17 Dec 2009
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) held a joint side event on the occasion of the UNFCCC COP-15 conference on 16th December on ‘Facing the Challenges: Climate Change in the Greater Himalayas’. The event brought together high level dignitaries from the Hindu-Kush Himalayan countries to discuss and elaborate on the formidable challenges facing this unique and vulnerable, but vitally important, region and ended with a call by the Prime Minister of Nepal for an alliance of mountain countries to enhance cooperation and ensure better representation of mountains in the UNFCCC process. Guests of honour included the Prime Minister of Nepal,
Mr Madhav Kumar Nepal; the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Bhutan, Dr Pema Gyamtsho; the Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation of Nepal, Mr Deepak Bohara; the Minister of Environment of Afghanistan and Director General National Environmental Protection Agency, Mr Mustafha Zaher; the Executive Director of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre, Pakistan, Dr Arshad Muhammad Khan; and the Minister of Environment and Development of Norway, Mr Erik Solheim. Several other important dignitaries from the region also participated, including a number of Members of Parliament from India and Nepal. The Director General of ICIMOD, Dr Andreas Schild, and the Director General of CICERO, Dr Pål Prestrud, presented the case of the Himalayas, highlighting the importance of adaptation within the region and the dire consequences of not addressing climate change.
The purpose of the side event was to allow the governments of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region to present the situation of their countries on climate change, and to explain the priorities of their country in relation to adaptation. The delegations had only three minutes allocated in the main plenary, thus the ICIMOD-CICERO event provided an ideal platform for them to put their case to the public at COP-15. In contrast with the caucuses for Africa and the small island states, there was no advocacy for or representation of the interests of the mountain countries. The attention of the international community should be drawn to the adaptation challenges faced by mountain populations and ecosystems.
The Prime Minister of Nepal regretted that the mountain agenda was not more prominent in the COP-15 negotiations. The mountains and the issues related to them are understated in the UNFCCC texts. The Prime Minister launched the idea of an alliance of the mountain countries to enhance cooperation and improve representation in the UNFCCC process. He also announced the intention of the Government of Nepal to host a ministerial level conference on climate change in mountain countries in 2010, and invited the COP-15 delegates from mountain countries to attend an informal meeting on the same day hosted by the GoN to start the process of initiating formation of an alliance of mountain governments.
The Ministers from Nepal and Bhutan made clear that global warming is causing glacial melting which in turn has negative impacts on water availability, agriculture, and livelihoods and is a threat to infrastructure development.
Pakistan drew attention to the high dependency of the whole agricultural production on irrigation fed by the Indus river system. The water of the Indus is drawn during spring, the peak season for irrigation from snow and glacier melt.
The Minister of Environment of Afghanistan described eloquently the loss of biodiversity (the gradual disappearance of the snow leopard and the Marco Polo sheep) and the negative consequences of glacier melt on the Amu Darya.
The Minister from Norway, a prominent donor country in the region, expressed solidarity with the governments from the Hindu Kush Himalayan region that are facing the brunt of global warming. He showed the keen interest of his government to support research in the region and to expand cooperation with regional resource centres.
It was clear that the governments in the HKH region were also able to identify ways to reduce climate vulnerability in their countries by climate proofing development endeavours. But the means to do so are limited, as acknowledged collectively. All delegations recognised a deficit of specific knowledge and information. They emphasised the need for regional cooperation in the exchange of data, common learning, and enhancing adaptation in a transboundary approach. They commended the role of ICIMOD as a regional facilitator and supporter.
For further information contact:
Ms Nira Gurung