YK Poudel

Minister of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL), Younten Phuntsho, urged a unified regional strategy to tackle the impacts of climate change on mountain communities to achieve sustainable outcomes that enhance the resilience of mountain ecosystems.

Lyonpo made these remarks during the opening of the two-day discussion titled “Technical Dialogue on Mountain, People, and Climate Change” in Kathmandu, Nepal that concluded on May 23.

Over 200 Party members and government officials from 25 countries participated in the dialogue. A follow-up session is planned for later, next month in Bonn, Germany.

Lyonpo Younten Phuntsho emphasised that although Bhutan holds the distinction of being one of the world’s first carbon-negative countries, sustaining this status requires making challenging decisions. He highlighted the need to explore various economic opportunities to advance the journey towards sustainable development.

Lyonpo said that the efforts and sacrifices of a single country or group alone would not be able to yield significant impacts in the battle against climate change. “Even under the ‘best-case’ scenario, where global warming is limited to 1.5°C, projections suggest that one-third of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region will vanish by 2100.”

Lyonpo said: “With 98 percent of our land covered by mountainous terrain, Bhutan faces alarming consequences from the yearly retreat of our glaciers, shrinking by 13 to 23 metres annually. This rapid melting not only endangers our glaciers but also heightens the danger of glacial lake outburst floods, posing grave risks to the lives and livelihoods of communities both in the mountains and downstream.”

He also noted that climate change poses a threat to Bhutan’s environmental conservation achievements, particularly in the realm of biodiversity preservation. “Free-roaming mountain animals such as snow leopards, which play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the mountain ecosystem, are at risk of extinction.”

Lyonpo urged all the countries and agencies present to recommend concrete outcomes that are sustainable and would strengthen the resilience of these ecosystems.

The Prime Minister of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chief guest of the discussion, said that climate change presents a universal threat, leaving all people and ecosystems susceptible “Without cohesive and effective adaptation and mitigation plans, climate change has the capacity to undo the progress of development and plunge millions more into poverty.”

Dahal stressed the urgent need for economic and technical collaboration among nations most impacted by the effects of climate change.

Highlighting the unprecedented nature of climate change impacts in mountainous regions, PM Dahal cautioned that these countries, situated at the forefront of the global climate crisis, shoulder disproportionate burdens of the adverse effects of warming.

 “There is a need for concerted efforts to safeguard and enhance the mountains, mountain civilizations, mountain ecosystems, and mountain inhabitants,” he said.

Minister for environment, forest and climate change of Bangladesh, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, said that the developed countries emit 81 percent of the total global carbon emissions. Developing countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh are facing problems due to this.

“The developed countries have not fulfilled their commitments made at various climate conferences regarding reducing carbon emissions. Now, they should be prompted,” he added. “The government alone cannot alleviate poverty and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Regional and global funding support must come.”

Government representatives discussed related topics under three thematic agendas: ambition for 1.5 degree Celsius, climate vulnerability and risks, loss and damage, people-policy and prosperity, locally led-adaptation, climate justice and voices, climate finance and the role of private sector, economic growth and global partnerships.

The chairperson of royal civil service commission, Tashi Pem,who was the technical head of Bhutanese delegation in COP28, said that the discussion in Nepal linked to the UAE Framework for Global Climate Resilience to take mountain agenda forward targeted on the ecosystems and transboundary issues.

Mountain agenda

At the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), Bhutan, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, and other mountainous countries called for a ‘Mountain agenda’ which was supported by the Parties.

The Constitution mandates maintaining 60 percent forest coverage for all times to ensure a sustainable ecosystem, with a current forest coverage of 69.71 percent.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that climate-related hazards, such as flash floods and landslides, have contributed to an increase in disasters affecting a growing number of people in mountain regions and areas further downstream.

In 2010, nearly 10 percent of the global population, around 671 million people, resided in high mountain regions. This is expected to increase to 736 and 844 million by 2050.

At COP28, Parties reached an agreement to establish a loss and damage fund. UAE pledged USD 100 million, Germany committed USD 100 million towards L&D, and the United Kingdom pledged USD 17.5 million. Additionally, Japan pledged USD 10 million for funding L&D. These contributions are intended to provide global funding in the necessary areas.