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Where does climate change figure in manifestos?

Anushka Nepal

Anushka Nepal

Where does climate change figure in manifestos?

Will parties follow through on their climate pledges in their manifestos, or are we being set up for another disappointment?

One of the most concerning issues for Nepal right now is climate change and every anomaly that comes attached to it. The weather is uncertain, several lands remain barren, and most of all, pollution has gone off the charts.

With the federal election coming up, the public does expect to see some mention of climate change and ways of addressing its effect in parties’ manifestos.

True, this time, there are a lot of changes that could be seen in the politics of Nepal. After the win of Balen Shah, several independent candidates have decided to run in the federal election. And new parties like the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), which have promised to eschew the old political culture, have gained considerable limelight.

But none of these candidates or parties—both new and old—have nuanced and informed views on climate change and addressing its impacts. While several of these parties and candidates have committed to working on these issues in case of winning the election, most of those commitments are either surficial or far-fetched, say the experts.

Talking about impracticality, when analyzing the manifesto of the RSP, some of their promises seem impossible to follow through.

“They have mentioned putting a zero tax on electric vehicles (EV), which is impossible, as it is one of the sources for our revenues,” says Vijay Kant Karna, a political analyst.

Bhushan Tuladhar, environmentalist, echoes Karna’s sentiment. He says that with that big of a change, the country will have to work on making proper roads suitable for EV, a proper supply of electricity, feasible workshops, and most of all, enough charging stations.

“It is too much to do at once,” he says. “They could have instead promised to raise the tax on fossil-fuel run vehicles to encourage people to buy EVs and gradually move up the ladder than do everything at once.”

The party has further mentioned establishing a Sewage Treatment Plant which will be used to clean up the sewage coming from every household, and also mandate every manufacturing industry to establish a chemical waste treatment center before the industrial waste is dumped into the river.

Though the plan is good and can be realized, Karna says, he is worried about the age-old tendency of Nepali political parties and their leaders reneging on the election promises made to their voters.

Established parties like the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, and CPN (Maoist Center) have barely scratched the surface of climate issues on their manifestos.

Congress has promised to work on making Nepal net zero by 2045. But that is already a global commitment made by Nepal.

“Why not commit to something that could be addressed within the next five years?” says Karna.

The commitments made by the UML and the Maoists are similar and perfunctory in nature, lacking in imagination. Both parties talk about nature and environmental protection.

“If you study their manifestos, these parties are using heavy words and hollow jargons to deceive voters,” says Bishnu Dahal, political analyst.

Many experts are critical of the political parties regarding their climate change pledge because of their decision to cut down almost 2.4m trees in the name of building an international airport in Nijgadh, which is a home for sati sal trees dating back to 400 years.

Had the tree felling plan gone ahead, it would have resulted in the loss of several rare flora and fauna, causing an irreversible disturbance in the ecosystem.

“How do we believe that they are pro-nature and pro-environment protection when they made a conscious decision to destroy the forest in Nijgadh?” asks Karna.

The parties have also failed to address the closest matter at hand: reducing pollution in the capital city.

“Going through all these manifestos, what disappoints me the most is that none of them have mentioned a single thing about dealing with the pollution even in the capital city,” says Dahal.

While the RSP  does state that they will be coordinating with India to prevent inland pollution issues, Tuladhar says their priority should be reducing pollution in Kathmandu.

Climate expert Madhukar Upadhya says, “If the parties were so concerned about the environment, why is there no mention of promoting ropeways instead of roads?”

A study done by Ropeway Nepal shows that Nepal has the capacity to cater up to 2,000 ropeways, which would cost much cheaper than making a highway on the same route. Feasibility tests have been done on 62 of those possibilities, but Nepal only has five operational ropeways for human transportation and somewhere around a dozen gravity ropeways for goods’ transportation. With this potential, Nepal could easily shift to a ropeway system, which would decrease the use of fossil fuel-run transportation at an affordable cost.

“But none of the parties have done any research on mitigating the climate change effect,” says Upadhya. “They have used climate change as an excuse to make their manifestos a bit more fancy.”

Dahal agrees with Upadhya. “These manifestos are highfalutin, flights of fancy, utterly removed from reality.”

Dahal says that parties are more focused on having the same solution for the many impacts of climate change.

“Our country is geologically diverse. Solutions that work in the Tarai might not fit for the problem in the hill or the mountain regions.”

Upadhya says the parties have not consulted experts or relied on research papers to come up with climate pledges in their manifestos. “These are uninformed pedestrian strategies.”

Karna goes on to venture that the parties do not have any knowledge about climate change.

Meanwhile, Tuladhar remains cautiously optimistic.

“There is at least the mention of the terms like ‘climate’ and ‘nature protection’, which you would not find in past election manifestos,” he says. “We could still expect some change if the political parties actually work on some of the practical commitments they have mentioned.”

Key points on parties’ manifesto regarding climate change 

Nepali Congress

  • Will work on the global commitment of achieving net zero carbon by 2045 and a roadmap of the green economy will be developed
  • Will establish Climate Change Research Center

CPN-UML

  • Will work on forest and environment protection
  • Will ensure policies for climate adaptation and disaster management

CPN-Maoist Center

  • Will formulate rules for nature protection and climate change effects’ mitigation
  • Will create an environment-friendly sustainable infrastructure in the rural areas

Rastriya Swatantra Party 

  • Will imply zero tax on electric vehicle
  • Will research for alternatives to plastic