At a time when the elected political leaders have failed to evolve a consensus in drafting a constitution and a corresponding governance system, people in the country are facing yet another problem, of a different order but probably with even greater bearing on their lives. This issue is climate change—now considered the greatest environmental challenge faced by mankind. While in the long term, the consequences may be shared globally, the ones to suffer first are counties such as Nepal with a high degree of ‘exposure’, ‘sensitivity’ and poor ‘adaptive capacity’ to fast changing climatic conditions. No wonder Nepal has been ranked the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change effects in the world. Media reports in Nepal are replete with news about glacial lake outbursts, flash floods, slides, crop failure, forest fire and water source depletion, all threatening livelihoods and biodiversity.
While the country indents to address these issues through measures like formulation of Climate Change Policy, National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) and Local Adaption Program of Action (LAPA), implementation is far from effective. Out of an estimated budget of US $350 million for NAPA, only around US 31.5 million is in the pipeline as a grant package for adaptation financing. Some resources have come under heavy criticism. For instance, US $86 million from World Bank under what has been called the ‘Pilot Program for Climate Resilience’ has been criticized for its loan component in the backdrop of the global commitment which sees climate adaption as a right of developing countries. Hario Ban Program, a project under the grant support of the USAID has been criticized for the donor’s heavy-handedness, whose programs and budget does not even reflect in the government’s ‘Red Book’.
Funding for climate adaptation definitely presents a huge challenge. The industrial countries seem reluctant to provide unconditional financing through channels such as United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in favor of traditional channels such as the World Bank and the GEF. Though the UNFCCC is working to establish the Green Climate Fund (GCF) under its direct control, it is apparent that industrial countries are likely to continue on the old path, thus rendering the to–be-constituted GCF redundant. While lack of funds might hinder climate adaptation intervention, that is not the only concern. The right attitude, value system, process and approaches are prerequisites whose absence will render every penny spent on adaptation useless and perhaps even counter-productive. Appropriate institutions and the right coordination mechanism for ensuring climate adaptation as rights are essential.
ADDRESSING CLIMATIC VULNERABILITY
Money alone will not solve the climate crisis. The process, approach and commitment for change are equally important.
The above account might suggest that the level of challenges in climate intervention in Nepal are far too many and daunting. It may, however, be noted that there are important leverages as well. Nepal’s community forestry has been a model through which local communities come together for sustainable forest management which, among other things, contributes positively towards both towards climate mitigation and adaptation. More purposeful climate adaptation intervention from the then LFP and other contemporary NGOs may also provide important clues regarding the best approach and support system at the community level. A plus point of probably even greater significance is the adaption knowledge among local communities which has stood the test of time.
Despite these positives, there are many barriers to implementation, and a failure to address these will render the endeavor pointless. A number of outstanding questions remain, which have to be addressed if climate adaptation measures are to be effective. Are sectoral agencies prepared to ‘fuse together’ to provide their services at the local level whose adaptation imperatives do not necessarily fit into tight sectoral compartments in which they are accustomed to working? How can we ensure an effective coordination mechanism among the central and local agencies? We also do not know what programs and approaches work for climate adaptation and under what circumstances, given that this area is new and unexplored.
There needs to be piloting programs with community members through what can be termed a ‘community based climate learning school’. This could be done in small catchments across different physiographic regions of the country to start with. Once a viable approach, mechanism and processes are discovered, the same may be eventually replicated elsewhere. Let us not forget that the country’s much-prized community forestry emerged only after a purposive trial and error. Prior attempts to run the program in a blueprint mode merely resulted in spending of huge sums without any concrete results. Given that all the sectoral ministries tend to come together at the District Development Committee under the central leadership of the Ministry of Local Development (MLD), that agency needs to take the lead under the overall facilitation of Ministry of Environment. This is not to suggest that MLD has the capacity or the willpower to take that responsibility but to simply point out that no other single agency has such a broad base in terms of bringing multiple stakeholders together for appropriate intervention. The government must urgently focus on this issue if the country is to make meaningful headway towards rescuing climate vulnerable communities from an impending climatic catastrophe. Let us not forget that money alone will not solve the climate crisis. The process, approach and commitment for change are equally important, if not more.
The author is an independent researcher
[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USX-NONEX-NONE