The effects of climate change are visible all across Nepal: the melting glaciers, drastic changes in rainfall patterns accompanied by unseasonal floods and landslides, thick smog in cities, loss of crops, new diseases. Yet the country does a poor job of making its case before the global community, largely because it lacks robust data to back its anecdotal claims. Thus while the likes of Bhutan and Bangladesh, two of its South Asian neighbors, have been able to garner global attention thanks to their data-driven approach, Nepal’s cries for help in dealing with climate change continue to fall on deaf ears.
During the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Nepal made common cause with other Least Development Countries (LDCs) and highlighted how these countries suffer disproportionately from a changing climate even though their own carbon footprints are negligible. The group also made an impassioned plea for greater resources to fight climate change in their midst. But the rich countries—also the ones with the biggest carbon footprints—were noncommittal. They were reluctant to make financial commitments to amend for their historical wrongs or to help other countries deal with climate change.
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At COP26, Nepal also highlighted the growing vulnerabilities of those living in mountainous areas and linked a spate of recent natural disasters here to a fast-changing climate. It committed to getting to ‘net zero’ (whereby a country sucks up more carbon than it emits) by 2045, five years earlier than its prior commitment of 2050. The problem is that both its pleas and commitments are likely to be ignored. Again, the problem is lack of research and our tendency to commit without enough homework.
As the effects of climate change become pronounced, Nepal will have to be more adept in making its case, or it will be no more than a bystander in global climate negotiations. This will mean potential loss of billions of dollars that could otherwise have gone into cleaning up our own environment and resettling and rebuilding communities most affected by climate change. A poor, naturally-vulnerable country does not have that luxury.