Weathering the Storm: Nepal as a Regional Leader in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation During the Climate Crisis


         The scientific consensus is that we have 8 to 10 years -at the most- to radically decrease greenhouse gas emissions, or pass a threshold beyond which we will face an uncontrollable non-linear transition to a hothouse earth climate phase. As it is, enough perturbations have already been programmed into the climate system that we will face decades if not centuries of chaotic climate events. This period of climate instability will be difficult enough to traverse while maintaining a semblance of civilizational order and progress. The other alternative though -given the long history of political and economic intransigence against taking meaningful action and the fact that forces working against real mitigation are still powerful- must also be considered. Nepal, though by some traditional measures a poor country struggling with many difficult issues beyond just those of poverty and social inequality- has some unique features which positions it as a possible climate hero, both for situation one, in which we collectively act in time, and situation 2, in which we don’t.


            The threats that the climate crisis brings to Nepal and the region are multiple, multi- dimensional, and interconnected. These include threats to food security, energy security, water security, environmental security, economic security, and political security. All aspects in other words of human security and the environmental stability upon which it rests, are at risk. Compounding this, very little if any of the human infrastructure in Nepal and the region has been built with climate extremes in mind (high temperatures, devastating precipitation events, prolonged droughts, GLOFs, loss of summer glacial meltwater, etc.). Clearly for Nepal and the region, and of course the globe to prevent the worst case scenarios from occurring, the primary level of action must be collective, with a focus on the major polluting countries and major polluting industries. This scenario poses several questions like:


Is Nepal and its regional neighbors doing everything they can to fight this battle at that level, the international level?      

What  resources, economic and otherwise, does Nepal have to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, and how can these be increased, maximized, and applied most efficiently?

What does Green Development look like for Nepal and the region, and can it be undertaken in such a way that its benefits are equitably shared, it exhibits total carbon neutral and preferably carbon negative characteristics, and is resilient and adaptive to the ongoing climate shocks which can be anticipated to increase in severity and frequency even with meaningful collective international efforts.  


            Nepal may in some ways be crucial to the region’s successful adaptation to the climate emergency. Nepal is in a unique position in terms of hydrological resources to cushion itself and the region within a certain range of hydrological extremes. For “hydro-corruption” and local resistance to be avoided though, new inclusive approaches are required. Similarly, Nepal’s traditional economy has many aspects of a green circular economy still extant. Ideally this can be leveraged with a set of high-tech tools where necessary to allow its rural economy to both thrive and be supportive of the region as a whole while also having a robustness that helps it to transit the long period of climate chaos. All of this can and must be put in place in a very short order of time.


            This virtual symposium jointly organized by Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA) and the Asia Institute will focus on quick ramp-up ways of maximizing Nepal’s innate strengths so as to become a regional climate leader in ways that benefit both itself and its region, and by example, the world. The desired outcome of this symposium then will be to attempt to provide some answers to the above three questions, and to identify in triage fashion -given the short time frame available for meaningful action, and resource limits- where Nepal can and should focus its efforts to provide maximum resiliency in the face of an existential crisis.


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    • Virtual Symposium