Creating a new narrative to tackle climate change

Nepal needs a new narrative that can inspire people to step up a new way of unleashing untapped potentials and fix the problems that have been plaguing this nation for decades. How should we start it?

Photo: Pixabay

Simone Galimberti

  • Read Time 5 min.

The World Economic Forum in partnership with the Government of the United Arab Emirates is launching a major initiative called Great Narrative that is basically about bringing together well known thinkers and experts from multiple fields to imagine and explain possible future scenarios aligned to a net zero society.

We now know with certainty that if serious actions are not going to be taken to realize the commitments made at Glasgow Cop 26, we are headed towards tumultuous decades and a very uncertain and insecure future. At the same time, even if we are able to put all the efforts to control global warming within the 1.5C threshold—the overarching goal set at Glasgow—we will continue to experience a consistent pattern of extraordinary climate events.

The monsoon’s devastations all across the country are still a very painful memory for thousands of citizens who experienced destruction and the painful loss of loved ones. Slew of announcements made at COP 26 last week are encouraging but we are still far away from achieving the key goal and now it is an open secret that there won’t be a clear and global consensus on drastic actions within 2030, the only pathway to reach net zero emissions by midcentury, the last imaginable chance for humans to ensure a livable planet for the future generations.

China and India have already torpedoed this ultimate goal by announcing a goal to reach net zero by 2060 and 2070 respectively. 

Yet there is some hope ahead.

Nepal came up with a revised plan, while confirming the basic tenets of its second Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) presented last December, stepping up its ambitions. The country now aims to reach the net zero target by 2045, five year earlier than forecasted in its second NDC.

The target is so ambitious that we truly need a new narrative—the narrative that can inspire people to step up a new way of unleashing untapped potentials and fix for good the problems that have been plaguing this nation for decades.  

How should we start it?

First, it is essential to work on good governance and more effective democracy. It is going to be up to the citizens of this country to find a new way forward to promote better and more decision making.  Aid is important but we can achieve the results only through a painstaking process that is also characterized by optimal use of resources. The best way is to build leadership opportunities for the new generations, enabling them to understand that giving up on politics is not an option.

Connecting the dots is essential because education, inclusive and quality education, is the best way to shape new mindsets, new attitudes and model new behaviors that will be required if we want to truly achieve a net zero by 2045.

Can the country set clear benchmarks for public schools to rise to the challenge and become true engines of knowledge and skills? Can private schools adopt a social mission narrative where “doing well and doing good” can go together, creating new opportunities through scholarships and partnerships with like-minded public schools?

One of the key responsibilities of public and private schools alike is to go beyond their traditional curricula and embrace approaches that can turn their teaching into relevant issues that children and youth can aspire to tackle. The area of education for sustainable development and learning that promotes human rights are so important in order to win over youths’ apathy and generate a new interest in the “common good” and harnessing civic engagement. Besides, civic engagement should lead to experiment, locally, new forms of participatory and deliberative democracy.

Two recent regulations—’Procedure for Youth Participation in Local Level Planning (2021) and the ‘Tole Bikash Sanstha (Neighborhood Development Organization) Formation and Mobilization Procedure (2021)—can be a good starting point. But the worry is, like previous attempts even with resources from UNDP, these new ideas might never take off. It is where schools and youth clubs could partner with local wards and local municipalities to promote action on the grounds, localizing the SDGs because, let’s not forget, tackling climate change is about actions from all the fronts and from all the perspectives.

Slew of announcements made at COP 26 last week are encouraging but we are still far away from achieving the key goal.

For example, on November 9, the COP 26 at Glasgow dealt with gender and women empowerment because we know that if more women could run the world we would be definitely in a better place right now, not only in the field of climate change but throughout the spectrum of policy making including conflicts and civil unrests.

It is true also for Nepal and if more young women could take up more leadership, the future scenarios would be vastly different and for better. In the economic sphere, a crop of young women entrepreneurs is rising. The challenge to reach a net zero future depends also on new technologies that coupled with a new consciousness can change our daily behaviors and create new jobs. The World Economic Forum calls them “ecopreneurs”, those pushing forward innovation for the planet and the environment and contributing to reducing emissions.

Yet we also need more young women embracing politics, not necessarily by joining a party but by getting informed and engaged in local and national affairs. There are many ways of doing so and these are all related to an enhanced level of public participation in the society, through volunteering, activism and advocacy. The ideal civic life is where individuals have a passion and desire to try to change the status quo.

A better governance from the bottom and a cleaner one on the top, empowered by a stronger human development system enabled by the governments at all levels (a strong public health system is vital too) can enable the business sector to lift the economy while also pulling millions of people out of poverty.

Job generations through manufacturing and through more startups are dependent on a good governance system and the same could be said for innovative and sustainable practices in the agro industry.

Farming could be really re-casted as a profession that is worth pursuing and it is positive to see several new businesses in this area reconciling profit with an interest for mother earth. We should not forget that assuring a net zero is not just about new actions and new money in the field of adaptation and mitigation but also it is about preserving and enhancing the incredibly rich national biodiversity.

Action on biodiversity  

It is hard to believe that the Kunming Summit on Biodiversity that happened in the first half of October almost passed unnoticed to many of us.

We cannot beat down climate change without action on biodiversity. Advocacy and activism solely focused on greenhouse gasses reduction miss a fundamental point. Months ago, Prakash Paudel wrote in Republica explaining that forest based enterprises have the potential to generate 1, 00,000 full time jobs. Just imagine the untapped potential.

Multilateral and bilateral donors recently signed the Kathmandu Declaration on Nepal’s Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID). Perhaps China, with its newly established Global Biodiversity Fund, could join other development partners to support the transformation Nepal is looking for. Notwithstanding the support, it is people’s interest and their desire for change that will ultimately make the difference.

Reaching a net zero future by 2045 implies a true transformation of the national economy: Electrified vehicles and trains, a more inclusive and greener economy able to generate millions of new jobs and much more.

It can really be an exciting time for Nepal and its youth. Will the new generations pick up the challenge?

One way to find out about it is for the federal, provincial and local governments to start a national conversation with the citizenry.  People must understand, clearly and squarely, what change the country needs to embark on to secure a sustainable future. There is also no better way to start fostering a new wave of civic engagement by addressing the citizenry as the true masters of the nation’s destiny. This is probably also the best start to discover a new narrative for this extraordinary country.

Simone Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. Views are personal.

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