Sagarmatha Sambaad and its relevance to Nepal

What is Sagarmatha Sambaad all about?

The first edition of the Sagarmatha Sambaad (Sagarmatha Dialogue), a flagship global conference to be organized by the Nepali government, is being held in Kathmandu in April 2020. It is named after Sagarmatha, known to the world as Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and state-owned think tank Institute of Foreign Affairs are mainly involved in organizing this multi-stakeholder dialogue. The mega event is expected to witness the participation of nearly 200 distinguished foreign delegates including twenty heads of state or government and the United Nations Secretary General.

The Sagarmatha Sambaad, to be held under the theme of “Climate Change, Mountains and the Future of Humanity”, has been widely perceived as the Nepali version of similar regional platforms like Shangri La Dialogue and Raisina Dialogue. The conference will be focus primarily on the consequences or impacts of climate change that various countries including Nepal are undergoing in recent times. The government has planned to host the dialogue every two years.

In the words of Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, some of the major objectives of
Sagarmatha Sambaad are to have a common consensus among countries on the impending climate crisis and encourage political leaders to mobilize their political will power to tackle its menace. Similarly, the dialogue also aims to create awareness among participants and the entire world about the direct relation that exists between the climate change and mountain ecology. Apart from showing how climate change and human activities are interrelated, the conferences also aims to share good practices and identify innovative and sustainable mitigation and adaptation measures to tackle the adverse effects of climate change. For now, the government has planned to host Sagarmatha Sambaad in every two years.

Why is the conference so important for Nepal?

The prime focus of the Sagarmatha Sambaad is highly relevant and contextual for Nepal. The country has already been termed the fourth most vulnerable country in the world by the various global agencies including the UN in terms of climate change impacts. The most worrying factor for Nepal is that the adverse effects of climate change are already visible in multiple sectors across the country. Environmentalists say that Nepal is going to experience a harsh future
in various sectors including health, livelihood and agriculture.

According to experts, spiked temperature, increase in adverse weather events, altered rainfall pattern, drop in crop production and growth of invasive alien plants are some of the major types of climate change  impacts Nepal is facing is currently facing  according to experts. A report unveiled by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology in 2017 clearly stated that Nepal’s average annual maximum temperature is going up by 0.056 degree Celsius every year. Extreme weather incidents in Nepal are on the constant rise. The 2018 tornado incident in Nepal was clearly linked to the climate change.

Given this very distressing scenario, Nepal government’s decision to host the Sagarmatha Sambaad is timely and pertinent as small and poor countries are bearing the brunt of global warming with the melting of ice and shrinking glaciers in the Hindukush Himalayan region. The region is currently providing water and ecosystem services for some 240 million people. Ironically, the climate change impact has been mostly harming the people and societies although they have contributed least to the problem. Nepal is one of the countries at the receiving end of climate change and global warming. As per the statistics, Nepal contributes hardly 0.027 per cent of the total global carbon emission. Despite 45 per cent of its surface area covered by forests, the country is among the most vulnerable in terms of climate change impacts.

Hence, dedicating the first edition of the Sagarmatha Sambaad on the burning topic of climate change is highly pertinent. The three-day mega event is expected to help build international consensus on the climate agenda, contribute to the existing global processes as well as enhance Nepal’s image in the international arena.