Cool Response: Climate Change Adaptation

Apr 12th, 2013 | By | Category: Advocacy, Carbon, Climatic Changes in Himalayas, Development and Climate Change, Disasters and Climate Change, Ecosystem Functions, Governance, Government Policies, Information and Communication, International Agencies, Lessons, Nepal, Opinion, Resilience, UNFCCC, Vulnerability, Weather

cool responseMy Republica: Despite having been identified as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world, Nepal was not among the first group of countries to write a National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA)—a prerequisite for accessing international support for climate intervention. It stands 44th among the 47 LDCs that prepared a NAPA and submitted it to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in 2010 with financial support from several international organizations. Nepal’s NAPA is commended as “among the best” for its inclusive process and comprehensive programs designed for local communities.

The document identifies six thematic heads which are further divided into nine combined profiles with expressed objectives. They are sufficient to address “urgent and immediate climate adaptation needs” of the country—the very purpose of NAPA. The overall estimated cost of the conceived projects is US $ 350 million; and most of the projects are slated to begin by 2013. This article will indicate some major shortfalls in launching NAPA programs.

Too short, too chaotic

To date, the country is in a position to access merely US $ 37 million, i.e., just over 10 percent of the costs estimated by NAPA. This includes a project worth 14.6 million Euro which aims to implement what has been called Local Adaptation Program of Action (LAPA) in a few VDCs of fourteen districts in the Mid and Far West of the country. How this project will perform is yet to be seen. A glacial lake outburst and disaster reduction related project worth US $ 7 million has been conceived for mitigating impending Imja Glacial Lake Outburst (GLOF). But the scale of these projects is too small given enormity of the problems , since as many as 20 glacial lakes are quickly headed for outburst, and floods and landslides have already claimed the lives and livelihoods of millions.

A rangeland rehabilitation project in the highlands worth US $ 5.2 million is also being conceived with detailed programs and approaches yet to be worked out. An ecosystem based adaptation related project worth US $ 4 million is just being implemented in Panchase, but it is obviously not enough to address the widespread ecosystem degradation that looms large in the country. There are some additional planned investments, but they largely ignore the spirit of NAPA which they are supposed to comply with. A US $ 85 million mega project designed by World Bank/ADB is alleged to be problematic in a number of respects, including breaching the internationally endorsed ‘polluter pays’ principle. The reason for its problematic approach may be that the major components of its program are conceived through loan money maneuvered from donors. Likewise, WWF/CARE architectured Hariyo Ban Program (US $ 30 million) has also been facing similar issues as the World Bank/ADB project.

Coordination mirage

The reasons for such problems are apparent in the flaws in the process. The sectoral ministries do not assume leadership in a way that NAPA expects them to. Ministry of Science Technology and Environment (MoSTE), the focal ministry, puts more efforts in the global policy process than in coordinating and facilitating the ministries in the frontline of intervention. Consequently, the sectoral ministries are far from internalizing NAPA. MoSTE lacks the structure, process and willpower to coordinate diverse technical ministries and departments, who often do not want to leave their comfort zone of working in isolation. Climate Change Council (CCC), the apex body under the prime minister, does not find time to address the lacunas.

Indifference syndrome

MoSTE till date has failed to carry out a comprehensive review of NAPA implementation. In the midst of such indifference, Climate Change Network Nepal (CCNN) did a commendable job of organizing a round table discussion in Kathmandu, which was able to bring some problems to the fore. In the meeting, government agencies were outnumbered by people outside them. One participating farmer from Dhading district wanted to know on what basis NAPA had identified his district as one of the most vulnerable districts, as he did not find much difference between his district and the rest in the country . A farmer representing Banke district had curiosity of the opposite order. He essentially wondered why NAPA failed to identify his district as a vulnerable one despite the fact that his district has already been suffering severely from climate change.

Some NAPA experts who were panel members did try to answer their queries, but made no effort to check whether they were satisfied by the answers. Many participants were complaining about government agencies’ lack of seriousness regarding NAPA implementation, and pointed out that even in the discussion forum, their participation was very poor. In fact, many people were frustrated by the absence of personnel from the National Planning Commission and ministries of Agriculture, Local Development and Energy, who theoretically have a high stake in the execution of NAPA. Likewise, the participants grumbled that MoSTE should have given more quality time and better representation to the meeting. Similar complaints were heard regarding the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation which shied away from meaningful representation and panel discussion.

Imperatives

Clearly, Nepal is yet to become serious about climate intervention, despite its desperate urgency. No doubt, finance is important to our adaptation and intervention efforts, but the industrial world has continued to turn a deaf ear to our requests for finance, an obstacle normally pointed out by many. However, a big leap in finance may not replace the commitment-void in Nepal. Commitment is definitely more important to our efforts than finance. If commitments for change are forthcoming, finance may logically follow, but the vice versa is unlikely. Committed people can always fight for better international finance, but uncommitted people can neither fight their case, nor carry out genuine implementation.

Hence, our challenge is generating a sense of commitment among all the stakeholders identified by NAPA than merely trying to inject more money into the country. This is because, first of all, an uncommitted mass of people are unlikely to convince the world to finance their efforts, and secondly and probably most importantly, they may not address the situation in a fitting way. This leads us to suggest that MoSTE needs to emphasize on motivating the concerned ministries in taking a lead in the process than trying to go single handedly. The task is daunting. However, once it is done, future tasks will become simplified. The group of ministries will not only genuinely team up with MoSTE in procuring international fund, but also for its wise use. But a question still remains: how can a ministry with a younger history and weaker workforce empower other ministries with much older histories and stronger profiles? Maybe the country needs a supra-ministerial authority to handle climate change. Possibly Climate Change Council, the apex body for climate change, needs to pay immediate attention to this matter.

Author: Dr. Jagadish Chandra Baral, is former joint Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation  baraljc@yahoo.com

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