Below Mt Everest, António Guterres urges climate action

On a visit to Nepal ahead of COP28, the UN Secretary General flies to the base of the world’s highest mountain to highlight a planet in peril

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Photo: ANTÓNIO GUTERRES/X

UN Secretary General António Guterres who is on a 4-day visit to Nepal has pledged to raise global awareness about the impact of the climate crisis on the Himalaya at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai next month.

He flew by helicopter from Kathmandu to the shrinking glacier below Mt Everest on Monday to record a warning to the world that the planet is in grave peril. He also vowed to take up the cause of countries like Nepal that are vulnerable to climate impact in Dubai to raise money for adaptation, and a fund for loss and damage.

“Nepal is an example of a country that does not contribute much to the climate crisis but is in the first line of impact of its consequences. And I’m here to show Nepal to the world and show how dramatic climate change is,” said Guterres following a visit to the Everest Base Camp (EBC) and Syangboche on Monday morning.

Read also: António Guterres' agenda in Kathmandu, Editorial

UN Sec General

He further noted that it was disheartening that countries like Nepal are experiencing consequences disproportionately. He added: “At COP28, we have to urge countries to reduce emissions and double contributions for adaptation and the loss and damage fund. It is not generosity, but their duty.”

The UN Secretary-General spoke with the local community in Nepal’s Khumbu region about everyday challenges they face, including weather extremes, shrinking glaciers, the depletion of water sources, and climate-related disasters like glacial lake outbursts floods and avalanches. He also discussed solutions like clean energy, and residents asked for support for micro-hydro projects.

Guterres later took to X (Twitter) to write: ‘Today from the base of Mt Everest, I saw for myself the terrible impact of the climate crisis on the Himalayas. As temperatures rise, glacier melt increases - threatening the lives and livelihoods of entire communities. #ClimateAction can’t wait.’

The Secretary-General flew on Monday to Pokhara, and on Tuesday will visit the base camp of Annapurna, another 8,000m Himalayan peak where the snowline is also receding dramatically. Guterres announced he will also be visiting Antarctica in November to highlight the thawing of the polar ice caps and the result this will have on seas level and weather patterns.

At Annapurna Base Camp Guterress will be accompanied by glaciologists who will show him evidence of Elevation Dependent Warming which means that the Himalayan mountains are warming at 0.7 degrees Celsius higher than the global average. Even if atmospheric temperatures worldwide were to be capped at 2.0 Celsius by 2025, the Himalayan would be 2.7 Celsius. At that rate, two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers will be gone during this century.

Read also: António Guterres meets Nepal’s leaders, Nepali Times

UN Sec Gen
Photo: RSS

From there he will fly to Lumbini to the birthplace of the Buddha in southern Nepal to send a message of peace and compassion to the world. Guterres will be the sixth UN Secretary General to visit Lumbini. Back in 1967, Burmese Buddhist Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, visited Nepal and flew to Lumbini for a pilgrimage. Seeing the ruins, U Thant during his meeting with King Mahendra in Kathmandu discussed restoring the nativity site and later set up a UN Committee to turn Lumbini into an international centre for peace.

Another issue on the agenda for Guterres is Nepal’s long-standing commitment to the UN peacekeeping, the country is the second biggest contributor to the operations. Guterres told UN staff at a gathering in Kathmandu on Monday: “Nepal is an example of a country that is not only able to make peace with itself but also contributes to peace in conflict regions around the world.”

Read also: Climate change is a disaster in the Nepal Himalaya, Sonam Choekyi Lama

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