Nepal’s NDC on climate changeNepal’s nationally determined contribution focuses more on adaptation than mitigation.
The last three decades of the international climate regime have shown positive accomplishments. The establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the goals of mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change, the Kyoto Protocol with legally binding emissions targets for developed countries, the Paris Agreement with a temperature threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (and pursue best efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius), and establishment of the net-zero target are three key milestones of past 30 years of climate change negotiation. However, the current pace of progress is not enough to achieve the ambitious target of 1.5 degrees Celsius set out in the Paris Agreement.
So far, the biggest failure of the international climate regime has been the poor implementation of treaties. Therefore, with the ambitious Paris Agreement in place and the Paris Rulebook nearly completed, the focus now should be on the practical implementation of the agreement. Although no legally binding goal is set for greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), these gases have heat-trapping properties and are responsible for rising global temperature, primarily for political reasons. Parties to the Paris agreement agreed that the agreement would be implemented in a “facilitative, non-adversarial, non-punitive manner and an atmosphere of mutual trust”. So, the success of the Paris Agreement depends on the credibility of the pledges made in nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
NDC is a voluntary and political commitment that represents the proposed efforts by each country to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. NDC includes commitments to reducing emissions of GHGs, actions to adapt to impacts of climate change, and providing necessary financial and technical support to poor countries from developed countries. Nepal submitted its first NDC in 2016 and the second in December 2020. Unlike developed countries, NDC from Nepal focuses more on adaptation than mitigation.
Experience from the first NDC
Notable progress has been made on adaptation-related targets as Nepal developed and implemented timely adaptation policies, such as the local adaptation plan of action (LAPA). Many criticise LAPA for being donor-driven, technocratic, and oblivious to the local context and needs. Nepal’s performance on mitigation-related goals is dismal. This article will focus on targets related to the mitigation of Nepal’s NDC.
Eight of the 14 targets mentioned in Nepal’s first NDC were related to mitigation. Some key mitigation targets included increasing the share of electric vehicles up to 20 percent from the 2010 baseline by 2020, expanding Nepal’s energy mix by focusing on renewables by 20 percent, diversifying energy consumption patterns by 2020, developing an electric rail network by 2040 and maintaining 40 percent of the total area of the country under the forest cover by 2040.
However, Nepal barely accomplished what it intended to achieve by 2020. In 2020, only 0.75 percent of the total vehicles in Nepal were electric, and renewable energy accounted for only 3.2 percent of the total energy produced. One surprising goal in the first NDC was to maintain 40 percent of the total area under forest coverage by 2020, when Nepal already had 44.74 percent of the total area under forest coverage. Though progress has been made, many still question the necessity and feasibility of developing an electric rail network by 2040.
What are in Nepal’s second NDC?
Nepal submitted a more ambitious second NDC intending to reach net zero by 2050 in 2020. Many international organisations have lauded Nepal’s second NDC for its quantifiable targets and sectoral coverage compared to its first NDC, which had limited quantitative information. Nepal’s second NDC has a target of mitigation for short-term (2025) and medium-term (2030) that includes multiple sectors: energy, waste, and agriculture, forestry, and other land use (AFLOU). Many mitigation targets are related to energy, transportation, residential and AFLOU sectors. Implementation of the second NDC is estimated to cost $28.4 billion, nearly 90 percent of Nepal’s GDP.
Nepal aims to expand its electricity generation from approximately 1,400 megawatts to 15,000 megawatts (only 5000 megawatts will be built using national resources) by the end of 2030 and ensure that 15 percent of total energy demand comes from clean energy sources by 2030. Similarly, Nepal intends to boost sales of e-vehicles to cover 90 percent of all private passenger vehicles and 60 percent of all four-wheeler public passenger vehicles by 2030. Additionally, in the residential sector, Nepal plans to ensure that 25 percent of households use electric stoves as their primary cooking mode by 2030 and install an additional 200,000 household biogas plants by 2025. Finally, in the AFLOU sector, Nepal aims to maintain 45 percent of the total area of the country under forest cover by 2030.
However, an important point to note here is that many mitigation-related targets of Nepal are conditional. That said, Nepal would achieve the targets only if it received financial, technological, and capacity-building support from international actors, including global funds such as Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility, and other bilateral and multilateral agencies. Analysing the first NDC of Nepal, one research found that few actions have been taken in setting up institutions, including policies, programmes, and budgets to achieve those targets. Therefore, it would not be misleading to state that Nepal’s first and second NDCs were formulated to full its obligation as a party to the Paris Agreement and get international funds in the name of adaptation and mitigation without full ownership of those targets.
There are a lot of criticisms that NDC’s targets were set without much scientific evidence and rigorous analysis. For example, maintaining 44 percent of the total area of the country under forest coverage when Nepal has already achieved that target. Similarly, agriculture contributes to nearly 69 percent of total GHGs emissions, but there is no emission reduction target specific to agriculture in NDC.
Since the 1.5 degrees Celcius goal of the Paris Agreement depends on the combined efforts of all the parties to the Paris Agreement, each party needs to be transparent about its actions and reporting of its progress. Nepal is also responsible for fulfilling this greater global goal that determines the well-being of future generations.
Nepal has a good history of ability to formulate policies but a poor record of implementation. Therefore, the government needs to develop robust implementation and monitoring mechanisms to increase the credibility of Nepal’s position in the international climate community and achieve its ambitious pledges. To achieve this, the government should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and ensure efficient coordination between state and non-state actors. It is also necessary to tap the potentiality of the universities in tracking the progress of NDC and increasing the capacity of relevant national stakeholders through research and development.