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OPINION: How far has climate change been mainstreamed in development policy in Nepal?

Nepal, a mountainous country with a climate sensitive economy is at high risk of climate change impacts. Rising temperatures, increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and incidents of droughts have varied but significant effects on the economic development of key sectors, such as agriculture, hydropower and tourism.

The observed and ‘likely to happen’ consequences of climate change have attracted the Government of Nepal’s attention and over the last five years there have been many promising new initiatives and institutional reforms.

For example, the Government constituted the Climate Change Council under the chairpersonship of the Prime Minister in 2009, endorsed the Climate Change Policy in 2011, adopted the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in 2010 and framework for Local Adaptation Plan of Actions in 2011. In 2010 a Climate Change Management Division under the Ministry of Environment (currently Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment) was established and two years later the Climate Change Budget Code was approved.  Further, the National Planning Commission prepared a tool for climate resilient planning which mainstreams adaptation to climate change into the planning process.

All these endeavors have to some extent influenced the planning process and promoted the concept of climate compatible development. The Approach Paper of the Thirteenth Plan (2013/14 -2015/16) adopted a key national strategy that says, “The implementation of development programs will be climate compatible”. This is a very important and bold commitment from the side of the Government of Nepal. However, there are a number of steps that need to be taken for such a policy directive to be adopted and implemented across sectors.

In some sectors the high-level strategy has been translated into more concrete policies and actions.

  • In the hydropower sub-sector, the previous 3-year interim plan (2007/8 -2009/10) stated that new projects should be environmentally friendly and adapted to the changing climate. The current 13th plan makes it now compulsory that the impacts of climate change are considered when developing large hydropower projects. This new compulsory requirement is a great leap forward from a general environmental impact assessment.
  • In the irrigation sub-sector, the previous plan loosely promised that the study, design and implementation of irrigation infrastructure projects would be environment friendly and climate compatible. However, the current plan very clearly emphasises the mainstreaming of climate change and disaster management related concerns while formulating, implementing and operating irrigation infrastructures.

Despite the above policy and institutional developments, there is no denying that we still observe an ad-hoc and very fragmented approach to addressing climate change issues. Climate compatible development has now become a major development strategy of Nepal but implementation and turning policy to action remains a challenge.

However, the progress that has been made should be recognised. It has not happened overnight, but is the result of efforts made by primarily local actors but learning from global best practice.

One of the major driving forces in further progress in this area could be a study we are completing on the “Economic Impact Assessment of Climate Change in Key Sectors in Nepal”. Since March 2012 this project has been steered by the MoEST in partnership with the National Planning Commission, Ministry of Finance and other concerned ministries, supported by CDKN and with technical inputs from IDS Nepal, PAC Nepal and GCAP.

The primary objectives of this project are to (i) provide headline and sectoral estimates of the impacts and economic costs of climate change for key sectors in Nepal (the agriculture and water sectors), and (ii) provide a ranking of climate compatible development options to address the risks identified in these areas.  Through these outputs the aim is to influence national policies towards further mainstreaming climate change concerns in development initiatives and thus creating a sustainable base for climate compatible development.

The project has employed a consultative and participatory approach by involving concerned government officials and other key stakeholders throughout the process of the study. The Government hosted all project activities and consultations, the project’s knowledge products are on their website, and in the kick-off meeting for the project Secretaries from both the MoSTE and NPC committed to use the results.   The Government’s ownership over the process is ensuring that it will be rooted in their concerns and priorities, and will ultimately be used.

Through initiatives like this, which are involving officials and stakeholders from across Government and sectors an institutional environment is being created which supports mainstreaming of climate change into development planning. In time I am confident that Nepal will be seen as a leader internationally in this agenda.


The author, Dr Govinda Nepal, is affiliated and associated with major financial and development organization such as- National Planning Commission, Institute for Policy Research and Development, Nepal Economic Association, National Integrated College. At present he is the Professor of Economics in Patan Multiple Campus and also supervises PhD Thesis in Monetary Policy.


Picture courtesy: The Karnali River in Nepal, shot by filippo_jean, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license


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