Eastern Himalayan nations reach base camp on regional climate deal

Posted on 19 November 2011
The Eastern Himalayas.
© Murat Selam / WWF Nepal
Thimphu, Bhutan – The nations of Bhutan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh have signed a regional climate change adaptation declaration that will see wide-ranging collaboration on energy, water, food and biodiversity issues, a deal that could lead the way to similar climate adaptation plans being implemented to cover other threatened ecosystems.

“The success of our initiative will not only have direct and immediate benefits for our own people, but we could be setting a worthy precedent for other countries that share similar conditions,” said Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y. Thinley.

The declaration was signed at the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas – Bhutan 2011, a two-day summit that brought high-level government officials, NGOs, leaders of civil society, and youth ambassadors from the four Eastern Himalayan nations to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu to work out a deal on energy security, natural freshwater systems, food security, and biodiversity across the region.

Energy framework

The four nations broadly agreed to combine powers to increase access to “affordable and reliable” clean energy resources and technology through a regional knowledge sharing mechanism. This would include diversification of energy supply, improved regional connectivity for electricity and natural gas, as well as efforts to enhance energy efficiency across the Eastern Himalayas.

Natural freshwater systems

Agreements on water security – the most contentious are of the Summit declaration – were somewhat diluted, but the four nations did manage to see eye to eye on future activities including collaborative ecosystem and disaster management, knowledge sharing in water use efficiency, and improving understanding of impacts of climate change on water resources across the region.

Food and livelihoods

Consensus was also reached on food security and securing livelihoods, with the deal covering adaptive approaches to improving and sustaining food production, promoting systems that help vulnerable communities gain better access to nutritious food, as well as regional knowledge sharing and capacity building.

Biodiversity and sustainable use

“The framework of cooperation will see the creation of an interconnected mosaic of conservation spaces across the Eastern Himalayas, crucial for communities that rely on the region’s natural resources for their survival and the protection of endangered species such as the snow leopard,” said Liisa Rohweder, CEO of WWF Finland

“These kinds of regional initiatives are really needed - we should take this as a positive example for COP 17 in Durban, and for the upcoming Rio + 20 conference,” she added.

New economic paradigm

Bhutan’s Prime Minister also made an urgent call to create a new global economic paradigm that takes the value of natural capital, ecosystem services, and social well-being into account for a sustainable future.

“We need to adopt a full course natural accounting system which will in all probability show us clearly that our economy is only as healthy as the ecosystem services and natural resources that sustain our life on earth and power our economies,” Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y. Thinley said during his keynote address.

He added that solutions to the broader issues of climate change, global warming and sustainability were unlikely to emerge from the upcoming climate talks in Durban later this month, instead saying the way forward lies with the Rio + 20 summit in 2012:

“With COP 17 unlikely to yield any earth-shaking results, our hopes are pinned on the Rio +20 Summit. It is at this event that every nation and region must be prepared to play an active and committed part,” the Bhutanese Prime Minster stated.

- Ends -

Notes to Editors
Photos illustrating climate change in the Himalayas are available here https://photos.panda.org/gpn/external?albumId=4195

A video illustrating the challenges the Himalayan region faces is available here http://vimeo.com/23365280

WWF in the Eastern Himalayas
WWF has been working in the Eastern Himalayas for close to 50 years to ensure that the region's incredible diversity of life is preserved for generations to come. Through our Living Himalayas Initiative WWF works closely with the governments and people of Bhutan, India and Nepal to restore and protect ecological processes, reduce the human footprint and support local economies.

About the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas

To help Himalayan nations adapt to the negative impacts of climate change, the Royal Government of Bhutan has organized the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas on November 19 2011 in Thimphu, Bhutan. The event will bring together leaders from the governments of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan as well as representatives of civil society and academia to agree on a regional framework of cooperation for adaptation to climate change.

For further information:

Chris Chaplin, WWF International, cchaplin@wwf.sg, + 65 9826 3802

Savita Malla, Living Himalayas Initiative, savita.malla@wwfnepal.org, +975 13749809

The Eastern Himalayas.
© Murat Selam / WWF Nepal Enlarge
Bhutan's Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y. Thinley speaking at the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas.
© WWF / Chris CHAPLIN Enlarge
Bhutan's Minister for Agriculture and Forests signs the declaration.
© WWF / Chris CHAPLIN Enlarge
Bhutan's Prime Minister (center) and the environment ministers from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan who signed the declaration.
© WWF / Chris CHAPLIN Enlarge