Experts meet on climate change in the Himalayas


Experts from the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region and around the world came together to map new ways forward for sharing knowledge, increasing engagement and building strong partnerships to open the door to further adaptation action in the region at a international conference on ‘Mountain People Adapting to Change: Solutions beyond Boundaries Bridging Science, Policy, and Practice’. The conference was jointly organized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of Nepal (MoSTE) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) from 9 to 12 November 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“There is no limit to the importance of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, both for people in the mountains and for those living downstream”, said KC Paudel, MoSTE. However, climatic and socioeconomic changes in the region are threatening the balance of the ecosystems of the HKH, impacting the lives of millions. To effectively support communities in adapting to these changes, solutions must be developed that look beyond political, sectoral and national boundaries. “Adaptation is the lifeline for the mountains,” Paudel added.

Stressing the urgent need for action in the mountains, Christiana Figureres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, said via a recorded video, “Mountains are upstream early warning systems that signal significant risks to downstream communities.”

At the inaugural session, Chief Guest Govind Raj Pokharel, Vice Chair, Nepal Planning Commission, highlighted the importance for governments to integrate climate change and adaptation issues as a part of national development plans and policies. “Poverty will increase if we do not address disasters induced by climate change”, he said. 

More than 300 experts, scientists, policy makers, government representatives, high-level dignitaries, journalists and practitioners from 22 countries participated in dynamic discussions at the conference spanning a wide range of topics within the three thematic pillars of science, policy and practice.

Underlying many of the discussions was the push for greater involvement of rural mountain communities and the need to better integrate scientific and traditional knowledge for effective adaptation action.

“The region may be data deficient, but it is not knowledge deficient. We need to harness our own knowledge and transform this into action”, said Anil Sinha, Bihar SDMA. “Scientific advancements are being brought into policy and practice, but there is a need to look at issues from the point of view of the people to make them more relevant for adaptation,” he added.

“There is a need to introduce the concept of adaptation as a regional public good,” said Dr Arabinda Mishra, TERI University, reiterating the need develop synergies and enhance cooperation between local, national, regional and global institutions.

In addition to the discussions, the event showcased poster presentations from 20 young professionals from the HKH and innovative solutions from over 20 organizations working with climate and adaptation issues.

Through the deliberations at the conference, participants developed a list of actions needed to effectively support adaptation to change in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and other mountain regions, including the following:

  • The need to generate a unified mountain voice through regional and global cooperation without losing sight of local needs;
  • The need to promote institutional pluralism while carrying out global assessments, with more inputs from the HKH region;
  • The need for creating and supporting mechanisms for collective reflection and learning among diverse stakeholders (researchers, policy makers, practitioners and communities, in particular);
  • The need to support local level adaptation through technology, capacity building, and financial resources; and
  • The need for greater collaboration with media and civil society to facilitate better communication of science on adaptation.

“Development could be undercut by issues related to climate change and adaptation. Keeping these issues in the global agenda is not only essential, it’s imperative.” said Jamie McGoldrick, UNDP-Nepal. “Mountain countries need more platforms like this conference to bring together science, policy and practice to create a unified voice to take these issues to the global stage.”

At the closing session, Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD, made several key commitments on behalf of the Centre including: to promote good science and contribute to regional knowledge generation, including by coordinating the HKH Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP); to support the process of developing and implementing NAPs at regional, national and local levels; and to act as a platform to foster the regional cooperation needed to support sustainable adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

Key messages and outcomes from the conference will be taken forward by conference participants in regional adaptation efforts and global forums, including the discussion tables of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru, in December 2014.

“The next few years will determine the future of global action on climate change and adaptation,” said Molden. “Mountains have not received due recognition in global and national development agenda”, he said, adding, “It is crucial that knowledge from the HKH and mountain regions is given a strong voice in these processes.”

At the conference, H.E. Kjell Tormod Pettersen, Ambassador of Norway to Nepal, launched ICIMOD’s Regional Database System. The RDS portal ( is an open access web-based portal that allows users to browse and search through all of ICIMOD’s published datasets and provides tools for visualization and the creation of custom maps and graphs. “By promoting data sharing, ICIMOD’s Regional Database System will improve research, support policy, and enhance the benefits to the people and environments of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region,” Pettersen said.

ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

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Photos: ICIMOD

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