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FEATURE: Mountain countries stand united on climate change

The ‘International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change’  organised by the Government of Nepal, 5-6 April 2012, concluded with the adoption of a ten point ‘Kathmandu Call for Action (KCA)’ calling on development partners, the UN system and multilateral organisations to ensure adequate and effective flow of financial resources to the Mountain Countries.

More than 250 participants, from 25 countries, participated in the conference and enjoyed two days of active discussion and debate, with ministers and stakeholders sharing their priorities for climate change and urging Mountain Governments to work together to promote the special needs of mountain regions within the UNFCCC.

The Prime Minister of the Government of Nepal, Dr Baburam Bhattarai addressed the conference and said, “Mountains are great sources of energy, food and biodiversity for billions of people. Recently climate change has however affected mountains disproportionately, making both ecosystems and people’s livelihoods in the regions more vulnerable”…

“But we also should recognise that it offers new opportunities for undertaking alternative development models and more equitable and cleaner global development pathways…with robust global partnership, both north-south and south-south”.

This high profile conference marks a watershed moment for the Government of Nepal and their long campaign to raise awareness of the common interests of Mountain Governments within the UNFCCC.

The KCA delivers a strong message and the widespread media attention that the conference has received, together with the follow up action planned should ensure that this message is heard loud and clear at the international stage.

The headline points from the KCA, include:

  • Urging development partners to support the establishment of dedicated funding arrangements for adaptation and mitigation programmes in Mountain Countries;
  • Encouraging building appropriate incentive mechanisms at various levels to recognise and reward mountain communities for conservation and maintenance of mountain ecosystems services;
  • Promoting research as well as the use of traditional knowledge for sharing, learning and exchange of information and best practices to support science-policy interface and to help find best solutions to climate change challenges;
  • Recognising the high potential of mountain ecosystem services to promote green growth strategies.

However, the overriding message from the conference was the need for Governments to work together to promote a shared agenda on climate change for Mountain Countries. This goes beyond advocating for mountain issues at the UNFCCC, but also the exchange of best practices and experiences, and designing collaborative action.

Qatar’s Minister for Environment, Abdullah Bin Mubarak Bin Ebood Al-Meadadi, who is hosting the next CoP meeting later this year, stressed this point and commended the Government of Nepal for organising the event and providing such a good opportunity to listen to the issues of interest to Mountain Countries.

In his key note speech Dr R.K Pachauri, IPCC chair, also emphasised that no single country can solve the problems caused by climate change. This is a common concern for all human beings and therefore, to fight climate change, collective action in a comprehensive and transparent manner should be considered by all countries.

Hon. Hem Raj Tater, Minister for Environment, Government of Nepal said that the KCA has reaffirmed the spirit of solidarity and cooperation among Mountain Countries to a common cause and he hoped that support from the international community would continue.

The conference has undoubtedly been a great success in terms of bringing Mountain Governments together and starting the process of talking and sharing. However, the test will be in the months ahead and in particular at the upcoming inter-governmental conferences in Rio for the UNCSD and in Bonn and Qatar for the UNFCCC. Mountain Governments need to strategically and collectively engage with these international negotiations to translate the KCA from words to action.

As a climate change expert from Nepal said ‘this is an initial step where people from Mountain regions raise their voice collectively but many things need to be done in order to get  our voices heard at international fora’.

What is clear is that this conference has given the Government of Nepal a new confidence to take forward this issue and be a leader among Mountain Governments. With the right support I am sure they will be able to get mountain issues onto the agenda of the UNFCCC.

*CDKN supported the Government of Nepal to host this conference as part of a project, being implemented by IDS-N that is strengthening their capacity to strategically engage with the UNFCCC.

 Ram Chandra Khanal is CDKN’s  Country Coordinator in Nepal.

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