Big parties ignore climate change in poll manifestos


KATHMANDU, Nov 9: In a glaring sign of indifference to one of the most burning issues facing the country, Nepal´s major political parties have left out the topic of climate change in their respective election manifestos.

The Constituent Assembly (CA) election, slated for November 19, is especially for writing a new constitution, and not for electing a new government. In addition to dwelling on key issues like identity, federalism and form of governance, all major political parties have outlined the ways and models of economic development.

However, the issue of climate change, which has already stared influencing politics of developed countries, has not featured prominently in any major political party´s election manifesto.

“It shows our major political parties are blissfully unmindful of the effects of climate change on the lives of common people,” said Ganesh Shah, former minister for environment, science and technology. “It also shows how detached our major political parties are from the common people, especially in the mountainous region, who are facing the effects of climate change in their daily lives.”

No doubt all three major political parties, the UCPN (Maoist), the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN (UML), have touched upon the issue of climate change in just one or two sentences. However, none of them has outlined what they plan to do in order to deal with the effects of climate change if they get to lead the government. They are also silent about how they want to raise the issue of climate change on global platforms.

In its manifesto, the UCPN (Maoist), which emerged as the single largest party after the 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) election, has acknowledged that Nepal faces a high risk from climate change. The UCPN (Maoist) has also stated that it will take initiatives to deal with the problem. However, it has made no effort to explain it would deal with the effects of climate change.

“We did not dwell much on climate change as it is a technical issue,” said Khim Lal Devkota, a UCPN (Maoist) leader who was involved in drafting his party´s manifesto, adding, “But, it does not mean that we are not concerned about climate change.”

The CPN-UML, in its manifesto, has also stated that they, if in the government, will take the responsibility of empowering the people to adapt to the effects of climate change. However, much like the UCPN (Maoist), the CPN-UML has also failed to outline what they will do to protect people from climate change.

Politburo member of CPN-UML Bishnu Rimal, who also contributed to drafting the party´s manifesto, said they did not have enough space in the manifesto to outline ways to combat the effects of climate change. “There was a limit of space,” said he. “So, we did not go into the details of how we would deal with climate change.”

NC, in its manifesto, says it will look into how climate change is impacting the lives of common people and address the problem. However, NC, like the UCPN (Maoist) and the CPN-UML, has not dwelled further on the issue.

“Our political parties are dominated by the same old leaders,” said Ghanshyam Pandey, former president of Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN). “Most of them are ignorant of what the climate change is. So, they have not devoted their time and energy in thinking about dealing with climate change.”

Major political parties have failed to factor climate change into their manifestos when the country is already beginning to witness visible impacts of climate change. Patterns of rainfall are changing. Average temperature is on the rise. In the high mountain regions, farmers are dealing with new pests. A report suggests six glacier lakes are highly vulnerable in Nepal.

“Climate change has turned out to be an issue that none of us can afford to ignore,” said former environment minister Shah, adding, “I wonder why our big political parties are not bothered.”

Published on 2013-11-10 00:57:05

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