Building climate actions in mountains


Key messages: Mountain ecosystems are home to more than one billion people, nearly 15% of the world’s population, and provide essential services, notably water regulation, for downstream areas. People living in mountain regions are among the world’s poorest. Restoring mountain ecosystems, adopting climate sensitive agricultural practices, reducing mountain people’s exposure to climate risks and strengthening their adaptive capacity are essential to achieving the goals of ending poverty, zero hunger, clean water, clean energy, economic growth and reducing inequalities.

The event had the following main objectives: advocate for pro-mountain climate change adaptation policies; report on the Framework for Action for implementing mountains in the 2030 Agenda; encourage international commitment for climate adaptation and disaster risk management; and build alliances and better data to promote the role of mountains “as the world’s water towers.”

Event Summary:

Grammenos Mastrojeni, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy, moderated the event.

Maria Ubach, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andorra, called for more international cooperation to combat the effects of climate change in mountains, given that the degradation of mountains, notably linked to the effects of climate change, are compromising the livelihoods of vulnerable populations.

Mirgul Moldoisaeva, Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN, noted that mountains are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world with high poverty rates and food insecurity. She emphasized that droughts, earthquakes, and landslides are effects of climate change that weaken the well-being of mountain populations, proposing the establishment of an informal group of Friends of Mountainous countries to join forces to achieve economic prosperity and environmental sustainability for all.

Jacques Ducrest, Federal Council for the Agenda 2030, Switzerland, mentioned the importance of sustainable agriculture; food security, resilience to climate change; disaster risk reduction, integrated resource management, sustainable use of biodiversity and forests to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He stressed that only sustainable mountains and sustainable agricultural practices can enable the achievement of the SDGs and recommended more attention to climate smart solution in mountains, given that these ecosystems are relevant carbon sinks.

Josep M. Casals Alis, Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainability, Andorra, reported actions to build the resilience of people living in mountains, highlighting: agroecology, research on new adapted crops to dry conditions, and adoption of a new legal framework to reinforce the agricultural sector, while ensuring food safety.

On drivers of mountain degradation, Lucas Tavares, Liaison Officer in New York-FAO, noted land degradation and unsustainable use of natural resources. He suggested the use of agroforestry, as well as the combination of innovation and traditional knowledge to promote sustainable mountains. He called for actions beyond the agriculture arena, drawing attention to the agendas of health, education, access to energy, and infrastructure roads.

Yoko Watanabe, Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP), UN Development Programme (UNDP), noted the importance of community empowerment in sustainable projects, underscoring that addressing poverty-environment nexus is essential for achieving the SDGs. In this context, she announced the launch and implementation of a joint initiative between GEF SGP and Mountain Partnership in supporting communities on improvement of value chains and entrepreneurship on mountain products to ensure long-term environment and socio-economic benefits for local communities.

Paul Egerton, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Representative to the UN, advocated for further inclusion of mountains in the SDGs debate, considering the growing number of vulnerable populations living in these ecosystems. He recommended focusing on better early warning observation systems and announced the WMO’s decision to host the High Mountain Summit in October 2019.

Giogio Grussu, FAO Mountain-Partnership Secretariat, noted that the  Partnership currently has 370 members, of which 60 are governments. He emphasized that the Agenda 2030 must be implemented “at all levels” and that engaging with civil society is the only way to make this Agenda a success.

In the ensuing discussion, participants reflected on the need to be more vocal about the importance to act on mountains and climate change, as well as to raise funds to support this issue. Participants also noted the negative impact of landslides, which is displacing people from mountains, and the importance of not adding the burden of product certification on farmers when developing projects on sustainable agriculture.

Event conclusions:

Mountains provide 60-80% of all freshwater of our planet and 50% of the word’s population relies on its ecosystem services. The discussion demonstrated that mountains are key ecosystems, providing goods and services to the planet and supporting the livelihoods of a vast number of people. Panelists called for more “mountain visibility” in international debates and urged countries to support funding for addressing the challenge of climate change in mountains.

Why Does it Matter:

Global changes are disrupting local mountain economies and pushing mountain people to abandon the land. Sustainable agriculture must be promoted and supported, which helps to empower communities and ensure inclusiveness, while supporting the implementation of key SDGs, notably related to climate, quality, food security, and justice.

View a Flickr album of the event

Reporting by IISD

Photo by© IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis


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