Government Proposes Creation of National Climate Authority to Address Climate Crisis

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A proposal has been put forward to establish a dedicated and powerful authority in Nepal to combat the escalating crisis of climate change, as outlined in the ‘Climate Change Bill-2080 BS’ prepared by the Nepal Law Commission.

Amidst the growing risks posed by climate change, which severely impacts the economic, social, and developmental fabric of Nepal, there is a pressing demand for legal and structural reforms to tackle this challenge. “The enactment of the Climate Change Act is imperative to adhere to internationally recognized climate change obligations, integrate the climate budget and carbon trading system into our national framework, and to offer legal and institutional structures for the sustainable resolution and management of issues stemming from climate change that affect Nepal’s economy, society, environment, agriculture, and biodiversity,” the draft bill says.

According to paragraph 2 of the draft, the establishment of the National Climate Authority is proposed to efficiently manage climate change-related tasks and adaptation measures. This authority will serve as the secretariat to the National Climate Council, chaired by the Prime Minister. The draft bill suggests setting up the central office of the authority in Kathmandu, with the possibility of establishing additional offices across the country as needed.

The authority’s responsibilities, as outlined in the draft, include devising a comprehensive strategic plan and program to mitigate Nepal’s climate change challenges, formulating proposals to secure financial aid or climate investment from international funds such as the Clean Development Fund, Global Environment Facility, Green Climate Fund, and Adaptation Fund.

A chief executive officer, selected through an open competition and serving under the direct oversight of the National Climate Council for a four-year term, will lead the proposed Authority. The National Climate Council, as specified in paragraph 3 of the bill, will develop and implement national policies, programs, and plans related to climate change and adaptation in a cohesive manner.

The proposed 21-member National Climate Council will comprise the Prime Minister as Chairman, the Forest and Environment Minister as Vice Chairman, ministers from various ministries, secretaries, the head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, three expert members including one woman, and the Chief Executive Officer as member secretary. The Council is tasked with establishing committees or working groups with climate change experts for research and study.

To manage and allocate funds from the Nepal government, international organizations, countries, carbon trading, and other sources, the government plans to set up a climate change fund. This fund will be overseen by a seven-member committee led by the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance.

The proposed bill emphasizes the development of a climate budget, setting carbon targets and business plans, climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, protecting physical infrastructure and investments, fostering international cooperation, and ensuring climate justice to mitigate and address the impacts of climate change.

Nepal Law Commission Joint Secretary and Spokesperson Parashwor Dhungana stated that the draft is undergoing further refinement after discussions with experts and stakeholders. “This is an initial draft. While there are varying opinions, efforts are underway to finalize it without altering its core principles and essence,” Dhungana said.

Neighborhood trends

In Nepal, the Ministry of Forests and Environment has been acting as a liaison body on climate change until now. To face the growing and multifaceted challenge of climate change and to coordinate among related agencies, a separate ministry or structural arrangement is necessary to act, including climate finance.

South Asian and Nepal’s neighboring countries have been doing climate work by establishing this type of specific body. For example, in Bhutan, the National Environment Council is working to address the effects of climate change.

Similarly, in India and Bangladesh, specific bodies such as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change are working. Pakistan, too, has a separate ministry to coordinate and address the impacts of climate change. Climate change in the Maldives is addressed by the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

Experts welcome

Experts have welcomed the government’s proposed separate climate authority. “This is a welcome thing but this agency should have independent authority to coordinate with related government offices and stakeholders. There should be a separate arrangement for research and capacity development as well,” said climate change expert Raju Pandit Chhetri. Discussing that there is too much government interference in some authorities of Nepal, he said that this should not happen in this agency.