#Nagarik Sambad

'16th five-year plan to have separate chapter on climate change'

Published On: February 22, 2024 08:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

#Climate change is not part of diplomacy in Nepal

#Debt-Swap should be demanded for Melamchi Drinking Water Project

It has been almost seven decades since planned development began in Nepal. To date, Nepal has implemented 15 periodic plans, and the draft of the 16th Plan is currently in the final stages of preparation. This five-year plan is set to commence from the next fiscal year.

With time and context, our developmental priorities have also changed.

Given the significant impact of climate change on our development efforts, livelihoods, economy, and the future of the next generation, it is imperative that the  issue get prioritized in our long-term planning. Against this backdrop, Republica facilitated a discussion on the 16th plan and climate change. The participants included Dr Prabhu Budhathoki, a member of the National Planning Commission; Bimala Rai Paudel, a member of the National Assembly and former Minister for Foreign Affairs; and climate expert Raju Pandit Chhetri. The discussion was moderated by Republica journalist Shree Ram Subedi.


Raju Pandit Chhetri, Climate Change Expert

Climate change has become a serious problem across the world and Nepal is not an exception. As Nepal has seen various problems like floods, landslides and glacier melting, there is great interest in how the climate change agenda will be included in the 16th Periodic Plan.

During the seven decades of planned development in Nepal, our priorities have mostly been focused on poverty alleviation, education, health and infrastructure development.

For the first time, the issue of environmental sustainability found a place in the 15th plan  in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

With the unfolding climate crisis, and with the experience of the 15th Plan, climate change should get special importance in the 16th plan. Similarly, in the last many years, we have made special commitments to the international community relating to climate change adaptation, mitigation and  climate friendly development. These commitments should be reflected in our upcoming 16th Periodic Plan, to make sure they are implemented. 

While addressing climate change, our planning should encompass both the current challenges we face and those that may arise in the future. This can be approached from three perspectives. Firstly, issues that demand immediate action should be incorporated into the annual plan and budget. Secondly, a mid-term strategy should be devised to fulfill the objectives of the five-year plan and set a direction for future endeavors. Lastly, we must anticipate and plan for challenges that could emerge over the coming decades.

During the initial stages of drafting the 16th Periodic Plan, there were concerns that climate issues were not being sufficiently addressed. However, discussions have since progressed towards dedicating a separate chapter to climate change and expanding its scope, which is a positive development. Organizations such as the Climate and Development Dialogue (C&D Dialogue) have been advocating such changes, and it appears the government is receptive to these recommendations.

While formulating the 16th Periodic Plan, it is crucial to ensure that development investments are environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly. The Nepal Rastra Bank has introduced a document termed Green Taxonomy, which is currently under discussion. This document aims to guide whether the nation's economy as a whole will adopt green practices. It underscores the need for all investments in Nepal to be both environmentally and climate-friendly.

Climate finance matters

As we prepare the next five-year plan, it is necessary to evaluate the previous plans and review the past experience. It should be seen whether the plans of the past have been implemented, or whether the expected results have been achieved. If success was not achieved, we should find out what was responsible - the budget or other structural reasons. However, we don’t have the practice of evaluating our previous plans.

For example, in the 15th plan, it is said that at least 460 out of 753 local governments will make climate change adaptation plans. But only one-third have hardly made such a plan. Similarly, the plan stated that 90 percent of schools will cover climate change curriculum in education, but that has not happened yet.

Therefore, having the plans in the document does not necessarily mean they will be implemented.

Despite this, the documents, programs, and policy plans developed by the Nepal government in recent years regarding climate change are commendable. I believe that the forthcoming 16th plan will also be robust. However, its implementation requires adequate resources and means. Addressing climate change should not solely depend on external support and resources; we don’t have that luxury. Climate related disasters have significantly impacted agriculture and people's livelihoods, which must be urgently addressed.

The Government of Nepal should allocate as much of its internal resources as possible to this sector. Simultaneously, efforts should be made to secure external assistance to supplement these resources. It is crucial to explore the opportunities available in climate finance globally, including specific climate finance windows, multilateral financing institutions, and bilateral cooperation, among others. However, securing funds is only part of the solution; their effective utilization is equally important - an area in which we are currently lacking. Thus, in addition to financial resources and infrastructure, we must also consider our capacity for effective implementation.

