Sangam Paudel: Finance seems to be Nepal’s Primary Concern

Nepal’s presence at the COP-24 was officially marked by President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s address to the UNFCCC on the 3rd of December. In line with my hypothesis in the previous post, the President began with issues of disproportionate impacts of climate change. The address painted a bleak picture of Nepal’s economy, her mountains, glacial lakes, river basins, and the impacts of disasters that have been aggravated by climate change; this appeal to the pathos of the audience linked well with the agenda of climate justice. In the president’s words, the Nepalese people felt “penalized for the mistakes [they] never made.” The address, then, proceeded to highlight the importance of climate finance for Nepal in the context of climate justice.

Throughout the week, I could observe that this issue of climate justice and climate finance was at the heart of Nepal’s concerns.

On Dec 4, an event was organized by Japan Water Forum (JWF) and Neighbour Organization Nepal (NEO-Nepal) titled, “Water and Climate: How to Increase Engagement of Private Actor.” The event would showcase the practices of various actors from financial institutions, private sector’s partnership, and NGOs in their respective water sectors. However, the speaker from the Nepali NGO NEO-Nepal was absent from the event. This was the organization’s second absence in 2 days, the first marked by a vacant booth labelled ‘NEO-Nepal’ in the exhibit area on the 3rd of December. Despite this absence, Nepalese observers in the audience made sure that Nepal’s concerns would be heard. Two questions/concerns (paraphrased) were put forward by Nepali observers:

  1. We (Nepal) have a challenge in communicating to the private sector the impact of climate change and the role they can play. How can we create awareness on the private sector so that they can listen and prioritize the issue?
  2. In developing countries like ours, the certification standards that are set by, say WTO policies, act as hindrances in trade and other economic activities. While certification may be a tool that aids sustainability issues, it seems to hamper economic benefits of poor communities.

To answer these concerns, the speakers pointed towards market mechanisms. Corporations will be obliged to listen, and act, when taxes and penalties that are brought forth by environmental regulations are imposed upon them. Thus, climate-friendly approaches are often economically beneficial in the long term, and this should assuage initial concerns about shifting to more sustainable economic activities.

Nepal’s concerns highlighted the financial burden that many actors in the developing world feel with regard to climate-friendly economic activities. The shift from business-as-usual to more climate-friendly methods requires an increase in climate finance flow. The UNFCCC’s ‘2018 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows of the Standing Committee on Finance’ pointed to an encouraging trend of private actor engagement as much of the climate finance growth was observed to have been contributed by high level new private investment in climate goals. However, as UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa pointed out, this scaling up on climate finance must be supported by an urgent scaling down of financing in high emission activities.

Nonetheless, climate finance seems to be growing, and for least developing countries like Nepal, this is a positive prospect. Financial support has been extremely important for LDCs to implement their national adaptation plans (NAPs) and national adaptation programmes of actions (NAPAs). This was highlighted in the UNFCCC Secretariat’s event that presented the works of the LDC Expert Group (LEG) in supporting the LDCs on adaptation, through assistance in accessing funding from the Global Climate Fund (GCF).

As such, it is no surprise that several stakeholders in Nepal have their own concerns regarding climate finance. The active engagement of the Nepalese audience members (mostly youth) with panelists during the side-events is surely a positive sign for future climate change action in Nepal.

In the next post, I will go in more depth on the up-scaling of adaptation actions in Nepal and the role played by financial actors. This role played by financial actors will raise a few questions from the stakeholders (meaning more questions from the concerned Nepalese observers), and I will seek to report the events as they unfold.

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