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Raising ambition and action

David James Molden

3 mins Read

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2019 proved to be a year where evidence, awareness, and action around environment and climate reached new heights. One overarching message – We must act now to keep global temperatures below 1.5°C – emerges clearly from landmark reports like SR15 and SROCC and inspirational global movements like Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion taking over the world.

For us in the HKH region too, 2019 was an important year – from the launch of the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment in February and the development of the HKH Call to Action to the country consultations with each of our Regional Member Countries (RMCs) to discuss our collective way forward. Our presence at the UN High-Level Forum in New York and at COP 25 in Madrid also significantly helped raise the distinct HKH mountain voice loud and strong and bring much needed attention to it at the global stage.

Overall, 2019 was a year to raise global ambitions for climate action and finalize the rule book of the Paris Agreement to act on this ambition. While the results and outcomes of the global negotiations at COP 25 turned out to be mixed at best, they do reiterate the need for ambitious and urgent climate action in the HKH region to keep warming within 1.5°C and to adapt to existing impacts.

The next few years will be crucial for climate change. It is going to be equally important for us all to raise our ambition and deliver actions to reduce our emissions and pick up the pace to implement adaptation measures. As environmental activist Greta Thunberg bluntly and astutely put it, “This coming decade humanity will decide its [sic] future. Let’s make it the best one we can.”

For us at ICIMOD, we are committed to raising our ambition and acting at scale and with speed to protect the HKH. Changes happen here before they happen anywhere else and the beat of the HKH reverberates across the world. We protect this pulse of the planet – and with it the immense biodiversity, ecosystems, and billions of people depending on it. In 2020, we will start work on our new initiatives on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Capability for the Hindu Kush Himalaya (REEECH) and Air Pollution Solutions to reduce emissions and atmospheric pollution in the region. We will scale up tried and tested nature-based solutions like organic agriculture and soil and water resource conservation interventions to provide resilient ecosystem services. And we will support mountain enterprise development to promote resilient and equitable development in the region. We will also continue to work closely with our RMCs to push forward the HKH Call to Action, which we began last year, and assist them in terms of science, regional collaboration, and climate action.

As we now shift our attention towards a year of impactful work and to COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, we will continue to push our narrative on the importance of mountains out to the global community. These messages will include the following: a) Even 1.5°C is too hot for our mountains; b) it is imperative that we pick up the pace on mitigation, both regionally and globally; and c) we must start significantly scaling up funding for adaptation measures and solutions for the mountains.

One of the highlights of COP 25 for us was seeing two of our RMCs – Bhutan and Nepal – form a strong lobby to raise the mountain voice. This certainly helped in spotlighting the mountains of our region and the urgent challenges that we share. Moving forward, we hope more members will also join in this year and collectively raise their respective ambitions and commitments towards climate action.

Based on the latest science, current emissions trends put our region’s warming close to 5°C by 2100. The consequences of such a reality are unimaginable. So as we begin a New Year and a new decade, let us all make a commitment to be ambitious, to act now, and to act together for a resilient HKH.

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