Energy transformation is urgent

COP-28 has given a clear message that there is no future for fossil fuels, stressing transformation. It has also directed countries to stop using coal. Not only that, the conference also said that the alternative is renewable energy and we should invest more in it. Similarly, it has also announced to increase the renewable energy capacity by three times.

As a country that is a party to the Paris Agreement, we should also find a solution to the problem by making NDC or by embracing the sustainable development goals related to renewable energy.

Let’s look at the statistics. Last year, Nepal imported diesel worth Rs 155 billion and petrol worth Rs 70 billion. We have been importing Rs 61 billion barrels of LP gas. We imported aviation fuel worth Rs 30 billion. Similarly, We imported coal worth Rs 10 billion last year.

Thus, on the one hand, we have said that Nepal is rich in renewable energy, but on the other hand, the practice of using fossil  fuel continues unabated.

We have said that the sale of electric vehicles will reach 90 percent of the total sales by the year 2030, and we have also said that we will generate 15,000 megawatts of hydropower by the year 2030.

Examining both aspects, it seems we are on the right track, but not moving at the pace required.

The production and consumption of energy are both crucial. Currently, our energy production stands at 2,600 megawatts, yet 70 percent of our energy consumption still relies on biomass. On the one hand, we advocate the use of electric stoves, but the electricity available to the average household is neither reliable nor accessible, and the infrastructure cannot support it.

The push towards e-cooking and e-vehicles, which rely on electricity, cannot succeed without proper planning for domestic consumption. Therefore, we must focus on energy consumption as much as we focus on production. Additionally, aiming to export solely to India could lead to another set of challenges.

From the climate change perspective, Nepal must find a way to become energy independent, sustainable, and self-reliant in green energy.

The situation of having to import fossil fuel worth Rs 335 billion every year should be changed. The saved amount can be spent on education and health.

So both domestic energy production and consumption should be  prioritized. This is also a part of sustainable development and the 16th plan should address this clearly.

Debt swap for Melamchi

Our study revealed that an individual house in Melamchi sustained damages valued at Rs 6.5 million. This figure represents only the financial loss; non-financial losses have also occurred. Over the past 25 years, we have secured half a billion US dollars for the Melamchi Water Supply Project.

Reports authored by the Asian Development Bank experts acknowledged climate change as a contributing factor to the Melamchi incident. In this context, Nepal should demand a debt swap for Melamchi loans. As a developing nation and climate change vulnerable country, Nepal should embrace the concept of debt swaps for adaptation and loss and damage. Other countries have already initiated such measures.

Through this mechanism, instead of repaying the amount borrowed from the ADB for the Melamchi project, the same fund could be redirected toward the flood-affected local communities and the project itself. We must pursue this financing mechanism proactively. Without it, securing additional loans for Melamchi will become inevitable.

Dr Bimala Rai Paudyal, Member of National Assembly, Former Foreign Minister

Our contribution to climate change is insignificant. However, we are highly vulnerable when it comes to experiencing the impacts of climate change. Climate change has also adversely affected our economic development. Currently, climate change results in the loss of almost three percent of our Gross Domestic Productions(GDP). This is a huge economic loss.

Likewise, climate change has a very negative impact on our social development. In many cases, the whole village has been displaced due to the scarcity of drinking water. Climate change has also caused a big loss in biodiversity. Many areas in Nepal are experiencing floods and landslides. In Melamchi, which was affected by floods, restoration and reconstruction work are still pending.

Climate change has not only impacted economic development but also affected social development and human resource development. This has influenced food security, animal husbandry, and agricultural production.

Rising temperatures have directly contributed to the emergence of new diseases, impacting public health. While some progress has been made in renewable energy production, including hydropower, the challenge lies in sustaining them in the future, in the wake of climate change.

Tourism is an important basis for Nepal's development. However, the tourists who visit Nepal to see snow, may hesitate to come to Nepal when there is no snow on the Nepali mountains.  

