YK Poudel


Mountains, high-altitude areas, and the cryosphere face significant threats, posing a challenge to the ecological balance of our planet. The Hindukush Himalayan (HKH) region, recognising the vital role of these regions, has advocated for urgent action.

The recent 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), which concluded on December 12, emphasised the pressing need to address knowledge gaps in adaptation within these regions.

A collaborative effort involving more than 450 organisations focused on closing these gaps and scaling up climate adaptation actions.

Tashi Pem, the director general at the Department of Environment and Climate Change, highlighted the challenges posed by glacier retreats and emphasised the necessity for financial support to manage related losses and damages.

She stressed the shared responsibility of mountains, high-latitude areas, and the cryosphere among countries, calling for common actions and interests to facilitate adaptation and sustainable development.

Additionally, she underlined the importance of implementing innovative finance mechanisms, community-led adaptation initiatives, and the development of concrete national adaptation plans (NAPs).


Importance of mountains for climate action:

Mountains, with their rich biological and cultural diversity, play a crucial role in supporting the livelihoods of millions. In 2010, nearly 10 percent of the global population—around 671 million people—resided in high mountain regions.

This number is expected to increase to 736 and 844 million by 2050. As climate change impacts the HKH regions, access to context-specific knowledge becomes essential for effective adaptation actions.

For instance, Central Asia has witnessed the loss of over 1,000 glaciers in the last 50 years, and Bhutan is losing billions of glacial water annually, escalating associated risks. The director of Hydrology, Water, and Cryosphere at the World Meteorological Organisation, Stefan Uhlenbrook, emphasised the reciprocal relationship between caring for these regions and ensuring the well-being of people and the planet.


 Knowledge gap gaps and challenges

At COP28, several knowledge gaps were underscored, including observational knowledge gaps related to cryosphere variables, limited comparative studies and data for reference, and the assessment of cost-benefits and long-term effectiveness of adaptation solutions.


Call to action

During the 16th focal point forum at COP28, countries, partners, and experts expressed their interest in collaboration, outlining areas for future focus.

Evidence-based knowledge sharing, context-specific knowledge curation, strategic partnerships for action, and creating an enabling environment were discussed for implementation at the country level.

Bhutan, during the opening plenary session on November 30, called upon world leaders to prioritise the inclusion of mountains and climate change in technical dialogues, with a particular focus on the impact of glacial melt affecting all Himalayan countries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report underscores the alarming rate of glacier retreat, particularly in the Himalayas.

Even with a limited global warming scenario of 1.5°C, a third of glaciers in the Hindukush Himalayan region could vanish by 2,100. This emphasises the urgency of collective action to address these challenges and safeguard the future of these vital regions.