Nepal's climate ambition submissionAn unconditional commitment of $3.4 billion to achieve a mitigation target is not justifiable.
At the heart of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the requirement for each country to communicate its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to be effective post-2020. Nepal submitted its first NDC after the Paris Agreement while most countries submitted theirs before the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
Nepal, Venezuela, Chile, Malaysia, Panama, Sri Lanka, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Timor-Leste and Uzbekistan submitted their NDCs after the completion of the Paris climate talks. So far, 188 countries have submitted their first NDCs. Each country has been requested to submit its NDC every five years as per the Paris Agreement while its timeframe (whether five years or 10 years) is still under discussion. Most countries including Nepal have a 10-year timeframe (2021-30) except for the United States and the Marshall Islands whose timeframe ends in 2025.
Means of implementation
Nepal submitted its first NDC on October 5, 2016. It dealt with mitigation (emission reduction) but lacked clarity with regard to the means of implementation, namely finance, technology transfer, and capacity building. The Ministry of Forests and Environment, Nepal's focal ministry for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, made a public call on November 18 last year as per a ministerial decision of November 17, 2020, requesting all to provide comments and suggestions on the draft NDC prepared by the task force, with a 10-day timeframe.
On December 8, 2020, Nepal became the first least developed country and the fourth country to submit its second NDC to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The second NDC, although covering other pressing issues such as adaptation, finance, and loss and damage, is still very mitigation-centric. It is to be noted that the least developed countries are least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore do not carry any historical responsibilities towards the current global warming as compared to the industrial countries that have grown rich and developed using the maximum carbon budget of this planet. Upholding the convention, it’s the developed countries that should take the lead in mitigation rather than least developed countries like Nepal.
Different civil society organisations and experts provided feedback to the ministry on the draft. Of the many issues put forward in Nepal’s revised NDC, it says in section 5, that is Means of Implementation, of the document that the government has committed an unconditional $3.4 billion to meet mitigation targets. An unconditional commitment of $3.4 billion is not justifiable for a country like Nepal. Many least developed and developing countries have made such a commitment under non-conditional provisions only in their first NDC. How can a country like ours meet an unconditional mitigation commitment that puts an additional burden on the country?
First, an unconditional financial commitment under mitigation is against the principles of Equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities of the convention that are stated in the introduction section of the second NDC. This is also the position of the least developed countries group of which Nepal is a member. Finance is a critical strategic response to the climate crisis. The $3.4 billion should be spent on building the resilience of vulnerable communities instead of mitigation actions.
Second, we should not receive climate funds in the form of loans or debt or any form of conditionalities to meet the commitment, which is against the principle of climate justice. It is an injustice to the poor and vulnerable people of Nepal.
Lastly, as Nepal is in the process of graduating from the status of a least developed country, this will have implications on accessing global climate funds under the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Green Climate Fund. The Green Climate Fund has a provision to provide 50 percent of the funds to the least developed countries, small island developing states and Africa which will limit our options.
As Nepal has been taking loans from multilateral development banks for its Covid-19 response and development efforts, we should not be in a position to make an unconditional commitment to meet our NDC. Instead, the government should push the Global North and rich, high-emitting countries to contribute their fair share.
Submitting a revised NDC early does not guarantee resources for the execution of the NDC. When the developed countries, with their key historical responsibility for mitigation as well as delivering the means of implementation to the developing countries under the convention, have not submitted their updated NDCs, it makes no sense for Nepal to submit its more ambitious NDC in haste.
Difficult to realise
In addition, technically, Nepal’s 'second' NDC is applicable only after 2030 as per the Paris Agreement since it has a 10-year timeframe. Only countries like the United States and the Marshall Islands with their five-year NDC timeframe are required to submit their 'second' NDC by the end of the year. Hence, it is an error on Nepal’s part to submit its 'second' NDC.
There are strong external influences in international climate negotiation, while Nepal has failed to build strong grassroots community consultation structures to build political consensus from the bottom up. There should have been sincere consultations at all political levels before submitting such international commitments focusing on unconditional mitigation targets. Without discussing political commitment at the local level, these commitments may be difficult to realise. It will need reconsideration as it will have huge financial repercussions, which Nepal cannot uphold and will be against the spirit of the call for equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
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