Road to climate action: What can Nepal do?

Let’s focus on groundbreaking innovative ways to create bottom-up mechanisms to involve and engage the people in matters of the Agenda 2030.

Simone Galimberti

  • Read Time 4 min.

This should be one of the most important, most visible and talked about institutions of the government of Nepal but who really knows it?

The citizens of the country should thank the recently concluded UN General Assembly in New York because it compelled the federal government of Nepal to at least show some commitment, even symbolic ones. The SDG Summit, a global gathering aimed at reviewing the status of implementation of the SDGs and the Climate Ambition Summit, are both crucial events that saw the participation of Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Earlier to that on September 15, Dahal convened the National Council on Environment Protection and Climate Change Management.  But who really knows about this body? The Council is paralyzed, mostly inactive.

Its members were appointed by then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba a year ago, in September 2022, probably also just to show to the international community that Nepal is serious about climate change.

The meeting of the Council was held a second time by Dahal. It brings together not only key experts but also the Chief Ministers from the seven provinces without which no action can be seriously envisioned in the fight against climate change.

Clearly it is a policy failure and when we think about the lack of good governance in the country, we tend to end up blaming corruption. While there is no doubt that this is a systemic issue, a cancer that has metastasized across the whole functioning of the government, there are also other issues that impede a well and functioning governance.

Talking about governance is not only one of the most boring things but one of the less engaging and more difficult to understand issues.  Yet it is crucial.

Young people (not all unfortunately) are thrilled at putting up a fight for climate change. Yet we cannot tackle climate change and remaining SDGs (let’s not forget that climate action is debated as a wholly self-standing issue but there is also an SDG about it and it is SDG 13) without good governance.  That’s why the convening of the National Council on Environment Protection and Climate Change Management is a matter of national interest, especially the youths should care about it.

How can we revitalize the so-called field of “good governance” not only for climate action but also for the whole spectrum of key policy issues related to human development (the so-called Agenda 2030 and its SDGs) that affect each of us living in Nepal? I have already written in this column about the importance of re-thinking the way policy making functions and is delivered.

Mine is a part of a broader global debate about rebooting democracy, turning it more effective by making it more participative, more deliberative and much less top down. Yer for the sake of the argument I am making in this piece, let’s limit the reflection on more practical and less ambitious modalities to reboot policy making. Let’s involve more people.

For example, the now repealed Climate Change Policy 2011 established the Multi-stakeholder Climate Change Initiatives Coordination Committee (MCCICC). There is a very high degree of probability that this committee never got activated but it was a really good idea, in principle, to have a platform to engage and involve not only experts but also normal people, in theory at least.  

Now the latest national climate policy, formulated in 2019, does away with such a council.

A clarification now: The recent meeting of the National Council on Environment Protection and Climate Change Management was convened under a different policy framework–the Environmental Protection Act (2019). Now if we can deal with climate change under this Act, perhaps a loophole could be used to come up with a mechanism that involves people in the decision making related to climate change.

If it is true that the latest National Climate Change Policy (2019) does away with a stakeholder engagement mechanism, the policy, concerning Institutional Framework, envisions the establishment of the following: “A Council will be formed to maintain policy coordination on the matters of climate change at the national level and functional coordination will be made by the Ministry of Forests and Environment.”

Why not frame such a mechanism as a true policy innovation, a platform to meet, discuss and debate with academia, experts but also with citizens, including the youths? Finding novel ways to involve stakeholders is also at the core of implementing the Agenda 2030–that means the whole SDGs framework, from poverty alleviation to quality inclusive education and health care, to gender inclusion to inclusive and sustainable industrialization to climate change and rule of law.

Let’s limit the reflection on more practical and less ambitious modalities to reboot policy making. Let’s involve more people.

Probably to incentivize the federal government to show some action during the official gatherings in New York, the UN Office in Nepal co-organized with the National Planning Commission, the SDG Acceleration Visioning workshop. The focus was on discussing new ways not only to scale up the SDGs but also to internalize them across the policy spectrum which cannot happen without involvement of people. The key word is “localizing” the SDGs and it is nothing new because, in simple terms, it acknowledges the centrality of involving local governments in the gigantic tasks of achieving the SDGs.

Yet this whole idea is not gaining traction and officials and policy makers, all over the world, pay just lip service to it. This is problematic and also irresponsible.

In New York, it was reported that Dahal met with the Secretary General Antonio Guterres. One of the outcomes (if we make an effort and really try hard to imagine a tangible result from this type of formal and by nature very brief meetings), was the commitment by the UN to further support Nepal.  What will this mean in practice?

It is up to policy makers, experts in Nepal, UN officials in the country and lawmakers–from federal to provincial level–to come up with concrete actions. An unsolicited advice: As additional funding is important, let’s not just talk about them. Instead, let’s focus on groundbreaking innovative ways to create bottom-up mechanisms to involve and engage the people in matters of the Agenda 2030.

This will make the difference but let’s be honest it is not going to be easy. While it is relatively simple to convince a youth to come to a rally or a march, it is much more difficult to get her attention for training and policy related “stuff”. Yes, these are not so attractive but they are essential tasks.

We need to “sell” them to the young generations as indispensable and paramount to really be able to imagine a better world, something that, as we are tragically realizing day by day, is getting harder and harder to do. The PM could simply delegate to his advisors, ministers or members of the National Planning Commission to move the overall policy agenda forward through important, even though, less formal meetings.

Simone Galimberti is the co-founder of ENGAGE and of Good Leadership. Views are personal.