Despite continuous warnings from environmentalists and scientists alike, the inevitable has happened. It is the year 2030 and climate change has taken a toll on our environment. One article in Setopati reads, “2030: Hottest Year Ever Recorded”, another one reads “Uncertain Weather Patterns, Intense and Frequent Heat Waves to Follow”. Global temperature rise has exceeded over 2°C above pre-industrial levels and is projected to rise further. Rain is uncertain and water is scarce. Soil compaction and the consequent increase in pests and weeds, amongst others, have shown substantial effect on agricultural production of food crops. Once famed as the food basket of Nepal, the Terai region is now limited to subsistence farming. Drought and water shortage have already claimed lives of hundreds of farmers and people live in chaos as these dreadful impacts have threatened our very existence.
As much as this sounds like a setting of a science fiction, this is soon to happen, considering the minimal effort being put into mitigating the already-felt effects of climate change. If you find this scenario alarming, then actions are necessary.
The foremost effects of climate change are evident here in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, and with amplified intensity. As industrial growth and subsequent carbon emissions continue to ravage our planet, the mountainous region remains to be the most vulnerable. The Himalayas do not only support tourism business but also regulate the monsoon circulation pattern, a change in which will alter the water cycle and can bring about devastating effects like long-term droughts and heavy floods. The changing weather pattern in these areas is a clear indication of the ongoing climate change, and a warning that if these effects are not tackled at the soonest, dire consequences will follow.
But our government does not seem to be competent in addressing these issues, let alone combating them. The fact that the government spent almost 100 times in the import of fossil fuel than on environment and forestry sector (Rs 1.6 trillion on the import of fossil fuel vs Rs 16.5 billion allocated in the budget for the environment and forestry sector development) is sufficient to know about the status and trend of environment conservation and management in Nepal.
The consequences of further prolonging the import and use of fossil fuels are dire and it is high time the government understood that a long term plan is necessary to steadily cut out the dependency on non-renewable resources. For this, the government should have a detailed knowledge regarding the energy consumption pattern of Nepal and develop projects that focus on diluting the nonrenewable energy use. Further, it should increase its investment in projects that foster climate resilience and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Projects focused on hydropower development, agro-forestry development, environment conservation and management, eco-tourism promotion, processing and sales of high value local environment-friendly products, amongst many can prove to be the mainstays of the Nepali economy while contributing significantly to environment conservation initiatives. In addition to these, the government should formulate and enforce policies for maximum utilization of alternative energy sources in the industrial and transportation sector. Only after establishing renewable energy sources as a prominent alternative, can the government advance toward undertaking measures for rapid reduction in use of fossil fuels.
Moreover, Nepal’s recent shift to a federal system demands state-level action plans to prioritize the balance in environmental needs and capacity. Planned urbanization, state subsidies for less carbon emitting industries, and investments in the design and adaptation of alternative energy strategies should be made by every state government.
At this stage, the government cannot single-handedly cope with the consequences of what has been done and therefore it is crucial that the government understands and implements the principle of public-private partnership to curb further damages to the environment in its endeavor of preserving the environment for this generation and the generations to come.
In addition to this, every single being should realize the urgency of now—a spiel that has often been repeated, but one that has to be reiterated—because if there is any momentous time for climate-related actions to take place, the time is now. Only then can we be guided toward a better future, and someday, we can likely face the following scenario:
Contrary to popular opinion, millennials have put in collaborative efforts and successfully subsided the severe consequences of climate change. It is the year 2030, the US is finally rejoining the Paris Agreement, over a decade after the Donald Trump administration left the agreement. On the occasion of World Environment Day, Setopati has published an editorial commemorating the commitment of nations around the globe that has helped avoid the adverse effects. An article in the news portal reads “Nepal, Now a Carbon-Negative Country”. We have finally met the “Stay Below 1.5°C Goal” which was once deemed unachievable by skeptics and we can now be certain of the survival of species, previously categorized endangered, in years to come.
At this dawn of a new decade, it is upon us to decide which of the two scenarios we intend to bring, because, after all, it is us who have the capacity to bring about the change we desire.
Manandhar is an environmentalist.