In this way, whatever we have achieved in the past or whatever we wish to achieve in future, all  seem to be directly affected by climate change. In this way, climate change has become the most important issue and a big threat for Nepal. Our forefathers used to say that 'fetching water in a bamboo basket is all in vain’. Now climate change has become like that bamboo basket. In such a situation, no matter how much development is done, it seems to leak. 

Some time ago, Antonio Guterres, the General Secretary of the United Nations (UN) visited Nepal and globalized Nepal's climate issue. Well, it is not just Nepal's agenda; it has become the world's agenda. This also presents an opportunity for Nepal.

In this context, the 16th plan should look at two ways.

We should pay attention to what kind of contribution we can make to climate change mitigation, even if it is on a small scale. Similarly, the plan to minimize the negative effects of climate change should be focused.

We should focus our attention on making agriculture development climate-friendly, adapting smart agriculture, addressing, minimizing, and adapting to the impact on energy and public health. Thus, we should analyze every sector and area we plan from the perspective of climate change and make it climate-change-friendly.

In the same way, we must be prepared to face the big disasters that may arise in the future to minimize the effects of climate change. In this way, to solve the climate crisis, on the one hand, this issue should be prioritized and on the other hand, separate and special programs should be brought to deal with it.

While drafting the 16th plan, we should remember that our previous policies and programs are also effective. We have a climate change policy which clearly mentions the need to address the impact of climate change on agriculture. But the agriculture policy does not recognize the climate change policy. Similar is the case with energy policies.

This demonstrates a lack of uniformity and coherence in our  different policies.

Also, we have seen that the policies do not get incorporated into the annual program. If  the annual program is made, the same is omitted from the budgetary provisions. The 16th plan should address this issue.

In the wake of climate change, we  may need paddy seed varieties that can be grown even in dry weather. The Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), which the government has entrusted with the responsibility of agriculture research, has an important role in this.

When NARC developed such seeds and aired the same news in Radio, the farmers went to the district-based agriculture knowledge centers only to find that the seeds had not reached the district. The farmers were told , 'Oh, we have no idea.’ Such practices will do us no good.

There is a lack of inter-sectoral coordination in our policies. Climate change should be mainstreamed and accepted as a pertinent issue.

In such a situation, the policy adopted by one sector has to be followed and recognized  by the other. What you want to do should be expressed in the program, budget and human  resource development. Therefore, attention should be paid to whether the 16th plan has policy coherence. If this is not done, the previous mistakes will be repeated again.

Climate change is not included in  diplomacy

Climate change has not yet become a matter of diplomacy. We have given support to only one ministry within the country to hold climate talks in the international arena. And the same ministry is always going to speak at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) or other forums. Climate change has not become the subject of the foreign ministry. Therefore, this important issue must be made a matter of diplomacy.

In the past year, Nepal has experienced major climate-related damages. Melamchi is one example. We haven't been able to provide evidence to support that the Melamchi flood was a result of climate change. We should demand compensation, with sufficient evidence. Even after three years since the devastation caused by the floods, the affected individuals still haven't received adequate relief. Instead of relying on assistance from abroad, we need to address this issue in our own country's annual policies and programs. Unfortunately, we are not prioritizing such climate-related disasters in our own agendas. We we need to address the weaknesses within our own homes, which the 16-point plan can provide. This is an opportunity for us.

This, however, does  not mean that we do not need external assistance and financial aid to deal with climate disasters.  

While seeking external sources, the government can collaborate with competent experts to explore and partner with non-governmental organizations to work together.

Another challenge in this regard is that it takes years to bring climate change projects and climate  finance. Improvement is needed in this aspect.

If there are competent organizations other than the government, they too can develop projects and this should be encouraged. Collaboration is essential. The government alone cannot do everything; the existing non-government organizations must be mobilized. 

We know that 80 percent of global warming is attributed to the use of fossil fuel. We should take every measure to reduce it at home. This will contribute to economic, social and health benefits.

We have so much renewable energy potential, yet we spend so much money importing fossil fuel. This import needs to be reduced. 

