Special Address by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Right Honourable Prime Minster of Nepal at the International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change held in Kathmandu from 5 to 6 April 2012
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies,
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair, IPCC
Friends from Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
1. It gives me immense pleasure to share my thoughts before this august gathering of distinguished participants from around the world. I welcome you all in Kathmandu and thank you for accepting our invitation. I believe that the Conference will be a milestone to collectively understand the causes and effects of climate change in mountain countries, discuss options and approaches to addressing them, and come out with reliable and sustainable solutions.
2. Climate change is making our lives increasingly vulnerable. Its impact has widely been felt across the globe in various forms. Experts have confirmed that progressive warming at higher altitudes has been three to five times the global average. This rapid warming is evident in our observations of increased snow and glacial melt and the frequency of extreme events such as devastating floods and droughts which have exacerbated problems of hunger and poverty in many mountainous regions. In particular, women and children have been the most affected victims of its adverse effects. Therefore, I feel that, firstly, we need to be cognizant of and responsive to the sufferings of the people for meeting their urgent needs for survival and, secondly, join them in preserving the ecosystem that nurtures them. Only then can we afford to engage in any meaningful discourse on development and also in a series of negotiations.
3. It is our privilege to have amidst us, the distinguished Chair of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), issued in 2007, had alerted us about the alarming state of global warming and accelerated climate change. Just to recall, it stated that warming of the climate system is unequivocal. With a tone of greater certainty, it then cites the recent incidents of climate change such as widespread global temperature increase; eleven of the last 12 years, that is, from 1995 to 2006, being the warmest-ever years; more frequent hot days and hot nights; increased sea level rise; and decreased snow and ice sheets in various parts of the globe. All these reports, including the keynote speech by the IPCC Chair, yesterday, clearly suggest that the window of opportunity is closing fast and we need to act now and decisively. Therefore, we need to emphasize here that its adverse consequences will hamper our efforts of economic development and improved wellbeing of the people if no corresponding measures are taken in time. The costs of inaction or delayed action will be much higher in future. Our future depends on our action today.
4. Mountains are a great source of energy, food security and biodiversity, providing water and ecosystem services to the billions of people living both upstream and downstream. They are homes to humanity blessed with the richness of ethno-cultural diversity and traditional knowledge. Yet, they have been rather disproportionately affected by climate change, and so, are yet to receive adequate focus in the international climate change negotiations and relevant forums. This realization led us to believe that impacts of climate change on mountains and on the people dependent on them for their livelihoods need to be minutely understood and holistically analyzed, and concrete actions need to be taken to address them. This propelled us to launch what has been known as the Mountain Initiative since COP 15 in Copenhagen. The essence of this Initiative is that mountains and the people living there deserve to be better treated when it comes to investing in climate change adaptation. Mountains hold enormous resource potentials and opportunities but they also carry a risk of disastrous consequences, if we continue to neglect them. The world has rightly accorded special priority to oceans, atmosphere, sustainable cities and transportation. We feel that the time has come for the world community to accord similar priority to mountain countries that are especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change and global warming.
5. The UNFCCC process has been instrumental in putting the issue of climate change on the world radar. Climate change and its impacts have indeed become a global issue of paramount concern. We feel that the unrestricted private profit driven development models that have been in use till now have created and accelerated this problem to the detriment of sustainable human development. private greed without any sense of social responsibility results in senseless destruction of natural resources and eco-systems. Therefore, the Upcoming Rio+20 Summit should agree on a new paradigm of sustainable development. Nepal feels that the mountainous countries should call for a new path of development that not only better integrates environmental, economic and social issues but also provides for equitable and just development strategies that are environmentally clean, green and climate-resilient.
6. As our efforts to date have proven inadequate to cope with the climate-induced disasters, we cannot afford to wait until after the outcomes of the lengthy negotiation processes. Our problems are mostly of immediate and urgent nature, and we need to find ways of addressing them collectively and immediately. The irony is that those who are most affected in the mountain countries have hardly contributed to climate change, yet they are ill-equipped to deal with its impacts due to their low capacity, poor technology and scarce financial resources. The developed countries that have contributed the most in the destruction of the environment must naturally assume greater responsibility in repairing he damages of climate change .
