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The Melt and Rise of Mountain States

Posted by NYCA Blogger on June 8, 2010

Something rare happened at the LCA (Long Term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC) plenary the other day. Around four mountainous countries made interventions saying how vulnerable they are to climate change and how the livelihoods of their people are already in jeopardy. This isn’t the first time that mountainous states have made such interventions, it was the first time that they did it in the same opening and it looked almost coordinated.

The small island states have long stolen the limelight of climate vulnerability specially with the underwater meetings and rhetorical grandstanding of the Maldivian president.

Nepal seemed to follow, albeit weakly, with a meeting at the close to the Everest Base Camp right before Copenhagen Talks. Though this stunt did get some press, it was a little too late and looked more like a desperate attempt to throw something together.

Nepal proposed an alliance of small developing mountainous states in Copenhagen but the exact nature of this alliance is remains to be seen. Will the countries actually join forces and function as a negotiating bloc? Or, will this be somewhat of a loose coalition, like the Coalition of Rainforest Nations (this group provided major political backing for REDD) that rallies around particular issue?

To me what is more confusing is why Nepal’s taking the lead and investing political capital in this when it actually should be getting the LDC bloc strengthened as it holds the chair of the group in the General Assembly.

Has Nepal realized that its interests are not well served through the LDCs? Nepal is in fact one of the very few non-Sub Saharan countries in the group. Or, does it not feel comfortable with a group with considerable history (and political baggage) and is attempting to create its own space?

The Copenhagen Accord might provide a hint at what might be at work. The Accord opened up a Pandora’s Box of sorts by saying that the priority on finance needs to go to “the most vulnerable developing countries”. Who exactly are these most vulnerable countries and who sets out the definition? We don’t really know.

While this can come off as a cynical assessment but this seems to exactly what developing countries should not be falling for- the contest to define degree of vulnerability. The lack of serious movement here in Bonn points at a major necessity for developing countries to stay united and push for strong mitigation targets and immediate adaptation funds, not to squabble with amongst each other. In fact, some countries have been doing exactly that in in the contact group, giving in to the delaying tactics.

The Government of Nepal is hosting a reception on Monday evening. This is going to be a high level event and is Nepal’s first public attempt to coordinate the mountain states.

What comes out of this meeting will be posted shortly. For a preliminary analysis, the alliance will perhaps be useful if:

  1. Mountain states are able to build a strong common ground that hashes out what the fundamental objective of this alliance is. This common ground must be well defined niche that validates the rationale for having this alliance.
  2. If the Alliance is able to form quickly and head straight to action. There won’t be much space left in the text if the states don’t decide on what to do until COP16. The text will have matured too much by then.
  3. Determine a membership criteria that allows the common ground mentioned above in number 1 to be achieved.

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