Mountain agenda & Rio+20
The declaration, however, calls for global support for sustainable mountain development in developing countries, and encourages countries to adopt mountain-specific policies for sane use of mountain natural resources while ensuring the future wellbeing of mountain people. The declaration document comprises three paragraphs on mountains. It acknowledges the benefits yielded by mountain regions as being critical for sustainable development. The vulnerability of mountain ecosystems has also been highlighted in the document due to the adverse impacts of climate change, deforestation and forest degradation, land use change, land degradation, natural disasters and impacts of melting mountain glaciers on the environment and human wellbeing.
It, thus, urges UN member countries to “integrate mountain-centric policies into national sustainable development strategies, which could include, among others, poverty alleviation plans and alternative livelihood programmes in mountain areas in developing countries. Director-General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, David Molden, said ICIMOD played its role, in fact, in bring these messages forward through the long preparatory process, right up to the final days in Rio. ICIMOD’s side event on ‘Mountain Knowledge Solutions for Sustainable Green Economy Through an Improved Water, Food, Energy, and Environment Nexus’ underlined the need to better manage mountain natural resources as global public goods supplying water for life, food for health, and clean energy for livelihoods.
“This is really a feel-good step in global policy development processes that call was echoed at the Rio+20 for world support for sustainable mountain development. Undoubtedly, climate change and globalisation have disproportionately impacted mountain countries. However, supporting the mountains to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of these changes will have global benefits,” David Molden said. In mountain countries, glaciers, ice fields, and snow packs store an immense amount of water that meet year-round needs of irrigation, drinking, sanitation, industry and clean energy sectors. Water stored in these mountains is also critical for sustainable food security, both in the mountain areas 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 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. 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. 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.
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. Global mountain ecosystems and livelihoods can be safeguarded now and in the future only if the pledges and commitments made at the global forums like Rio+20 and UNFCCC are honoured in true spirit.