7. Nepal is on the frontline of climate change effects and ranked among the world's five most climate-vulnerable countries. We are a country where climate change is challenging the very survival of people as well as the core of our limited infrastructures through accelerated climate-induced disasters. This Conference will provide us opportunities to further compehend the challenges and opportunities in our treasures of nature and human civilization, and share and learn experiences and best practices to protect them.
8. With eight of the 10 highest mountains and rich bio-cultural heritage, Nepal has been a place to learn about global warming and climate change impacts, and also a place where people live with diverse cultural and economic connections to these mountains. Unfortunately, their environment and identities are changing rapidly and their livelihoods are being seriously threatened. There is a real danger of hazards such as glacial lake outburst floods and invasive species turning into disasters that can destroy lives, livelihoods, and hard-gained infrastructure.
9. Despite our limited national capabilities, we have recognized adaptation as a national 'survival strategy' to protect our people, livelihood and ecosystems. The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) is being implemented through the approved National Framework on Local Adaptation Plan for Action (LAPA). Nepal's Climate Change Policy requires channeling over 80 percent of the total budget of the climate change programmes to local entities with the local ownership and leadership. We have continued to promote a clean and renewable energy development path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is a big funding gap compared to the magnitude of the challenges.
10. We have established coordination mechanism at different levels in climate change regime. In reviewing the overall situation as the Chair of the Climate Change Council, I have often found that we have so much uncertainty and knowledge gaps in all sectors and geographical areas. Meanwhile, we also need to bring the climate change adaptation program down to the local level by demystifying and de-jargonizing its notion and approaches. We need to make climate adaptation as people-friendly as possible.
11. When I look around the world I see that many countries are being seriously challenged, with or without mountains. Last year was an unprecedented year for extreme climatic events in Asia and elsewhere. The long-term predictions and scenarios that have been set out by the IPCC are becoming increasingly obvious and serious year by year. We are not talking about 2050; our problems are here and now. We have a responsibility to ensure that climate change does not irreparably damage the progress we have made in our development path to date. This means that we have to radically change our development thinking, factoring in not only environmental issues which no doubt are of critical national importance, but also social and economic issues in a holistic manner.
12. In my address to the UN General Assembly Meeting in New York in September last year, I had stressed the recurrence of financial, energy and food crises, but more importantly the deeper structural crises. These multiple crises have vindicated the need for seriously reviewing the current economic paradigm. Climate change has clearly added new dimension in this challenge requiring urgent action. But we also should recognise that it offers new opportunities for undertaking alternative development models and more equitable and cleaner global development pathways that we all can envision with robust global partnership, both north-south and south-south.
Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Participants,
13. Ongoing international negotiations on climate change and sustainable development in 2012 offer us all a major opportunity to have a collective voice and platform that can ensure that we are not only heard, but our issues are taken on board. Therefore, there is an urgent need to make progress in climate negotiations and to ensure enhanced and predictable financing, especially for the developing and vulnerable countries. This calls for urgent action by all to reduce greenhouse emissions based on the principle of equity to address the root causes and support the developing countries to adapt to climate change, and impact mitigation. This needs new and additional financial resources, expedited provisions for climate and environment-friendly technologies and support for capacity building. It is in this context that this conference outputs hold high significance as these can feed into the Rio+20 Summit which will be critical in defining a more sustainable development path and reducing poverty in the LDCs and mountain countries. The sustainable development agenda to be charted in Rio must encompass all environmental, social and economic considerations, including the crucial issue of sustainable mountain development, with a clear global vision and strong framework of action.
Let this conference set the pathway for the mountain countries and people for a holistic and sustainable mountain development and a new development paradigm.
Let this conference highlight and effectively mainstream the mountain agenda into all the global development processes.
Let this conference ensure that we come up with a global compact for a stronger framework of cooperation that promotes concrete collective action in a spirit of strengthened and renewed global partnership.
Let us concentrate on the long-term sustainable approach collectively, away from the parochial short term interests.
Let the Kathmandu conference give a clarion call for sustained and decisive action of all mountain countries to achieve our collective vision in the days ahead.
I wish you all a memorable and comfortable stay in Kathmandu and that you will also enjoy our cultural diversities. I wish the Conference a grand success.
For 6 April 2012, Friday (9:00 am)