Nepal's Hopes From Rio+20 Conference
|| In 1972, when world leaders gathered in Stockholm of Sweden for what was deemed as the first initiative by the United Nations to protect human environment, Nepal made a sort of gaffe.
In its status paper presented at the said conference, Nepal unveiled a costly plan for reducing hazardous dust particles emanating from cement factories by almost 99 per cent.
Nepal also announced to allocate Rs 2.5 million for installing Electrostatic Precipitator (ESP) – a device that removes dust particles from flowing gas – in all factories.
Nepal’s plan was then lauded by many countries as a landmark move to preserve human environment. No one, however, realized the fact that Nepal’s plan was far removed from ground reality, as almost all cement factories were adopting a semi-dry processing system in which ESP would not work at all.
“ESP can be useful only in dry-processing systems,” says Batu Krishna Uprety, former Chief of Climate Change Management Division (CCMD) at the Ministry of Environment (MoE). “Those who prepared the status paper lacked this basic technical knowledge.”
The result of the knowledge gap in preparing the status paper was pretty obvious. The plan for installing ESPs was never materialized. Forty years down the line, Nepal stands exactly where it was during the Stockholm conference in terms of implementing environment programs.
“In 1972, we realized our problems but failed to implement programs,” says Upreti. “We’re aware of our problems even now. However, as in 1972, the implementation of intervention programs is still a big issue.”
As Nepal gears up for participating in the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil, the risk of repeating mistakes, as at the Stockholm conference, cannot be ruled out.
This is why climate change experts are now pressing for a core team which exclusively deals with developed countries in all global forums, including the Rio+20 Conference.
“The core group should consist of a diplomat, a legal expert, and a technical expert,” Upreti, who is now Vice Chair of Least Development Countries (LDCs) Expert Group (LEG), says. “The core group members must be allowed to work for at least two years. Nepal will otherwise not be able to press for its agendas.”
So, what is Nepal expecting the most from the Rio+20 Conference? According to Krishna Gyawali, Secretary of the MoE, Nepal is eying a scheme on access to energy at Rio+20.
Last year, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon announced a goal for achieving sustainable energy for all by 2030. One of the three elements of the goal is doubling the share of renewable energy in the next 18 years.
Today, just 23.7% of Nepal’s total energy consumption is renewable, which includes fuel-wood, electricity, biogas, micro-hydro, solar, agri residues, and animal dung.
Although petroleum and coal together make up for only 10% of total energy consumption, the portion of non-renewable energy is now 76% because the largest chunk of fuel-wood is not considered renewable energy.
Light Green- Fuelwood (Renewable)
White- Fuelwood (Non-renewable)
Dark green- Biogas
Green- Animal dung
“Fuel-wood makes up for 77.7% of total energy consumption (in Nepal),” says Raju Laudari, Manager of Climate and Carbon Unit at the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC).
“However, referring to default values of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), only 14% of fuel-wood – generated from protected areas – is renewable energy. It makes up for only 10% of the total renewable energy consumption.”
“I’m hopeful that the goal of achieving sustainable energy by 2030 will be formally announced in the Rio+20 Conference,” says Gyawali. “In that case, we’ll join the scheme for claiming financial and technical assistance for doubling the share of renewable energy by 2030.”
With Nepal succeeding Gambia as the Chair of the LDCs from 2013, the role of the Himalayan nation will be even more challenging at the Rio+20 Conference.
“In Rio, we won’t be speaking just for ourselves,” says Environment Minister Dr Keshav Man Shakya. “As the next Chair of the LDCs, we’ll raise the issues facing all the 48 Least Developed Countries.”
Nepal, which organized the International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change in April this year, will also take up the issue of mountain countries at the Rio+20 Conference.
Secretary Gyawali has almost finalized a work plan based on the 10-point Kathmandu Call for Action-2012, which was issued by the conference of mountain countries. “The Rio+20 Conference will be a huge opportunity for mountain countries like Nepal,” he concludes.
“We’ll raise the issues of unfulfilled commitments”
As Nepal gears up for the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development, The Week met Environment Minister Dr Keshav Man Shakya to know about Nepal’s agendas. Excerpts:
What is Nepal’s agenda at the Rio+20 Conference?
The major theme of the Rio+20 Conference is environment-friendly sustainable development of which green economy is an integral part. As the next Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Nepal’s role will be important at the conference. We have recently hosted a conference of mountain countries, issuing the Kathmandu Call for Action. Mountain countries being vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, we’ll take up the issue of mountain countries in Rio, based on the Kathmandu Call.
How is Nepal preparing for the conference?
The National Planning Commission (NPC) has prepared a status paper after a series of consultations with stakeholders. The status paper dwells on all the 10 points mentioned in the Kathmandu Call. I’m constantly discussing several issues related to sustainable development and green economy with the Development Minister of Denmark, which is currently the Chair of European Union (EU), ahead of the conference.
How do you assess Nepal’s progress in boosting green economy, especially in the last 20 years since the 1992 Earth Summit?
Nepal has made a lot of progress. Its concept of community forestry was magnified after the Earth Summit. Today, community forestry is one of our great assets in South Asia. The issue of equity, which is an essential part of sustainable development, was also amplified in the face of the rise of NGOs and the debate on inclusion in the political domain. Therefore, we’ll be in a better position in Rio.
Will Nepal raise the issue of developed countries failing to fulfill their commitments?
Yes, of course. As Nepal is likely to succeed Gambia as the Chair of the LDC group, it’s our responsibility. At the Earth Summit, developed countries had expressed their commitments for allocating 0.7% of their Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) for helping developing countries to offset the damage caused by their industries to environment. The developed countries haven’t fulfilled their commitments. We’ll definitely raise this issue strongly.
Rai is a senior correspondent at Republica.
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