By Saleem Shaikh
19 June 2012
While mountains resources meet socio-economic needs of over half of the world population, agenda for conservation and protection of mountain resources must be placed be at priority in the negotiations at the Rio+20 set to open on June 20 in Rio, Brazil.
Undoubtedly, mountains play crucial role in water, food and energy nexus. Glaciers, ice fields, and snow packs store an immense amount of water that meet year-round needs for irrigation, drinking, sanitation, industrial processing and clean energy. Water stored in these mountains is also critical for food security, both in the mountains and downstream.
The mountains are also sources of rich biodiversity that provide organic food and forest products and natural medicines, yet all are at risk from diverse climate change impacts.
Flow of water in adequate quantities and acceptable quality from the cryosphere is essential for food security. But, uncertainty of water supplies renders mountain and agricultural communities particularly vulnerable, particularly in subtropical zones.
In addition, climate change and anthropogenic pollution have become cause of negative consequences, particularly for glaciers, which are of global significance. According to international findings, glacial melt is the result of global warming.
Erratic and unpredictable heavy rains, flood, drought, cyclone events due to increased climate variability are increasing the happening of hazards for mountain populations and hence the vulnerability of populations both upstream and downstream.
Climate change experts at the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) are calling for conservation, storage, and sustainable management upstream are of unprecedented importance for livelihoods, food and energy security, and basic availability of water downstream.
Mountain systems across the world do require serious attention and for that reason the discussion on mechanisms and instruments proposed for sustainable mountain development at global forums like Rio+20 require to be influenced to ensure that mountain-specific concerns are included and assigned due heed in such highest level negotiations.
While adaptation strategies are of high importance for mountain areas, several mountainous countries lack adequate capacity to collect information related to their urgent and immediate adaptation needs and prepare strategic adaptation plans.
For Countries depending on the ecosystem services of the mountains, it has been inevitable to ensure that there is unhampered and regular access to relevant information about how climate change is affecting mountain resources and how What part they can play to mitigate these impact and how they can adapt to them. The mountain countries in the northern hemisphere (especially developed mountain countries) are therefore can support such countries that lack resources needed to regularly update themselves about climate change impacts on these for mountain systems. Such exchange of information and capacity-building will be helpful for mitigation and adaptation in mountain areas.
As a response to climate change, there are now plenty of financial instruments available for developing measures to improve adaptation to climate change in least-developed countries. But, these have hardly been in action.
Pledges were made in the Copenhagen Accord to provide US $30 billion for the period from 2010-2012 for adaptation and mitigation; a further sum to assist developing countries of US $100 billion a year by 2010 was also promised. Despite these pledges for partnership between developed and developing countries to address the challenges of climate change, finance for adaptation programmes has not yet poured into mountain communities and mountain ecosystems on the scale required by the urgency of the problem.
When the mountain agenda is discussed, it is important to recognise the respective positions of countries in the Rio+20 negotiations. For instance, the fact that the mountain agenda is in conformity with key national and regional positions and addresses national and regional-level mountain issues. For making emphasis on the Mountain Agenda effective at global, national, and state level, mountain issues must be dealt with under the sustainable development framework, which is aligned with all other multilateral environmental agreements.
Global mountain ecosystems and livelihoods can be safeguarded now and in the future only if the mountain voices are properly heard and assigned due recognition in the negotiations at the global forums like Rio+20 and UNFCCC.