What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

Nepal close to Carbon Neutral?

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By Om Astha Rai

In 2009, Nepal’s cabinet held a meeting at the Everest base camp to highlight the country’s vulnerability to climate change.

In a reassertion of the fact that Nepal´s contribution to the world´s total greenhouse gas emission is still negligible, a yet-to-be published report states that the Himalayan nation emits less than 0.1 per cent of what scientists say causes climate change.

Nepal´s new report on National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, being finalized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE), confirms that Nepal, the chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emits mere 0.027 per cent of global greenhouse gas emission.

Earlier, when Nepal submitted its first national communication report to the UNFCCC in 1998, its contribution to global emission was jut 0.025. Although the new report shows a slight increase in Nepal´s contribution to global emission, experts say it is still negligible.

“This means that we have done virtually nothing to increase the rate at which the Earth is warming up,” says Prakash Mathema, Chief of the Climate Change Division at the MoSTE. “It gives us more rights to seek financial support from the developed world to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

Mathema adds, “It is an irony that a country, whose role in global emission is virtually non-existent, is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

The report, which is likely to be submitted to the UNFCCC within the next few months as Nepal´s second national communication report, has taken into account just three major greenhouse gases and five major sources of their emissions.

According to Nitesh Shrestha, project manager of ADAPT Nepal, an NGO hired by the MoSTE as a consultant to prepare the country´s new greenhouse gas inventory, only carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emitted from sectors like energy (fossil fuel) consumption, industrial process, agriculture (livestock), land use change (deforestation) and waste generation were taken into account for the report.

As per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines-1996, which were followed to prepare the new inventory, it would be sufficient for the LDC countries to take into account just three major gases emitted from five major sources. The LDC countries also enjoy flexibility in time to prepare the inventory – a reason why Nepal has yet not finalized its second national communication report that was supposed to be submitted to the UNFCCC a couple of years ago.

The new report shows Nepal generated 24,856 Gg (gigagram) greenhouse gas during the period studied for preparation of the inventory. However, with forests sequestrating as much as 12,776 Gg greenhouse gas, Nepal´s net emission stands at just 12,080 Gg. When the first report was prepared, Nepal´s gross emission was 24,525 Gg. As a result of sequestration of 14,778 Gg gas, Nepal´s net emission stood at just 9,747 back then.

A careful analysis of two reports shows a slight decline in forest´s capacity to sequestrate carbon, hinting at rampant deforestation being reported from across the country. Nevertheless, irrespective of how forest´s sequestration capacity seems to have declined between the periods of two reports, the new inventory suggests that Nepal is very close to being carbon-neutral.

Nepal´s new inventory status may not just be a matter of pride. It also reveals how the country´s economy has been stagnant over one and half decade. “Carbon emission increases only when more fossil fuel is consumed,” says Ngamindra Dahal, an expert on climate change. “The fact that Nepal´s carbon emission was more or less the same between the reports of two reports shows how stagnant our economy is.”

Dr Bal Krishna Sapkota, a professor of Environment Science at the Institute of Engineering, says, “If we had gone for green economy and the indicators were same, it could have been a reason to rejoice.”

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Author: Kartikeya

Kartikeya Singh received his Master of Environmental Science degree at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University and a PhD in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy. His research interests include climate change and energy policy and innovation.

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