UN Secretary-General António Guterres

UN Secretary-General Calls for Urgent Reforms to Address Melting Himalayan Glaciers

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has highlighted the imminent catastrophe facing the Himalayas due to the rapid melting of glaciers. Speaking at the ongoing annual climate talks, Guterres stressed the urgent need for a response that addresses the concerns of developing nations, especially vulnerable mountain countries requiring immediate assistance.

The Himalayas play a crucial role in sustaining almost 240 million people and feeding 10 major rivers, including the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra. Additionally, over a billion people downstream in eight countries, including India, depend on these glacier-fed rivers.

During the Conference of Parties (COP28), Guterres emphasized that nearly a third of Nepal’s ice had disappeared in just over three decades, directly attributing it to greenhouse gas pollution causing global warming. Drawing attention to the scale of the crisis, he called for developed countries to clarify the delivery of USD 100 billion and proposed a plan to double adaptation finance to USD 40 billion annually by 2025.

However, Guterres acknowledged that these financial commitments are insufficient to address the magnitude of the problem. He advocated for reform in International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to better serve the needs of developing countries like Nepal.

“The outcome of this COP must call for reform of the IFIs so that they reflect today’s world and are far more responsive to the needs of developing countries,” Guterres emphasized. He also urged reform in the business models of MDBs to leverage more private finance at reasonable costs for developing countries.

Without a change in course, Guterres warned of an impending catastrophe that could lead to the disappearance of glaciers altogether, resulting in significantly reduced flows for major Himalayan rivers and devastating consequences for downstream regions.

Addressing the alarming pace of glacier disappearance, Guterres stated, “The mountains are crying out for help, and COP28 must respond.”

The Secretary-General participated in a high-level roundtable with Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and other heads of state and delegations. This roundtable followed the COP28 President’s Opening Plenary, which mandated the issue be taken up under the Nairobi work programme.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) also submitted a plea during a high-level event on the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. ICIMOD Deputy Director General Izabella Koziell called for urgent compensation for Loss and Damage in the Hindu Kush Himalaya, stressing the need for rapid scaling up of funding to address the challenges faced by the population exposed to climate-related events.

A 2017 study by ICIMOD revealed that even if global temperature rise averages are kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the Himalayan region is expected to experience a rise of 2 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century.

The global conference, attended by nearly 100,000 delegates from 198 countries, commenced on Thursday and will continue until December 12. The urgency of the situation in the Himalayas adds weight to the discussions on climate action and the crucial role that international cooperation must play in averting a looming catastrophe.

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