COP26: Why the climate change conference in the UK is important for Nepal

The ‘make-or-break’ climate summit comes hard on the heels of the unseasonal rainfall that led to massive loss of lives, property and crops in Nepal.

While Nepal’s emission of greenhouse gases is negligible compared globally, it is the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change. (Photo: Energy Tracker)

Prasun Sangroula

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Kathmandu: The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, is taking place at Glasgow, a port city in Scotland, UK, from 31 October to November 12. The high-stakes event, called “humanity’s last chance” against climate change, will be presided over by most of the world’s high-profile leaders and activists, sans the leaders of China and Russia, two of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The mood ahead of the “landmark” summit has been one of oxymoronic hopeless optimism. Not much, after all, has changed in global climate politics since the IPCC unleashed its ‘code red’ report in August this year. The report said that if current trends of fossil fuel consumption continues, it’d be impossible to limit global heating to “well below” 1.5 degree centigrades compared to pre-industrial times, which was the pledge of the Paris COP21 six years ago—and that extreme and unexpected weather events like the one Nepal recently witnessed will become only more frequent and more devastating.

While Nepal’s emission of greenhouse gases is negligible compared globally, it is the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change, according to UNDP. The manifestations of climate change are as clear as day. Climate crisis has driven Nepalis away from their villages and rendered farmers foodless and penniless. The situation is dire and the stakes high.

Ripe paddy inundated by unseasonal heavy rainfall in Kailali district. (Photo: Pratap Tharu)

Amid this, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is leaving for the United Kingdom on Friday to attend the summit. Deuba will travel to Glasgow just a few days after Nepal weathered out disasters wrought by a devastating post-monsoon rainfall, which experts have linked to climate change. Over a hundred people lost their lives in the past month alone. Property worth millions, and as many as 325,258 tonnes of ready-to-harvest paddy on 85,580 hectares, according to agriculture ministry’s estimates, have been despoiled.

Amid this grim situation, the Nepali delegation is expected to ask strong, uncomfortable questions to world leaders at the summit.

The manifestations of climate change are as clear as day. Climate crisis has driven Nepalis away from their villages and rendered farmers foodless and penniless. The situation is dire and the stakes high.

Sanot Adhikari, an environmentalist, says the Nepali delegation should primarily focus on three aspects. “They should opt for implementing the pledge of the Paris agreement and force rich countries to reduce the emission of carbon,” Adhikari said. “Moreover, the delegates should emphasize on managing sufficient capital, technology, and other resources for climate change adaptation.”

Binod Bhatta, another environmentalist, echoes Adhikari, arguing that our delegates should focus on pressurizing the developed world to reduce carbon emissions.

Bhatta suggests the Nepali delegates present the recent unseasonal rainfall as proof that Nepal is “bearing the brunt of carbon emissions by advanced industrial nations on which it has a negligible role”.

“As much as the massive carbon emissions by developed nations have greatly affected our country, so has their lack of seriousness in dealing with the climate emergency hurt us,” Bhatta said. “Our delegates should make those developed nations uncomfortable, ask them to follow science and act on it, seek help to adapt to changes, and demand compensation for the damage done.”

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