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Himalayan countries urge for measures to secure mountain communities’ climate resilience

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4 Aug 2021
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Himalayan countries urge for measures to secure mountain communities’ climate resilience

Himalayan countries urge for measures to secure mountain communities’ climate resilience

04 August 2021

By Laxman Datt Pant – DevelopmentAid Journalist in South Asia

The eight Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) countries have sounded the alarm over the increasing vulnerability of mountain communities towards climate change events and have called for aligned measures to enable them to become resilient and carbon-neutral societies by 2030. The HKH countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Viewed as “the pulse of the planet”, the HKH region covers 4 million sq. kilometers and is home to 240 million people living in the mountains while ensuring the livelihoods of another 1.65 billion living downstream. Roughly speaking, the region ensures the food security of almost one-third of humanity. The HKH also ranks second after the Polar region in terms of ice reserves, being the main source for 10 major Asian river systems. However, with a rise in temperature of 1.5-degree Celsius scenario, Himalayan glaciers are projected to lose one-third of their volume by the end of this century while an increase in temperature and changes in precipitation patterns have already negatively impacted mountain communities.

Against this backdrop, the HKH High-Level Task Force, the delegates of the national focal points of the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCC) as well as representatives of the presidency of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) have called for “ambitious climate actions” to secure resilient and carbon-neutral HKH societies by 2030, according to a press statement issued after their meeting at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

“Most HKH countries have contributed the least to global warming, but are the most vulnerable to its impacts. They have developed their climate change policies intelligently, but the lack of financial and technological resources and capacity constraints don’t allow them to implement their mitigation and adaptation policies,” said Muhammad Irfan Tariq, Director General, Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan.

The official noted that Pakistan was already facing “a deficit of resilient and high-value mountain products and services like dairy, meat, crops, and horticulture”.

Rohullah Amin, Director for Climate Change at the National Environmental Protection Agency of Afghanistan, pointed out that the mean annual temperature in the country has seen an increase of 1.8°C since 1950 while the corresponding average for the HKH region is 1°C.

Bhutan’s economy has already been affected as it “is totally dependent on the climate-sensitive sectors – agriculture being one example”, Tshering Tashi, Chief of Climate Change Division of the National Environment Commission in Bhutan noted.

Communities in the HKH region, especially women, indigenous peoples, and socially disadvantaged groups, are more impacted severely by climate change due to their low adaptive capacity, Radha Wagle, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Environment of Nepal, said at the event.

Commenting on the transboundary nature of climate-triggered issues, Pema Gyamtsho, Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, pointed out the need for a regional approach supported by international financial and technical support to complement local and national efforts.

“There are many things that a country can do better on its own, but there are also several areas where we can do better as a region and, I believe, addressing the challenges posed by climate change is one of them,” he said.

The participants at the meeting agreed to raise a collective voice on behalf of the mountain regions at COP26, due to take place in October-November in Glasgow, to scale up investment in mountain-specific climate priorities.

“In this decade of climate action and ecosystem restoration – the eight HKH countries, which share a common mountain ecosystem, can cooperate and set an example for others to follow. COP26 is a big opportunity for the HKH community to bounce back and move forward into a resilient, sustainable and inclusive world,” said Jigmet Takpa, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change in India.

The six key areas for investment identified by the delegates include nature-based solutions, a resilient mountain infrastructure, resilient mountain enterprises, resilient labor markets, shock-responsive social protection systems, and climate-responsive financial systems.

SOURCE: DEVELOPMENT AID

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