Nepali Times
Guest Column
Nepal in Copenhagen


Last week's high profile cabinet meeting below Mount Everest must not be seen as just a publicity stunt. We must build on it to mobilise a real, sustained global campaign to protect the Himalaya, to uplift the lives of the billion-plus people who live in the river basins flowing from these mighty water towers of the world, and to generate momentum to build a new carbon-neutral Nepal.

Later today in Copenhagen, a large gathering of eminent mountaineers from around the world will be marching in a 'Summit of Summiteers' campaign to the save the Himalaya. Their message will be reinforced by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal next week when he addresses world leaders at the climate change summit.

Besides pleading for more foreign aid citing our Least Developed Country status, what can Nepal actually offer its people, and humanity at large, as its unique contribution to turn the threat of global warming into an opportunity to build a better future?

I suggest a 10-point action plan to build a carbon-neutral Nepal:
1. Declare Nepal's aspiration to become a carbon-neutral country by 2030: currently Nepal consumes a tiny amount of energy per capita and has a very small carbon footprint. If we make a concerted and determined effort now, it is quite conceivable that we can build a carbon-neutral future.

2. Develop a master plan for energy independence: at a time when we have prolonged daily blackouts and rely heavily on expensive imported petroleum products for most of our modern transport and industry, energy independence may seem an unrealistic prospect. But Nepal has vast untapped water, solar and wind energy resources, and people power. We certainly have the potential to become energy independent if we develop an ambitious, long-term master plan.

3. Switch to Nepal-based renewable energy sources for major new transport and industrial projects: as we develop ambitious new national reconstruction and development plans, we must discontinue business-as-usual development paradigms. Instead of building new roads and highways that depend on expensive imported petroleum products and destroy our pristine environment, we must switch to electricity-operated high-speed trains, trams, trolley buses and ropeways. Let us discourage smoke-belching, polluting industries and encourage factories and industries that use electric, solar and wind energy to power our industrial plants.

4. Offer generous tax incentives for vehicles and machinery using non-polluting energy sources: although we pay lip service to clean energy, our tax system does not favour the import and use of electrically operated or hybrid vehicles and industrial equipment and machinery. It is time not just for tax incentives, but also for subsidies for transport vehicles and industrial machinery that minimise carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

5. Launch a global campaign to save the Himalaya: we are lucky to have thousands of mountaineers all over the world who love Nepal and who would happily work with us in a global campaign to save the Himalaya. Let us reach out to them, and organise a campaign of global solidarity with them to help protect the Himalaya and uplift the living conditions of the people of the Himalayan region.

6. Further expand community forestry and national parks: Nepal has a very successful and exemplary community forestry program. We can expand these and our national parks to both provide livelihoods for our people and to earn credit under the global carbon emission-trading scheme.

7. Promote eco-tourism: given the great diversity of its flora and fauna and the stunning natural beauty of Nepal, there is great potential for us to specialise in eco-tourism.

8. Build a new capital city and regional growth hubs: Kathmandu is choking and can no longer handle further population growth and traffic. We need to consider developing a new parallel capital city. As Nepal moves towards a new federal structure, we must develop new, well-planned, environmentally friendly and economically viable urban settlements and growth centres.

9. Promote a culture of non-violence: we must end the culture of violence spreading across the country. Non-violence must extend to protecting our precious natural resources.

10. Invest in children: we must protect our environment to save our children, and empower our children to save the environment. It is for our children and future generations that we must build a carbon-neutral new Nepal. Like all progressive and prosperous countries, let us invest heavily in the survival, protection and development of our children, and inculcate in them an abiding love of nature and the environment.

Climate ironies - EAST WEST with Kunda Dixit, 04 DEC 2009
Dateline Everest - FROM ISSUE #479 (04 DEC 2009 - 10 DEC 2009)
Defrosted - FROM ISSUE #479 (04 DEC 2009 - 10 DEC 2009)

1. kul prasad ghimire
once again more UN-type generalities of what should or needs to be done.......thanks...but no thanks!!

2. good thoughts
great thoughts.. Lets go for another 10 point agreement to implement this.. ;-

3. gaule hero
For a failed-states like Nepal, there are more urgent priorities than to aim for carbon-neutral economy. But then I thought Nepal was ALREADY a carbon-neutral country; its total emissions are probably comparable to a mid-sized city in the west. Then why invent a problem? It seems like another scheme to bring in foreign NGO money to germinate another cottage industry to support urban educated elites. Notwithstanding my sarcasm, Nepal can leverage global concern for environment to its economic benefits in two ways (1) India's economy growing at 7%+ rate needs energy, lots of it (I have heard of another 30,000 GWH by 2030). Nepal has untapped CLEAN hydro-power that can be exported (for life of god, I have not understood why Nepal cannot even develop 1,000 MWH of hydropower than help alleviate crippling load-shedding). (2) try to get carbon-credit from developed countries for aggressive re-forestation programs - it will help employ village youths and also help prevent landslides/floods the scourge of Nepal's rural life.

