Nepal doubles its carbon footprint

Nepal’s per capita greenhouse gas emission may be negligible compared to industrialised countries, but it has doubled in the last seven years. 

This does not bode well for the country’s commitment to achieving net-zero by 2050, nor to an increased trade gap due to burgeoning petroleum imports. 

A mandatory report filed by the Ministry of Environment with the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has put Nepal’s current emission at 28,166 gigagrams of carbon dioxide (Gg Co2) per year, up from 13,447 Gg Coin 2014 -- mainly due to the increasing import of petroleum from India for the transportation sector.

Nepal recently handed in its second Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Report, third National Communication Report and the Technology Needs Assessment Report to the UNFCCC, two years after the initial deadline had passed in 2019. 

The UNFCCC was drafted in May 1992 by the Intergovernmental Dialogue Committee in response to the UN General Assembly's call for an international legal framework to confront climate change. Nepal signed the Convention in June 1992, and has been a party to it since 1994. 

The three reports collectively outline sustainability goals and guidelines for Nepal to reduce its role in the climate crisis. The documents include strategies for social inclusion and gender empowerment relevant to climate change. A risk-analysis report that includes optimisation measures to tackle the climate crisis has also been made available to policymakers. 

Meanwhile, the second NDC outlines Nepal’s plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and meet its commitment to net-zero by 2050 by cutting down on emissions from sectors including agriculture, forestry, land, energy, industrial, and waste management.

The NDC delves further into Nepal’s commitment to strengthen its public transport network and to turn 90% of its vehicles electric by 2030, eliminating fossil fuel use and replacing it with cleaner sources would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28%. The rest comes from energy use in construction, industries and other uses.

The three reports are integral for Nepal to secure UNFCCC funds to adapt to the climate crisis which has disproportionately affected the country’s maginalised communities in lack of state policies on preparing for the impact of global warming. 

The constant delays in completing and handing over the mandatory evaluations have meant that financial assistance to Nepal for adaptation has also not met expectations. The country has only received Rs7 billion for two projects from the UNFCC’s Green Climate Fund so far.

Moreover, outdated statistics get in the way of effective and relevant planning. For instance, the National Communication Report is based on data from 2011, and the Climate Change and Management Division says that the national climate change adaptation plan based on 2018 figures is underway.

The natural change in climate that takes place over a significant amount of time has been overtaken by global industrialisation, widespread use of fossil fuels in transportation and deforestation at massive scales, all largely contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and warming of the earth’s surface.

Scientists spent the past two years drafting a 4,000-page report for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) drawing the most direct correlation to date between climate change and extreme weather around the world.

summary of the report was released earlier this month, which concluded that the increase in global surface temperatures will ‘exceed 2°C during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades’.

The IPCC report on the science behind climate change also has forecasts that will directly affect Nepal and the Himalaya. Although Nepal’s contribution to GHG emissions is negligible, it suffers disproportionately from the impact of the climate emergency. But because its own emissions are rising fast, Nepal will not have the ethical high ground in international negotiations calling for adaptation funding.

Experts say that even a 1.5°C rise in global temperature will mean heavy precipitation and associated flooding in Nepal. At a 2°C increase, extreme weather events like floods, heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts will be more frequent and deadlier.

The Himalaya is warming at 0.3-0.7°C faster than the global average due to a phenomenon called ‘Elevation Dependent Warming’. But at the current trajectory, the mountains will lose two-thirds of permanent ice by the end of 2021.

Nepal’s emission may still be negligible but as one of the countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and extreme weather events, experts say, it must work collectively with other countries in the region to meet cut-back targets and reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically.