Nepal is a mountainous, landlocked country in South Asia with a population of approximately 29.14 million. It is located between India and China and contains eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest – which is the highest point on earth above sea level – and the Kanchenjunga. Across the country, altitudes range from 70 meters above sea level to 8848 meters above sea level leading to considerable diversity in topography, climate and livelihoods.
Nepal is a least developed country and approximately one fourth of its population lives below the poverty line. Remittances account for nearly 30 percent of the country’s GDP, followed closely by agriculture, forestry and fisheries at 23 percent. The agriculture sector employs more than two-thirds of the population and agricultural livelihoods include subsistence farming, commercial crop production (e.g., rice, wheat, maize, tea, sugarcane and tobacco), livestock rearing and forest-based activities – all of which rely on climate-sensitive resources, such as land and water.
According to the global climate risk index, Nepal was one of the top 10 countries most affected by climate change between 2000 and 2019. Nepal’s vulnerability to climate change is shaped by its agrarian economy, diverse topography, fragile geological structures and sensitive ecosystems. Socioeconomic conditions such as poverty, low levels of literacy, inequality and a strong dependence on natural resources for livelihoods contribute to this vulnerability. Recent estimates suggest that annual maximum temperature has been increasing by 0.056°C per year between 1971 and 2014 and could rise by 1.3–1.8°C by the 2050s while precipitation levels could increase b by 2–6 percent by 2030 and by up to 12 percent by 2050. These trends are adversely impacting Nepal’s Himalayan ranges and glaciers, as well as the ecosystems and livelihoods dependent upon them. Climate hazards that include floods, glacial lake outbursts, landslides and droughts are already causing crop failure, soil erosion and loss of lives and property.
Nepal’s climate change plans and priorities
Nepal’s 2019 National Climate Change Policy provides the overarching policy guidelines on climate change for the country. Its aim is to create a climate resilient society by reducing the risks associated with climate change by mainstreaming climate change into all levels of government and within thematic policy areas, strategies, development plans and programmes. The Policy notably mentions that the implementation of all policies, strategies and plans related to climate change will be at the local level.
The Local Adaptation Plans for Action (LAPA) initially developed in 2011 were updated to adjust to the new federal structure and the climate change policy. The LAPA is a bottom-up approach to adaptation planning aimed towards mainstreaming adaptation and disaster risk reduction development into local development planning process. LAPA aims to capacitate local governments to better manage and address climate change impacts and assists them in identifying, prioritising, planning, implementing and monitoring community-based adaptation actions and plans as per the mandate of the Environmental Protection Act. The LAPA also provides ample opportunities to integrate adaptation options into local to national planning processes. In 2013, the Government of Nepal introduced a dedicated climate change budget code to channel funding for climate change activities from the center to the local levels.
Building on existing policies, NAPA experiences and on the LAPA, Nepal successfully launched its National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process in September 2015. It also became one of the first countries to receive approval for NAP Readiness funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) through the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) support. Working groups were established for the NAP process and some are under the process of formulation, focusing on eight themes and four cross-cutting areas identified in the National Climate Change Policy.
Nepal’s first nationally determined contribution (NDC) was submitted in 2016 and its second NDC, submitted in December 2020, outlines emissions reductions targets for selected sectors such as energy, transport, agriculture, forestry and waste. The NDC’s mitigation strategy foresees to maintain 45 percent of the total area of the country under forest cover. For adaptation, it articulates Nepal’s intention to submit an adaptation communication through the development of a NAP. The NAP will include priorities, plans, actions and implementation mechanisms related to adaptation and be aligned with thematic and cross-cutting adaptation priorities identified in the National Climate Change Policy.
Moving ahead – 2021 and beyond
SCALA will build on the lessons learned of the FAO-UNDP Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) programme that was implemented between 2015 and 2020 in eleven countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, including Nepal. As a partner country for both programmes, Nepal aims to leverage key achievements made under the NAP-Ag programme through support received from SCALA. These include (i) reviewing and updating a capacity development package for rollout in provinces based on NDC and/or NAP priorities, (ii) reviewing an M&E framework on tracking adaptation in agriculture by incorporating MRV and M&E for ETF reporting and strengthening the capacity of stakeholders on MRV and M&E for ETF reporting and (iii) conducting cost-benefit and financial analyses of priority climate actions identified in NDCs and/or NAPs building on methodology and tools piloted under NAP-Ag.