4. bhimsen
good points, gaule hero

5. Chudamani Parajuli
I 100% agree with the 10 steps.

6. Shobhakar Dhakal
I wish our esteemed colleagues whose voices do matter in Nepal become a bit more serious and sensitive on what they propose. It's not that I am opposing above recommendations but I simply believe that serious and deeper thoughts, evidence-based analyses, and a series of consultations are re-requisite for such recommendations and I am not aware if existed. I want to believe that Kul Chandra Jee understands what it means and what are involved in being "carbon neutral". Would our scholarly community dare to develop Nepal's scenario for carbon neutrality by 2030, backcast it to trace a set of alternative development paradigms, evaluate the implications of such alternatives paradigms to environmental, social and economic spectrums, and suggest needed elements of institutional design and policy instruments. Shobhakar Dhakal@Copenhagen

7. Suraj
Mr. Kul Gautam, Great ideas after retirement !!! Please let us know one of your solid contribution to Nepal during your decades of tenure in the UN (United Nepotism) job.

8. Ajay Pradhan
Coming from a former high-level UN technocrat, the 10-point action plan is a disappointment at best and useless at worst. It is full of generalities peppered with proposed actions that will have no bearing in achieving what the Copenhagen conference is seeking to achieve. As much as a culture of non-violence is not only desirable but also a necessary precondition for creating a society free of fear from threats of violence, I fail to understand what a culture of non-violence has to do with achieving the objective of Copenhagen conference -- which is, reducing carbon emissions. Copenhagen's objective is very specific. On the other hand, Mr. Gautam, whom I respect as an eminent Nepali personality, has provided solutions that have no substance. Ajay Pradhan Vancouver, Canada

9. MD
600 people flying out from Kathmandu, putting up in hotels in Copenhagen, wining and dining on food and beverages presumably transported over long distances, sight-seeing taking cabs and buses around the city and some possibly visiting friends in nearby places before heading home - some body please measure the carbon footprint of our delegation! That aside, Nepal stands to can gain from proactively pursuing the technologies that promote carbon neutrality even though we may not have the biggest carbon foot on the planet. As Mr Gautam points out, power is already a problem in Kathmandu and with people continuing to move into the city, where are we going to find the power to light up our houses and move people around the city? The country will surely benefit from using more solar energy for example - not just for heating our morning bath waters but also for lighting up our homes and generating heat in winter. And electric vehicles to replace the gas-guzzling night-buses and trucks that ply the highways of the country reducing dependency on oil imports. Things we need to do for our own development - Copenhagen or not. My Rs 0.02

10. gaule hero
Before we get hung-over by the promise of green, carbon-neutral Nepal, we ought to understand why the rest of the world is so reluctant to let go of its addiction to fossil fuels - its cheap, very cheap. Compared to solar energy which costs about 30c/KWh (wind is probably even more expensive), oil costs around 5c, natural gas 3c, and coal less than 1c. Hydro is cheap, comparable to oil - West Seti electricity is contracted to be sold to India at Rs 3.5/KWh or around 5c. The only countries where solar energy has taken off are Spain and Germany and that's mainly because of generous subsidy from their governments - in the case Germany solar energy producers are guaranteed 20-years of fixed price. Sure technology advancement is making solar energy cheaper every year but it has a long way to go. From Nepal's prospective, even if we develop 1,000 MW of energy (more than the total peak demand) we will not let go of our demand for fossil products because most of them are used for transportation - hydro will probably supplant only kerosene consumption but not petrol, diesel or aviation fuel usage. So for Kathmandu to be pollution free there are 3 options (a) not use any fossil fuel vehicles (b) develop world-class public transportation system which only uses electricity (c) someone has to invent electric car that Nepalese can afford - my guess is that it ain't happening.

11. jange
"(c) someone has to invent electric car that Nepalese can afford - my guess is that it ain't happening. " Gaule Hero, the trick is to increase Nepalis income so that they can afford electric cars. Not build cheap cars. I hope that you now understand Copenhagen and climate change.

12. MD
Green energy is here to stay, whether people like it or not. The cost of renewable energy is trending downwards and that of fossil fuels upwards and that trend is bound to continue if the last five decades are anything to go by. Hydro-power certainly is part of the solution as is solar and wind. Green energy solutions typically tend to supplement and not entirely replace fossil fuel sources - at least till supplies of fossil fuels last. The greening of energy sources is a process and not an event. Also, the best source of renewable energy for you depends to some extent on where you live. It might be more cost effective to build a wind mill in the mountains around Jomsom to power the houses and businesses in town than to depend entirely on an unreliable source of power from the national grid. Factor in revenue from tourism ($5 or 10 for a hot bath a tired trekker might be willing to pay) and it could be quite a lucrative enterprise for the local community because the investment pays for itself pretty quickly. We are already seeing some of this along the trekking routes in the Annapurna and Everest regions with solar energy. Kathmandu could surely do with some more electric trolley buses and the rest of the country could benefit from an extension of that network too - provided we can add to the capacity of the grid. Renewable sources are the way real choice we have to do that. And yes, of course, it might be about muchos dineros for some - but that shouldn't take away from the financial, environmental, social and health benefits for others that can come from decreased carbon emissions in the long run.

