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FEATURE: Nepal’s score-card at COP18

Dr Tara Nidhi Bhattarai, from IDS-Nepal, discusses how Nepal’s participation in the UNFCCC negotiations reflects the growing confidence and professionalism of the delegation.

The Nepal delegation to COP18 was able to make an effective contribution to the discussions, both on issues directly relevant to Nepal and to the wider debate on climate change.  Credit for this goes to the Government of Nepal, as well as CDKN’s support for the country’s Core Negotiating Team (CNT).

Unlike previous delegations from Nepal, the COP18 delegation went through a much more rigorous preparation process.  A meeting at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE) in mid-November assigned specific topics and responsibilities to specific CNT members.  At the same time an effective coordination mechanism was established for communication between team members, including daily e-mail updates during the negotiations.  Technical support for understanding of issues and formulation of Nepal’s stance was provided through the CDKN project (‘Nepal’s Strategic Engagement with the UNFCCC’) with a Resource Book covering both the basics of the negotiations, and detailed information on Nepal’s priority issues.

Thanks to this ‘spade work’, the Nepal delegation members were able to effectively contribute in discussions and negotiations.  Comparing to the situation of past COPs, where delegates were not assigned any specific tasks, COP18 delegates were comparatively better coordinated, and their expertises were also wisely utilszed providing them with specific responsibilities. This situation enabled Nepalese delegates to contribute with confidence in the issues of their interest,’ noted Dr. Madan Koirala, Member Climate Change Council and one of the Nepal CNT members.

CNT members were able to support government delegates by reviewing and proposing modifications to the various statements and texts delivered by them, e.g. Mr Resham Dangi, Joint-Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation contributed in preparing the draft remarks delivered by Minister Yadubansh Jha in the REDD+ partnership high level session meeting.  CDKN-supported delegates also played an effective role in side events at COP 18, and exchanged views with international counterparts.  It was a learning opportunity for them as well, through participation in various events, availing the exhibition stalls, and meeting with experts in their respective fields.

Nepal itself organised a side-event on ‘Mainstreaming Mountains in the Climate Agenda: The Context of Mountain Initiative and Rio +20’.  The event enabled Nepal to share with international participants its views on the Mountain Initiative, and specifically its proposed work programme for implementation of the Kathmandu Call for Action (KCA) (an important outcome of the International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change held in Kathmandu in April 2012).  In the side event Mr Keshab Bhattarai, Secretary, MoSTE, stressed the urgent need to implement the KCA.  The event confirmed Nepal’s leading role in pursuing the mountain climate agenda in the global arena.

While COP18 represented a major success for Nepal’s participation in international climate change negotiations, it also highlighted areas for further improvement, notably prioritisation of issues and coordination among delegates representing different ministries.  On the former, Mr Sagar Kumar Rimal, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, observed that, ‘Some issues were blown out of proportion by the delegates while others did not receive priority’.

COP18 also brought to the surface some of the underlying challenges Nepal faces getting its demands in the negotiations adopted. As Dr. Arun Rijal, member of the Climate Change Council, noted: “The most important lesson I learnt from the negotiations is that our two neighbours (India and China) have different views on issues of climate change and they have been playing different roles to generate support for their views. In this situation, pushing our interest, which often contradicts theirs, is a big challenge”  

Looking ahead, Nepal has to address these issues and prepare for COP19 – not just to effectively advocate for Nepal’s interests, but also those of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group.   Nepal became Chair of the LDC Group at COP18, for a period of two years from January 2013.  Its appointment as LDC Group Chair is an indication of how far it has come in international climate negotiations.  In preparation for its new role, the Government of Nepal has already reconstituted membership of the national governing body, the Climate Change Council – the new Council also includes one former CNT member.

At a debriefing meeting on COP18, Dr Dinesh Chandra Devkota, former Vice-Chair, National Planning Commission, and a CNT membersummed up the delegation’s achievements and task ahead: Comparing to the past COPs, our preparation is certainly improved in awareness raising, sector wide participation, capacity building in thematic areas, identifying issues to be taken at COPs, constituting core negotiating team, providing training and orientation to the negotiators, and inclusive representation. But we still need to do a lot for the future.’

 Dr. Tara is the Project Coordinator for IDS-Nepal, and managing a CDKN-supported project in Nepal which is providing negotiation support to the Government of Nepal to engage effectively and strategically with the UNFCCC. For more information read the latest project Newsletter

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