Cash for climate

The Nepal government’s response to the climate emergency often seems too little too late, and the scope of the global crisis is such that one country by itself cannot tackle it. But the federal government should be investing to adapt and mitigate the climate crisis and its impacts, says a new report called the Nepal Citizen’s Climate Budget.

Few would argue that climate change is not affecting daily life in Nepal, a claim backed up by a survey in the report which was created by Freedom Forum with technical support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and International Budget Support and funding from the UK Government.

Read also: IPCC report and Nepal's food security

Results of the survey included:

  • 100% of respondents in the central mountains saw an increase in cold waves while 100% in central hills experienced a decrease
  • 99.3% of participants reported drought
  • 97.7% witnessed an increase in diseases and insects and sporadic rain
  • 84.6 found the monsoon delayed by 1-4 weeks
  • 84.5% experienced a decrease in surface water.

The report summarises the state of the climate crisis: ‘Nepal ranks in the top 20 countries that have suffered the most from the impacts of climate change, through floods, forest fires, drought and other climate-induced disasters.’

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Further, 29 districts are vulnerable to landslides, 22 are at risk of drought, 12 could be hit by a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) and 9 are in danger of by flash floods, says the report, released last week.

Between 1983 and 2005, the economic cost of climate change averaged Rs1.2 billion a year, while in 2017 the price tag for flood damage alone was Rs60.7 billion, adds the report. There is no data for economic losses caused by drought and forest fires, it notes.

How have Nepal’s governments reacted to the climate emergency? More than a quarter (27%) of last year’s federal government budget – data on activities of local and provincial governments are hard to find, the report points out – was ‘relevant to climate change’, according to the Citizens Climate Budget.

Examples cited in the report include:

  • Development and expansion of hydroelectricity and other types of renewable energy
  • Production, import and use of electric public transport
  • Field soil test through mobile lab
  • Melamchi Drinking Water Supply Project.

By contrast, in 2013-14 just 10% of the budget was climate change relevant, says the report.

But the picture changes on closer inspection. Just 20% of the 2018-19 climate change budget was allocated to ‘highly relevant’ activities. According to the National Planning Commission, these are programs where at least 60% of the budget is related to climate change

Disturbingly, while climate-focused spending has been growing as a proportion of the overall federal budget, the chunk of it considered ‘highly relevant’ has been shrinking. It was 48% in 2013-14, 31% in 2016-17 and 20% in 2018-19. In addition, the proportion of the budget that is actually spent has been falling, from 80% in 2013-14 to 57% in 2016-17 and 43% in 2017-18, the last year shown in the report’s graph.

This looks like bad news for what the report calls ‘one of the world’s most vulnerable countries’. Noting that the central government did not publish climate-specific climate date for the last fiscal year, it urges citizens, civil society and people’s representatives to monitor how the government spends its climate budget.

Governments need to pay particular attention to women and other vulnerable groups, adds the report. They are ‘more likely to be harmed by climate hazards (flooding, storms, drought and so on) because they live in poorly constructed homes in high-risk areas; often rely heavily on natural resources for food, fuel, and income; and have limited economic options’.

Nepal's Citizens Climate Budget

Where is Nepal's money being spent?