues of loss and damage should be reduced but that the emphasis on mitigation should be increased.

The article was originally published in The Kathmandu Post on September 10,2022 and shared here. The original article can be reached here.