I have been in the National Assembly for six years now, and I've heard a lot about plans to establish 10 charging stations on the ring road of the capital city, but I haven't seen them built yet. Additionally, I have searched for charging facilities to charge my electric vehicle within the Singha Durbar area, but there is no charging service available. I have been raising my voice in the National Assembly about the need to use electric vehicles on Singha Durbar premises, but it seems difficult to accomplish.

When it is said that revenue increases when importing petrol and diesel and vehicles running on such fuel, it is momentary selfishness. This is not a solution for long-term development. It is not a sustainable action. Therefore, if we can focus on how to increase the use of electricity and other renewable energy in the 16th plan. By doing so, we can replace imports.

We must look at long-term benefits, not temporary ones.

Dr Prabhu Budhathoki,Member, National Planning Commission

The most important aspect is that when a problem arises, the solutions also rise in response. Climate change has been a global issue for the past 20-25 years. Since many people started to understand and acknowledge this issue, it started receiving serious attention.

During the preparation of the 16th five-year plan, efforts were being made to look at this issue with importance from the beginning. It was envisioned to formulate concrete programs on climate change and undertake various actions accordingly. However, it took some time to incorporate this into a separate chapter. Individuals who are knowledgeable and passionate about this topic emphasized its significance. For that, I would like to express my gratitude to them.

In the context of preparing to incorporate climate change as a separate chapter in the 16th plan, it is necessary to mainstream this issue and include climate change adaptation in the plans with due importance. In this context, it is seen that all stakeholders working in the field of climate change need to put even more effort into mainstreaming climate change adaptation in the future and collaborate to achieve results.

Climate change needs to be mainstreamed

In this context, it is imperative to move forward by integrating three key topics. Firstly, it is crucial to address how institutions are to be established. Secondly, ensuring budgetary allocations is crucial. And thirdly, developing capacity is equally important. Combining these three topics in the planning process is vital for our preparedness. 

If this is possible, then not only in the realm of climate change but also in other development areas, such thinking can be effective. Overall, I am confident that climate-friendly institutions, programs and budgets will be included in the 16th plan.

Climate financing or seeking external assistance is not a new concept. It is not something that cannot be accomplished. We are prioritizing climate finance in the 16th plan. This assistance from external sources also supports the country's budget. For this, discussions have been initiated on three aspects.

First, we need to assess our own internal capacity. It is essential to assess it accurately, and if it's lacking, then we need to develop it.  Implementing programs related to climate change requires national and international collaboration, resources, and, importantly, effective management. For this, it is essential to strengthen domestic institutions.

Secondly, we have to look at how to properly manage the budget, how to make it beneficial for the general public, and how to utilize it for the overall betterment of the environment.

Thirdly, as I have mentioned before, we need empowered agencies or institutions. Yes, we may not have been able to utilize external assistance as expected, and the allocated budget may not have been used optimally. There is still much work to be done in this field. Therefore, it is necessary to enhance our internal capacity.

Therefore, considering all these aspects, preparations for the formulation of the 16th Plan are underway. Efforts are being made to mainstream climate change, not the overall planning process and address all necessary issues comprehensively.

Promotion of renewable energy

It is necessary to increase both production and use of renewable energy. It should also be added to other development agendas in the future. This subject needs to be mainstreamed. Rather than what happened yesterday, we should go ahead by making appropriate policy arrangements and programs accordingly. While planning this topic, we have paid attention to keeping consistency with various sectoral topics and priorities.

For the first time, a separate chapter on climate change has been prepared in the proposed 16th plan document. This  reflects the government's priority to the emerging issue. Also, there is a need for the 3-tiers of government to work in tandem. Special attention has been given to this aspect while drafting the 16th plan

For example, local governments will first formulate plans on their own, and then the provincial and federal levels will provide support in implementing them.

Comprehensive discussions have been held with local governments, provincial governments, private sector, and other stakeholders.

The plan not only focuses on planning but also aims to enhance the capacity of local and provincial governments. Therefore, the overall perspective has been taken into account in this plan. We are heading in the right direction, and the 16th plan, which spans 200 pages, will address these issues.

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