Green Mountain Economy
Dr. Dinesh C. Devkota
The concept of “green economic growth” aims at reconciling the goals of low-carbon and sustainable development with other desired outcomes such as job creation, poverty reduction and economic growth which are all part of the Government of Nepal’s (GoN) vision of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. It is also an acceptable solution to the growing threat of climate change.
Nepal is currently revising its nationally determined contribution (NDC) by building adequate and necessary synergy and complementarities with the National Adaptation Plan (NAP). It should be within the leadership of the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Forests and Environment with a multi-stakeholders and consultative approach to align this emerging new agenda, as per the new Constitution, with the central, provincial and local governments with the priority of promoting clean, green and mountain friendly development aspects of the entire country’s mountain, hill and Terai.
Science-based understanding of mountain climate is very important in the Nepali context. Mountains in Nepal show varied climatic conditions ranging from subtropical in the valleys to the alpine and tundra in the high altitudes. These mountains provide multiple climatic conditions to support over 118 ecosystems, 75 vegetation types and 35 types of forests, which make the country unique in terms of biological heritage. Almost half of the country’s three million people live in the hills and mountains that have climates ranging from subtropical to temperate. Temperature records show an increase in the temperature by about 0.06 degree Celsius per year with higher rate of change at higher altitudes than at the lower altitudes. Because of the mountain topography, the observed changes in temperature are not uniform and hence the impacts are as varied as the landscape (MoE, 2010).
Observation made in India during the last 50 years show that the monsoon is weakening over the period. The precipitation trend that we see in Nepal is so unstable that it seldom represents the trend over the hills. However, the short duration rainfall has increased with higher intensity. The gap between two events has also increased changing the local water cycle, which has led to loss of water springs in places. Such changes are not indicated by rainfall records, which only show total annual rain but do not show significant change in the amount of rain.
Recent studies on the leadership of GoN found that the recent changes in the climate are already leading to impacts on local communities. These are magnifying existing inequalities among groups in society, with distributional differences by area and by gender. Nepal is therefore not adequately adapted to the current climate – the country has a large existing adaptation deficit which is a priority for early action. The economy of Nepal and the livelihoods of its people are very dependent on the climate: a large proportion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is associated with climate-sensitive activities. An indicative analysis of the impacts of climate change on water-induced disasters at the national level estimates that the additional average expected annual direct cost could be equivalent to 0.6–1.1 per cent of current GDP by mid-century (over and above existing damages), with an upper estimate of almost 3 per cent. (IDS-Nepal, PAC and GCAP 2014).
Today, it is also equally important and urgent to increase the awareness and understanding of the same among the stakeholders mainly political decision makers, all national development actors and international support development partners on mountain-specific climate vulnerabilities and the urgent need for mountain-specific adaptation, mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs. Recognition of the contributions of the mountain ecosystem services in enhancing food, energy, water and livelihood security and potential for harnessing them to achieve sustainable development goals and the Paris Agreement are also needed with the broader economic and environmental values of the mountain ecosystem goods and services, especially water and biodiversity, in supporting adaptation measures and efforts to build resilience in both upstream and downstream regions.
It is very important to design the strategic programmes towards a vision of fast, sustainable, inclusive and climate compatible economic growth trajectory that emphasises effective and efficient use of the country’s natural, human, institutional and social capital while ensuring that country’s renewable natural resources continue to provide livelihood support for present and future generations of Nepalese people. Given Nepal’s vast renewable resources especially water, forests, and energy, the three major pillars of mountain economy-based green growth strategy are: a) sustainable natural resources/natural capital development b) promotion of low carbon economic growth and climate resilience plans and programmes; and c) social and gender inclusive growth that empower women and other disadvantaged groups in the Nepalese society. These three pillars are equally important.
The Mountain green economy, in the context of Nepal’s economy, should aim to achieve sustainable development through sustained management of mountain-based environment and natural resources without harming Nepal’s fragile mountain environment and reducing climatic risks and hazards to mountain ecosystems and society. It is based on environment friendly economic development policies and plans but has a more mountain ecosystem services focused growth strategies aimed at harnessing Nepal’s rich and proven renewable natural resources especially, water, clean energy, natural products such as non-timber forest products (e.g. medicinal and aromatic plants) and mountain or eco-tourism. The current economic development model should be revisited which have led to: a) decline in quantity or quality of environmental services, b) wasteful use of natural resources, c) food insecurity and persistent poverty, d) degradation of ecosystem functions and processes, e) high carbon emissions, and f) high climatic variability, risks and hazards including increasing natural disasters.
Addresses alarming impacts of global and regional climate change through climate resilient economic strategies and options based on the wise use of mountain resources especially water, forest, agriculture and tourism reduces environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Such low carbon emitting approaches are understood by Nepal as green mountain economic development approaches (GMEDA). Such approaches can protect rich mountain ecosystems and conserve Nepal’s globally recognised biological diversity by linking protection and conservation efforts to gainful livelihoods, affordable health services, clean energy access and eco-tourism based economy making Nepal’s climate change adaption, mitigation and disaster risk reduction programmes more sustainable and successful in reducing carbon footprints and help Nepal fulfill its obligation towards its people.
It is the need for today’s Nepal’s development to create an enabling environment to strengthen and guide its institutional and governance framework as per the new Constitution on priorities and strategies for the implementation of the mountain economy, green growth and carbon compatible sustainable development goals. The ultimate aim should be to achieve the prosperous development agenda of Nepali people which is also our obligation – as a signatory – towards implementing and achieving the Paris Climate Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
(Dr. Devkota is a visiting professor at TU and former Vice Chair of the National Planning Commission)