'Mountain Day' at COP17 Calls for Urgent Actions to Save the World’s Mountain Ecosystems

07 Dec 2011


Durban, South Africa

Mountain ecosystems are global resources and need global support to offer global solutions. This was the central thread of the first Mountain Day event, organised by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in close collaboration with global and regional partners including GIZ, FAO, the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, the World Bank, UNEP, and others on the sideline of UNFCCC COP17 in Durban, South Africa on Sunday, 4 December 2011.

Attended by more than 100 participants from all the mountains of the globe – among them policy makers, COP17 negotiators – the event highlighted the critical role of mountain ecosystems in climate adaptation and sustainable development – notably as the ‘water towers’ of the world and global reservoirs for biodiversity. The event also highlighted the vulnerability of mountains and of those who depend on them, underlining that the value of the ecosystem goods and services derived from mountains is under-recognised, under-valued and poorly compensated. Two high-level panels called on COP17 delegates and global development partners to protect vital mountain ecosystems from the threats presented by climate change, to support adaptation programmes in mountains for improved livelihoods and sustainability, and to create incentives to enhance the benefits mountain people derive from conserving their ecosystems.

Pema Gyamtsho, Minister for Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan, related that mountains provide water, food, and medicine as well as spiritual sustenance, and underscored the connections between mountain ecosystems and other ecosystems. He stressed the need for upstream and downstream collaboration and for inclusion of mountains on the agenda of UNFCCC and Rio+20. René Castro Salazar, Minister of Environment, Energy and Telecommunication, Costa Rica, highlighted Costa Rica’s activities to address the effects of climate change in mountainous regions. He stressed the need for South-South cooperation, giving the example of Costa Rica’s partnership with Bhutan and Benin. Hem Raj Tater, Minister of Environment, Nepal addressed the need to give higher priority to adaptation and sustainable development in mountainous areas.

The day’s highlight was the keynote speech by RK Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who characterised Mountain Day as “a remarkable chance to come up with a plan of action to influence the outcome of Rio+20”, noting that mountains have experienced above average warming in the twentieth century and that this is likely to continue. He pointed out that impacts on glacier melt are projected to increase the frequency of natural disasters, and that perennial rivers could become seasonal rivers in the near future. Disasters, scarcity of natural resources, and migration related to these and other factors, can be expected to lead to conflicts. Dr Pachauri expressed his frustration that UNFCCC was discussing politics and not the scientific reality of catastrophic climate change. He urged mountain countries to organise themselves internationally to share resources and unite their political voice, citing the success of the Alliance of Small Island States in raising awareness on islands. 

“Mountain issues are not local but have global implications”, said David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD. “There is a need to view mountains not only as a challenge, but as a source of solutions for food, energy, water, and biodiversity security”, he added. Vera Scholz, Head of the Climate Change Department, GIZ, said that ecosystem-based adaptation might be an adequate solution for mountains. “We need to learn how to make livelihoods and value chains climate proof”, she said.

Presentations of collaborative work carried out by ICIMOD, UNEP, the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, and the World Bank in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, South America, Central Asia, and Africa highlighted the importance of strategic partnership-based activities to raise awareness about climate change issues in the mountains. 

Mountain Day presented a draft ‘Call for Action’ to communicate the messages of mountain regions to a broader audience. “Mountain Day confirmed the need for the global mountain community to come together to give the message of the mountains,” Molden summed up, “but there is a need to communicate better with people downstream. This event served as a catalysing moment to bring people together to communicate concerns and solutions to the world.” 

For more information please contact: 

Nira Gurung
Communications Officer
Email: ngurung@icimod.org
Tel +977-1-5003222 Fax +977-1-5003277