Building a framework for action – COP23


Organized within the framework of the Mountain Partnership, the official side event “Implementing the 2030 Agenda & Paris Agreement in mountains: building a Framework for Action” was held on 14 November 2017 at the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP23). The session focused on exploring common challenges and solutions for addressing climate change impacts in mountains and establishing policies that strengthen the resilience of mountain peoples and environments.

Opening the side event, moderator Andrew Taber, Executive Director of The Mountain Institute (TMI) and Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee, stressed the importance of mountains for providing essential ecosystem goods and services to the highlands and lowlands. Despite mountains’ global significance and the high vulnerability of mountain peoples and ecosystems to the impacts of climate change, he noted that there is too little awareness and attention given to them. For this reason, he explained, the Mountain Partnership member governments, led by Italy, are working together to build a framework for action for implementing the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement in mountains, to be launched at the Mountain Partnership Global Meeting in Rome in December 2017.

The concept of uniting mountain countries as a group with one shared voice was a common idea expressed by several speakers. In her keynote speech, Djyparkul Bekkulova, Head of Ecological Strategy and Policy Department, State Agency of Environmental Protection and Forestry, Kyrgyzstan, emphasized the importance of mountain countries’ collaborative efforts as a group with shared interests: “Mountain countries need to change how we work in this era of global changes: by encouraging cross learning and effectively using regional cooperation mechanisms, and by having one voice as a group of countries with specific interests and needs.” Representing the Government of Kyrgyzstan, Bekkulova proposed the creation of an alliance of mountain countries to lead advocacy efforts, increase cooperation and mainstream mountains in all relevant areas.

Regional and national mechanisms are ways in which countries are taking action to streamline mountain issues into their policies. As the current coordinator of the Andean Initiative, Isauro Torres, Ambassador, Director of Environment and Ocean Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chile, highlighted how the Initiative allows the countries to promote sustainable mountain development. Each country involved has a national mountain committee working to strengthen national policies on mountains. Torres furthermore elaborated how Chile is currently working on developing a public policy on sustainable mountain development.

Representing the voice of civil society, Joop Spijker, member of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) Mountain Protection Commission, provided his perspective on the changes he has witnessed in Europe’s mountains during his last 25 years as a mountain tour guide. “The mountains are becoming more dangerous – for hikers and those living there,” said Spijker, describing how melting ice and permafrost are causing rocks to become unstable. Spijker noted how mountain federations worldwide are working to take action on climate change, such as the UIAA which has formed a Mountain Protection Committee that promotes innovation, awareness, education and advocacy to work for the goodness of the mountains and the entire world.

Although mountains are home to 13 percent of the global population and provide freshwater, food and energy to billions of people downstream, they lack the visibility in the international agenda that other vulnerable ecosystems, such as the Arctic, drylands, islands and forests receive. Representing Italy’s leading efforts to launch a framework for action in mountains, Grammenos Mastrojeni, Assistant Director General, Coordinator for the Environment, Italian Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the key impacts that failing to take action on climate change in mountains could have globally. “There are 915 million people living in mountain areas. If climate change strikes there, you have a huge migration potential,” said Mastrojeni. The Government of Italy together with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat are bringing mountain governments, NGOs and study centres together for the fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership to ensure that sustainable mountain development is integrated into the 2030 Agenda and in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Although mountain peoples globally share many hardships and challenges, their languages, cultures and traditional values are very diverse. Recognizing the importance of bringing the voices of Himalayan communities together under one organization, Ang Tshering Sherpa founded the Climate Alliance of Himalayan Communities, of which he is Chairperson. Sherpa described the changes he has witnessed in the Himalayan Region over the last 43 years. Mountaineering and tourism, he said, have brought with them economic opportunities, but climate change is creating tremendous issues for the livelihoods, ecology and cultural heritage of the peoples of the Himalayas. Glaciers are melting, new diseases are appearing, the risk of natural disasters is increasing, and massive amounts of people are migrating towards the lowlands and neighbouring countries, changing cultures and identities. He recommended that the mountaineering community come together to share their experiences and raise their voices locally and globally to better the lives and livelihoods of mountain peoples.

Providing a country perspective, Ümit Turhan, Chief of Division, Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, Turkey, discussed Turkey’s national actions to address climate change impacts in mountain areas. Turhan explained that over 60 percent of the country has a slope greater than 15 percent. The government has implemented several projects and programmes to address climate change and invest in afforestation to stabilize slopes and improve food security for the country’s 7 million mountain dwellers.

In his closing remarks, Chencho Norbu, Secretary, National Environment Commission, Royal Government of Bhutan, reflected on the lessons learned from the speakers and on his own experiences being from the mountainous country of Bhutan. Things are changing drastically in mountains, confirmed Norbu, but the international community tends to realize and react slowly. He proposed looking back to the three paragraphs on mountains included The Future We Want and using these as a foundation to influence policy-makers about the importance of the mountain agenda.

In the discussion that followed, participants considered how mountains could look to the example of Small Island Developing States for how to gain more attention and traction in international fora. Suggestions included developing an identity that countries with mountains could associate with or hosting an UNFCCC COP in a mountainous country.

This event was convened by the Government of Kyrgyzstan and the UIAA and co-organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

See event programme 

Watch the event 

Photo: FAO/Bijay Gurung

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