#MovingMountains: ICIMOD @COP27: HKH2SharmElSheikh


The HKH and climate action

The decade spanning 2020–2030 is critical for climate action. The year 2021 was important since parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) communicated their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to limit warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; increase their ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change; and make finance flows consistent with climate-resilient and low-carbon development pathways. The year 2030 will be an important milestone in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

The HKH region, which is spread across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, is the pulse of the planet. With around 18% of its landmass under snow cover, the HKH has the largest reserves of ice outside the polar regions. It is home to four global biodiversity hotspots and contains the headwaters of 10 major Asian river systems. What happens in this region affects the livelihoods of 240 million people living in the mountains, and 1.65 billion people living downstream. Together, the HKH provides essential resources, especially water and ecosystem services, to close to 2 billion people – or one-fourth of humanity.

The HKH region is also a climate hotspot. In a 1.5oC world, glaciers in the HKH are projected to lose one-third of their volume by 2100. This will exacerbate climate-induced disasters in the region and have negative impacts on river flows and lives and livelihoods in the region and beyond.

The cross-chapter paper on ‘Mountains’ of the recently published report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – Climate change 2022: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability (AR6 WGII) – has found that while observed adaptation responses in mountain regions are contributing to reduced climate risks, the extent of their adaptation in terms of time (speed), the scale of change (scope), and depth (the degree to which a change is substantial) is low. Furthermore, adaptation responses to climate-driven impacts in mountain regions vary significantly in terms of the goals and priorities, governance, modes of decision-making, and the extent of financial and other resources to implement them.

The report has also highlighted that nature’s contribution to people is critical for human wellbeing and climate adaptation. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to understand the importance of socioecological resilience, value the rich biodiversity and ecosystem services of the HKH, and recognise the pressures faced by these fragile ecosystems from various drivers of change including climate change.

In the landmark HKH Ministerial Mountain Summit 2020, the eight HKH countries signed a Ministerial Declaration and launched the HKH Call to Action – signalling their commitment to sustain mountain environments and improve livelihoods in the HKH. This historic declaration highlights the need for regional collaboration and ambitious climate action to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C by 2100 and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Knowledge products

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Climate priorities and action in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

In the truest of senses, the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) is the pulse of the planet. Being on top of the world, changes happen here before they happen anywhere else.



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