13. Samundra
Kul Chandra ji, Like many, you've submitted 10-point action plan. And the person who's going to work on these plan is....?

14. Kaustubh Thapa
Another set of impractical pipe dreams, impractical because implementation highly unlikely. The ten points can be found easily in any development economics THEORY book, I was expecting more pragmatic from someone who has been with the UN for so long and in such higher post. Another thing, we (privileged urban elites) travel, we see, "electricity-operated high-speed trains, trams, trolley buses and ropeways" etc. etc. and we complain, Western world did it, why can't we? We bicker, we curse our fate. We think its easy to copy their model like copy-pasting in a word document, but our educated mind forget that while we were planning to conquer and unify, steam engines, equality, education, a definite system of government were protruding in the West. Even sad thing, we forget to see "what works takes work," what they are enjoying is a product of their unrelenting effort to develop and grow. Let us forget ambitious plans, lets work, keeping it real, with hard work and fairness, change the inherent notion of corruption and favoritism, make people more patriotic (more in action than in words), let the educated masses know that copying a western model doesn't solve any issue, we need to be context and time sensitive. But Hey! Isn't Nepal the fourth most brain drained nation in the world according to 2009 Economist Survey....and why am I not surprised that Mr. Gautam is proposing plans as if he is presenting his proposal in front of the senate or parliament of a self sufficient nation with enough resources to manipulate here and there....Oh well, jun jogi aye pani kani chireko...

15. tista
pipe dreams?

16. nabin
What a painfully irritating, generic and intellectually empty argument. This is why Nepal is in a state that it is. People like Mr Gautam just love doling out these policy prescriptions so generic and vague.

17. Lekali Bahun
You spent your whole life in UN, but your article does not represent it. First of all, Nepal can not afford the carbon reduction to make it a significant contribution as compared to the amount of the carbon produced around the world. So, I reject your idea on CO2 issues. Don't give lectures on CO2 reduction by Nepal. Be more rational and pragmatic. Your article clearly tells me that you worked in an organization that does not have to worry about tax-payers, because there were no accountability in the organization you worked for so many years. That is why talk about shopping spree on projects. Everything costs people's hard earned money. Running government and introducing projects needs huge chunk of money. When you work in an organization that does not require public approval "publicly tested leaders like political leaders vs career based professionals like you". Your proposed projects are not easy and they need a lot of innovative research, which is beyond the scope of developing countries like Nepal. Tax incentive will be just misused in a country where law is so loose and the criminals are roaming at large. You should be ashamed by now that you hosted Prachanda's talk show in US last year, and Prachanda lets criminals like Kham go free and promotes them in his politcal party. Do you remember the meeting you hosted? Don't associate with someone that is not reliable. You have to learn it. Your proposal of tax incentive is just another loop hole and it won't work in Nepal. BTW, does your car in Nepal was honestly imported by paying the tax? Please go and check, it must have been undervalued. I am not trying to be personal, but telling you to be careful when you propose ideas. Be realistic and rational. When a personality like you associate with the leader of the criminals like Prachanda, how come you expect the implementation of proposal number 9. You should have rejected the hosting of the meeting in US with Prachanda as a chief guest. Shame on you, again. You were very greedy at that time, that Prachanda might propose your name for Ambassdar of Nepal to US or President of Nepal or VP of Nepal. When he did not, then you once blasted Maoists in You are an opportunistic dog. Apology for the use of this sentence to describe you, but that is what wide perception is. Your last proposal: Children. The proposal is very sexy. Again, do you know the cost of investment? If this government can offer free education upto Grade 10 while having these private schools, then I will say it is a great investment. BTW, who is going to pay for this investment? Nepal government is not an UN deparment that gets free money from some rich countries whose tax payers always question the right use of their hard earned money spent through untested people in UN. Therefore, you should think of sustainable projects. You should not rely on government run projects. Think of using private sectors, unfortunately, you were former communists as some news paper suggests, and you roam around Maosits. Therefore, you expect government to do everything. Nepal government does not run biz, and the government is already overstretched by the number of schools, teachers, government employees, and maintaiing the infrastructures made from aids given foreign governments. Therefore, CO2 reduction and yours pet projects are not in priority list of Nepal governments. It simply can not afford. It is not UN. It runs from our tax, and we can not afford that much of tax. You worked whole life free of tax, and I paid tax for every paisa I earned. That makes a big difference in our thoughts. Period. Lekali Bahun in US

18. Subash
Oye Lekali Bhaun! I agree with you 100 and 1 percent. "How" to be implemented must he have written instead of "What" ought to be done. UN is not a panacea but rather palliative. This entity just exacerbates.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)