To save the earth, Nepal needs to invest in renewablesNepal’s geographical diversity, natural resources and demographic dividend can be utilised to turn the country carbon neutral.
The non-regenerative energy resources possessed by our planet is shrinking every day. The global energy consumption in 1960 was 3.4 Gtoe (Gigatonne of Oil Equivalent), whereas, in 2018, energy consumption increased to 13.82 Gtoe, a four-fold increase. Indeed, there is a strong relationship between the people’s living standards and the amount as well as types of energy consumed but only one planet to provide the resources.
The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to energy use continued to grow in 2018, despite the growing adoption of renewable, clean energy. Governments around the world are setting policies and targets to reduce emissions. Yet, the world is not on track to meet the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
A sustainable energy system must have minimal or no adverse environmental or social impact, cause no natural resource depletion and be able to supply the demand for current and future generations. The United Nations has set many targets and indicators in the energy sector to achieve sustainable development goals (SDG) and protect air, water and land by 2030. The good news is that more than one-fourth of global electricity generation is coming from renewables already.
Our region is known as the ‘third pole’, and it holds about 15 percent of global snow and ice; this is a vast amount of energy resource. Rampant use of non-renewable resources, infrastructure development, tourism, and urbanisation are putting pressure on the region’s resources and threatening the Himalayas. Also known as the ‘water tower’ of Asia, the Himalayan region has an estimated hydroelectricity generation potential of more than 500 GW. It can support the development of hydropower in the Himalayan region and along with being a supplemental source to other kinds of renewable sources such as wind and solar energy.
Carbon emitted by dirty fuels and the burning of biomass is recognised as a major concern in the climate-sensitive Himalayas due to which freshwater sources, especially ice caps and glaciers, are retreating. Temperature across the Himalayan region is projected to increase by about 1 to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. Similarly, mountain temperatures across the region are projected to increase by beyond 2 degrees Celsius on average. Mountains are already drying out because of the rapid melting of snow. Over 1.65 billion people live in the river basins of the Himalayas. More than 80 percent of the rural population in the Himalayan countries lack a modern energy source for cooking on the one hand; on the other, in specific locations, the use of fossil fuel is increasing. Around 85 percent of the total energy consumption is met by traditional biomass energy, and around 24 percent of households do not have access to electricity.
The Himalayan region remains energy-poor and vulnerable. The issues of energy security, climate change, and energy poverty combined posed a threat to countries in the region. To enhance Nepal’s energy security, access to an adequate amount of energy that is affordable, non-polluting and sustainable, without unduly affecting the present low carbon status, is required. Massive investment for energy transformation and access to technology is equally important.
The generation of renewables sustainably creates more jobs, economic activities and social amenities. In 2018 about 11 million people around the globe were employed by the renewable energy sector. With investment in renewables, Nepal can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, focus on capacity building, transfer, and adopt knowledge and new technologies.
The major sources of renewable energy in Nepal are hydropower, solar, various forms of biomass, and wind. With an increase in renewable sources like biogas, solar, micro-hydro and wind, we can make significant strides towards mitigating environmental degradation and climate change. Solar energy is also a reliable means of energy in the context of Nepal as the country has 300 sunny days in a year, making it rich in solar power potential. Wind energy is also feasible in certain locations.
About 24 percent of people worldwide are already benefiting from small-scale renewable energy technologies. With increasing awareness and investments in research and development in these areas, it is entirely feasible to massively reduce carbon emissions. Nepal can be made into a carbon-neutral country by 2050 as envisioned by the Nepal Planning Commission.
The country has about 10 million people between the ages of 14 and 40, and the median age is around 22.7 years. Nepal can achieve sustainable development goals only by utilising this huge young demographic in a green economy. Experts and researchers among youths in these fields should be prioritised and provided with the means to gain more knowledge about the necessary technological developments.
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