Mountains, one year after the Paris Agreement


One year ago, on 22 April (Earth Day) 2016, 175 of the 197 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York to sign the Paris Agreement, an international treaty to address climate change. As of today, one year after the signing ceremony, 194 Parties to the UNFCCC have signed the Paris Agreement and 143 of those have ratified it. Of the 143 countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement, 137 have also submitted their first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and of those, 36 NDCs make reference to mountains. The 36 countries mentioning mountains in their first NDCs underline how extremely vulnerable mountain peoples and ecosystems are to the effects of climate change.

One such effect noted by several countries, including Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan, is the increased risk and frequency of climate change-linked disasters such as glacial lake outburst floods resulting from melting glaciers. Nepal stated: “In Nepal’s Himalaya, total estimated ice reserve between 1977 and 2010 has decreased by 29 percent (129 km3). The number of glacier lakes has increased by 11 percent and glaciers recede on an average by 38 km2 per year. Hence, climate change has visible and pronounced impacts on snow and glaciers that are likely to increase the Glacier Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOFs). Nepal has suffered from increased frequency of extreme weather events such as landslides, floods and droughts resulting to the loss of human lives as well as high social and economic costs.”

Lesotho, Morocco and Tajikistan also highlighted in their NDCs the fragility of mountain ecosystems to climate change and the importance of preserving them. Morocco stated: “Climate change is expected to increase the desertification of these lands, and increase degradation and accelerate the loss of yields in fragile, mountainous areas, in oasis ecosystems, and argan trees, which are already in decline. These ecosystems are vital to subsistence for at-risk populations, the protection of natural resources and the fight against desertification.”

Thomas Hofer, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, said, “These NDCs clearly show the need to step up the level of investments in mountains to combat the effects of climate change, to protect the peoples whose livelihoods hang in the balance as a result of climate change, and to ensure the steady provision of goods and services from mountains, such as fresh water – essential for all.”

List of countries that mentioned mountains in first NDCs
NDC Registry
Paris Agreement - Status of Ratification

Photo: FAO/Jonathan

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