Arendalsuka is an annual forum where national delegates in politics, society and industry meet each other and the public, to debate and develop policies for the present and future. Read Ambassador Kjell Tormod Pettersen’s speech at Grid Arendal’s seminar at Arendalsuka 14th August:
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start with congratulating GRID-Arendal on its 25th anniversary and for hosting this seminar to highlight the challenges of food security as a result of climate change and adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Hindu Kush Himalayas sounds far from Norway, but what is happening in the region – the Third Pole - also affects us, and Norwegian interests as an Arctic State and as a global donor.
Norway has cooperated with and been a donor to ICIMOD since 1993, and is today the biggest individual donor with a five year agreement and an annual contribution of NOK 30 million. We provide both core support to the organization as well as program support.
Norway’s support has contributed to regional cooperation, knowledge and policy developments within ICIMOD and among its member states. This has also benefited Norway through Norwegian partners – CICERO, GRID-Arendal and NVE. There is definitely an untapped potential for other Norwegian institutions and research centres to contribute to the work of ICIMOD. I hope this seminar will create more interest to see that materialize. The Embassy in Kathmandu is more than happy to assist.
The cooperation with ICIMOD combines the more common goals for Norway’s development cooperation policy on climate change, environment and sustainable development, with efforts to promote women’s rights and gender equality.
ICIMOD is the leading regional organization on climate research, and has contributed to cooperation in a part of the world where there are few operational regional organizations. We are speaking about countries with more than three billion inhabitants dependent on what happens in the Hindu Kush Himalayas.
People who live in these mountain areas are already among the groups most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Through our cooperation with ICIMOD we get access to information on how the living conditions for these people are affected. We also see a parallel to the environmental and climate developments in the Hindu Kush Himalaya globally and in the arctic areas. We also need more information about climate change, adaptation, natural disasters, risk reduction and what kinds of measures are needed and effective. The work of ICIMOD gives us such a window.
Increased knowledge and capacity is one of the most important tools we have to mitigate the effects of climate change. This is particularly important in the Himalayan region, which is very exposed to melting glaciers and other consequences of climate change, creating disturbances in food production and access to clean water.
When you live and work in Nepal you can easily observe these challenges and how hard it is for people to prepare for natural disasters and changing weather patterns. Unfortunately, Nepal is still a very poor nation with weak institutions and limited capacity to address and to adapt to the ongoing environmental changes affecting the majority of its population. One example, if the monsoon is delayed as it was this summer, it will reduce the Gross Domestic Product with 1 % due to late planting of rice and lack of good irrigation systems. Heavy rainfalls may also wash away the newly sowed seeds and jeopardise one season for individual farmers and their families. In addition, erratic heavy rainfalls increases the risks for flooding and landslides. About two weeks ago there was a big landslide just 2-3 hours’ drive from Kathmandu on the main transport route to China, blocking SunKoshi river in an area important for hydropower and affecting 10% of installed electricity capacity. For people living on the margins this is quite drastic and must be a very stressful situation. To ensure income in the face of unreliable agricultural production, men from the villages migrate to the Middle East and other parts of the world. This in turn has implications for the full spectrum of socio-economic aspects of both village life and the national economy and culture.
Norway’s support to ICIMOD’s regional programmes also includes a new focus on black carbon emissions and their effects on human health and livelihoods in the region through work in cryosphere and atmosphere. It will deepen the understanding of how air pollution and black carbon affect the cryosphere, human health, and agricultural production. The programme will seek knowledge from around the world, and is to be implemented through partnership with among others CICERO, GRID-Arendal and NVE.
Climate change in the Himalayas has dire consequences beyond the Himalayas and the global ecosystems. The more critical the changes are, the more political sensitive issues we deal with. There is a need to generate scientific evidence for cooperation and decision-making. Through the partnership we have with ICIMOD, Norway invests in work aimed at documenting, adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change worldwide.
ICIMOD is an example on how to build bridges between communities, policy makers and scientists. ICIMOD is also linking its work to the global science community and has brought global attention to the important role that mountains play in food, energy and water security.
Mountains cover 25 percent of the world’s land surface, and directly support 12 percent of the world’s population living within mountain regions. The significance of a sustainable mountain environment should not be underestimated; among the most important is water for half of humanity for drinking, irrigation and energy production.
Norway as a mountain country, rich in water and energy resources, has both competence and an interest in increasing its knowledge on how to adapt to climate changes in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. ICIMOD, as a regional organisation, is the most suitable partner to do so, with its knowledge-based approach and ability to create cooperation beyond borders through scientific work. The Norwegian partners, which I hope will increase, both benefit from access to and contribute to the science-based work of ICIMOD, to address environment issues at home and in our neighbourhood. I see a win-win situation where we merge the objectives of our development and environment policies with the concrete need for knowledge for both global and more domestic needs.
Thank you for your attention!