Transparency in climate actionThere should be quality coverage of the rigorous analysis of Nepal’s climate path.
In the current global discourse surrounding climate change, the focus predominantly centres on securing a stable supply of climate finance for developing nations to facilitate the ambitious climate actions outlined in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). While climate finance is undeniably crucial to achieving these ambitious NDCs to fulfil the Paris Agreement's objectives, it is equally imperative to prioritise transparency and accountability to make tangible progress in implementing them.
Regrettably, there exists a significant information gap concerning climate finance efficiency. Developing nations are not obligated to publish transparency reports regarding the utilisation of climate finance, hindering the tracking of their progress aided by climate funding. Thus, transparency emerges as a cornerstone for the successful execution of the NDCs. In this context, transparency revolves around timely reporting of information pertaining to climate actions, encompassing adaptation, mitigation and climate finance. Specifically, it entails the provision of clear and verifiable information. To galvanise climate actions and aspirations, information regarding the performance of the Paris Agreement's signatories must be comprehensive, comparable and timely.
Scholars have identified three key pathways through which transparency can elevate ambition. Firstly, transparency offers clarity on a nation's performance by monitoring and reporting on its climate goals, thereby holding it accountable for its commitments. Secondly, non-state actors, both domestically and internationally, employ this information to either criticise laggards or laud top performers. Thirdly, national media, civil society organisations and opposition parliamentarians gain the ability to exert pressure on the national government, armed with data detailing their country's climate efforts and pledges.
Non-state actors and the media achieve this by disseminating easily understandable information to the public about the country's commitments and endeavours to fulfil them.
Role of media
To understand the role of the media in holding the government accountable for its climate commitments related to mitigation, I analysed the “Editorial” and “Climate and Environment” news sections of four major national print media (two published in the Nepali language and the other two in English). This analysis encompassed all climate-related news published after Nepal submitted its second NDC in December 2020.
The analysis of the climate and environment-oriented news and editorial sections shows that nearly 64 percent of the news appearing after December 2020 was about the impacts of changing climate (rising temperature and erratic rainfall) on livelihoods, agriculture and mountains of Nepal, followed by the necessity and availability of climate finance, with a focus on loss and damage funds, to achieve the climate goals (16 percent). This makes sense given the vulnerability of Nepal to changing climate. Increasing the awareness of the potential impacts in people’s livelihoods is beneficial as there is little knowledge of climate change among ordinary citizens.
A survey done by UNICEF among youths (ages 15-24) shows that 82 percent shared that they have heard about climate change but only 34 percent of respondents reported that they could explain climate change. People won’t take action unless they understand the change and even if they take actions that might result in maladaptation thus increasing vulnerability.
However, only 15 percent of the coverage was about Nepal’s climate commitments and action. The majority of this coverage was about electric vehicles and Nepal’s potential for hydropower. However, none of these articles mentioned Nepal’s electric vehicles and hydropower-related goals in the NDC. Additionally, there were no articles that discussed the trajectory of Nepal towards its 2030 climate mitigation goals as mentioned in its second NDC.
The analysis confirms that the narrative about climate change in the media is similar to that of politicians, that is, the Nepali people are facing the brunt of the impacts of climate change which they did not cause. Therefore, Nepal needs more climate finance to adapt to the consequences of climate change. Increasing coverage of climate change in recent years in the national media is a positive change, but more needs to be done with quality coverage based on a rigorous analysis of the climate path taken by the government of Nepal.
Role of civil society
Turning our attention to civil society organisations in Nepal, it becomes evident that there is an absence of powerful civil society and environmental organisations capable of holding the government accountable for its NDC promises and climate ambitions. A handful of youth-led environmental organisations, such as Nepalese Youth for Climate Action and Digo Bikash Institute, possess the potential to exert pressure on the Nepal government to transition toward a low-carbon economy. However, thus far, these organisations have not proven sufficiently effective in achieving their intended objectives.
A major issue causing their limited impact is their heavy dependence on unreliable external funding. When climate programmes lack stable financial support, it becomes challenging to sustain ongoing engagement in climate advocacy, a crucial element for successful policy efforts. Moreover, relying on external donors raises concerns about whose interests are being represented. Occasionally, the interests of the funding source may conflict with those of the country, which can be problematic in gaining public trust.
Moreover, despite being membership-based organisations, their grassroots presence lacks the strength required to exert significant pressure on the government. In contrast, prominent environmental organisations in the United States, such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defence Council, wield considerable grassroots power, boasting 3.5 and 2.4 million members, respectively. These organisations in the US can mobilise their grassroots support when the government deviates from its promised objectives. Presently, Nepal lacks similar organisations with a large membership base and a clear agenda to pressure the government to address its inaction.
In conclusion, Nepal’s commitment to address climate change through its NDCs represents a commendable step in the right direction. However, for these commitments to materialise into concrete actions and outcomes, transparency, accountability and public awareness emerge as paramount requisites.
Transparency ensures the effective utilisation of climate finance and holds the government accountable for its commitments. The media plays a pivotal role in shaping the narrative and demanding accountability, while civil society organisations can act as vigilant watchdogs and passionate advocates for climate action.
To succeed in forging a path towards a sustainable, low-carbon future, Nepal must invest in the cultivation of a robust civil society, encourage active media engagement, and prioritise climate education. In doing so, the nation can transcend mere rhetoric and take substantial strides toward realising its climate goals, ultimately safeguarding the well-being of its citizens and the planet for generations to come.
Finally, the Ministry of Forest and Environment should establish an online platform for transparently tracking Nepal's climate goals, including adaptation and mitigation projects, climate finance sources and donors. This platform should employ user-friendly data visualisation techniques to enhance accessibility and information dissemination, rectifying the current dearth of informative content on the webpage of the ministry's Climate Change Management Division.