Peak ambition


Today is International Mountain Day, when the world’s attention is drawn to the mountains that are home to 1.1 billion people, contain half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, and which provide half of the world’s fresh water.

In Nepal, the reasons why mountains matter are clear, whether one is looking up from the Tarai or down from the summits. Equally clear is the need for action to protect the mountains and their people from the climate crisis and support sustainable development.

That is why the UK has just announced both its ambitious new climate commitments and a 10-point green growth plan, ahead of the global Climate Ambition Summit being held on Saturday, 12 December on the 5th Anniversary of the Paris declaration.

We must help mountain communities cope with and recover from the Covid crisis. A prolonged monsoon has led to a poor harvest in many mountain areas this year. Health facilities are under pressure and the impacts of a cancelled climbing and trekking season have hit mountain communities the hardest.

Covid-climate crises hit Everest region, Nepali Times

These communities were already coping with the impacts of climate change: glaciers retreating rapidly creating lakes that can flood catastrophically at any moment that will be gone by 2100 if decisive climate action is not taken now.

The fragile mountain ecosystems support some of the world’s most iconic and endangered animals such as the snow leopard and the red panda, and are at risk from unsustainable development including indiscriminate road building and ecological changes. Invasive species are migrating upwards as temperatures in mountain areas increase at twice the global average.

As significant as these challenges are, we must not lose sight of the climate solutions that the mountains have to offer:

- Locking up carbon in mountain forests where Nepal leads the world with 45% forest cover.

- Developing hydro power resources – with 190GW available from the Himalayas alone

- Managing rivers to reduce floods and storing water for the dry season so that 1.6 billion people downstream from the Himalaya can reliably access water for drinking and irrigation

This is why we are working with the Climate Alliance of Himalayan Communities to take these messages to the world through events like the 5th International Sustainable Summits Conference to be held in Kathmandu in 2021.

In addition, we need to make sure we do not miss opportunities for regional collaboration on climate issues. Our partnership with ICIMOD has helped us identify concrete ways of tackling regional climate issues such as on energy trade, water management and air pollution.

The same is also true at the local level, where the UK is supporting innovations through investments of over £52.5million which will help Nepal’s local governments to adapt to climate change in the Karnali Province.

The UK is also helping improve access to clean energy for mountain communities to support sustainable tourism, agricultural processing and reliable domestic use. In particular, the UK is supporting innovations that can increase investment in renewables and find new solutions – like the newly established Tourovation Hub that is developing new models for sustainable energy supply in the Himalayas.

We need strong voices to take this call to tackle the climate crisis in the mountains to the world. The UK is working with the British Council to launch a campaign to support women’s leadership on climate, putting leaders who are women in the driving seat to take the call on climate action. The UK is also supporting Nepal’s Sagarmatha Dialogue. Messages from both initiatives will reach next year’s COP26 in Glasgow.

Finally, as we wait to hear Nepal’s climate ambition at the Climate Ambition Summit on Saturday, we want to reconfirm the UK's commitment to supporting Nepal’s efforts to undertake a green recovery from the Covid pandemic and to take up a regional leadership role on climate action. It has never been more important to work together for the good of present and future generations.


Lisa Honan is the British Embassy’s Development Director and the Asia Regional Climate Envoy for the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

Nimsdai Purja is a record-holding mountaineer, expedition leader and author of Beyond Possible.

“Time to walk the talk on climate change in the Himalaya”, Nepali Times

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