Sarita Thapa, Jog Raj Giri
Climate change has been a burning issue of the contemporary world jeopardizing the future of the earths’ ecosystem. An overall increase in almost 10C temperature and 20 centimetre sea level since the pre-industrial period has been observed.
It seems to be very low from the perspective of layman but has shown already tremendous impacts on various sectors. Melting of Himalayas and glaciers due to increased temperature is not only drying up the water sources around it but also increasing sea level endangering the adjoined human settlements. Increase frequency and intensity of the extreme weather events such as unpredictable and heavy rain long drought spell has accelerated the biodiversity loss, reduced agricultural yield, increased risks of pandemic and the climate induced disaster such as flooding, landslides and erosion.
Release of dangerous gases and viruses back into the atmosphere is evident due to melting of permafrost that were once contained in it.
Climate change has become a most debated topic of this century. A lots of international conferences and forums were observed with many heated debates including United Nation Framework on Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC). But the progress on tackling climate change has become slow.
Moving from Kyoto to Paris agreement, there have been some hopeful progresses yet not sufficient as the issue is far graver than perceived.
Paris agreement 2015 (COP21) is seen as an important milestone for combating climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and – for the first time – brought all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.
The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and at making finance flows consistent with a low GHG emissions and climate-resilient pathway.
To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate mobilization and provision of financial resources, a new technology framework and enhanced capacity-building is to be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for an enhanced transparency framework for action and support.
The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts. There will also be a global stocktake every 5 years to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and to inform further individual actions by Parties.
Unfortunately, due to ignorance of some developed countries like Unites States of America, the Paris agreement couldn’t be implemented as it was expected. The recent COP 25 held in Madrid of Spain was not been able to negotiate with most advanced economies bringing in the investment needed. The General Secretary of United Nation Mr Antonio Guteress has shown his dissatisfaction over the outcome of the COP25.
Many scientists and researchers have also stated that the most effective way so far to combat climate change is conservation of forest. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests to add one billion hectares of forest to absorb two-third of the carbon currently present in atmosphere within a decade. Obviously, increasing forest area and decreasing carbon emission through clean energy development are the best possible ways to mitigate climate change.
The World Economic Forum has already launched a global campaign ‘one trillion tree’ to restore biodiversity and fight against climate change. Ethiopia, India, China, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippine are already on their way to planting a massive area to restore and create forest. If we join hands, commit ourselves to save the world and initiate from within us, it’s neither impossible nor unachievable.
The REDD+ program has been evolved as a new eco-business model to mitigate the impact of climate change through enhanced carbon sequestration applying sustainable forest management practices. Nepal Government is preparing to implement REDD+ program in 12 Terai districts and expected to generate income from the carbon trade starting from 2023.
Furthermore, growing trees in agricultural and private land is as vital as conservation of natural forests and plantation in public land. Therefore, REDD+ program has target to promote private forest or family forest in Nepal.
It is a big opportunity for family forest owners of Nepal. Promoting family forest can reduce the pressure on natural forest and ease the supply of the forest based wood products. Amazon company in support of the Nature Conservancy started to pay to family forest owners to delay the harvesting cycle so as to increase carbon sequestration and capture it for long time. It is expected to help mitigate climate change.
Agricultural land is remaining barren due to outmigration from hills to urban centres and youth are going abroad for livelihood which is a very critical issue for the country. But, this can be a golden opportunity from the perspective of family forestry. The abandoned land can be turn into family forest by engaging women as it demands less labour and investment. Almost one million hectares agricultural land (one third of total agriculture land) is barren now which can be restored with private forestry. The fast growing timber species can be identified and planted in the private land.
The supply of wood to the market from family forest can replace wood import and increase export that will reduce trade loss and earn foreign money. Also, it will help people to replace the construction materials and furniture with wood products that are renewable and environment friendly.
Furthermore, it promotes biodiversity by hosting habitat and mitigates climate change impact by sequestering carbon for long time. It also supports to reduce pressure in natural forest so that conservation becomes easy. With the diversified products and increased productivity, it will help people to generate income and help in adaptation to climate change as well.
But, the Government should ensure the rights for hassle free harvest, sale and utilize the private forest products. Government should formulate family forest friendly policies and laws in order to attract farmers and entrepreneurs into this business. Likewise, Government and various stakeholders should also promote family forest by prioritizing and providing incentives, provisioning nurseries, quality seedlings and technical support, easy loan and insurance of the forest products.
“Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali” vision cannot be achieved by leaving a potential sector away from the mainstream of sustainable development agenda. There is hope of transformation as political restructuring into federal system has opened up the avenue toward decentralised governance and expected to increase the representation of public voices in policies. Current National climate change policy 2019, National Agroforestry policy 2019 and National forest policy 2019 has prioritised the agroforestry and family forestry as a means to achieve prosperity through livelihood improvement, contribution to national economy and climate build resilience.
(Mrs Thapa is a agroforestry and environment blog writer, Mr. Giri is the Chairperson of the Association of Family Forest Owners, Nepal)