Regional cooperation on climate change key to future of Eastern Himalayas

Posted on 17 November 2011 |

Thimphu, Bhutan – Regional adaptation to extreme weather events and the impacts of climate change on endangered alpine species like snow leopards featured prominently at a WWF-led session in the lead up to the Climate Summit for Living Himalayas today, a high-level event that aims to work out a ten year regional framework on climate change adaptation for the Eastern Himalayan nations of Nepal, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

“Climate change is placing extraordinary pressure on the Eastern Himalayas – its people, iconic landscapes and species are all being hit hard by changing weather patterns,” said Minister Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan. “The Eastern Himalayas is now in urgent need of a regional framework of cooperation that combines expertise from governments, NGOs and civil society. Himalayan nations must act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” he continued.

Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas

The pre-summit stakeholder meet is part of a series of events leading up to the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas – Bhutan 2011, which is being hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan in the nation’s capital on 19 November 2011.

Broadly speaking, Nepal, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh are holding this high level meeting to work out an agreement on four main themes: securing biodiversity and ensuring its sustainable use; ensuring food security and securing livelihoods; securing the natural freshwater systems of the Himalayas; and ensuring energy security and enhancing alternative technologies.

The event hosted by WWF today was a moderated discussion on two specific issues – the rising threats of climate change and adaptation strategies in Eastern Himalayas, as well as snow leopard conservation in the face of changing climate vulnerabilities.

“Snow Leopards are valuable indicator of environmental health – their declining numbers is a sign that the places they live are also threatened. With only up to 7500 individuals left in the wild it is up to India, Nepal, and Bhutan to take the lead and create a regional conservation framework that helps protect the future of this iconic species and the Eastern Himalayas,” said Tariq Aziz, Leader of WWF’s Living Himalayas Initiative.

Moving towards sustainable solutions for the future

The discussion was well attended by over a hundred senior representatives from development partners, civil society and the four governments. The presence of youth at the event underscored the importance of involving younger generations in discussions towards sustainable solutions for the future.

“This gathering of policy-makers and development partners from India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh is significant as it provides a crucial platform for agreeing on much needed approaches, investment and policies to help the Himalayan region adapt to extreme weather events,” said Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India.

WWF has been working in the Eastern Himalayas for close to 50 years to ensure that the region’s incredible diversity of life is preserved for generations to come. Through our Living Himalayas Initiative WWF works closely with the governments and people of Bhutan, India and Nepal to restore and protect ecological processes, reduce the human footprint and support local economies.

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