Nepal Cabinet meets at Everest to send climate message

Wearing oxygen masks, Nepal’s Cabinet met close to the base camp of Mount Everest on Friday to send a message on the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, days before global climate talks start in Copenhagen.

Nepal’s prime minister and more than 20 ministers flew in by helicopter to meet 5 242 metres above sea level with Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, towering in the backdrop.

The base camp is the point where climbers start their ascent to the Everest summit.

At the meeting, the cabinet passed what it called the “Everest Declaration” to be presented at the Copenhagen summit.

“The Everest Declaration calls upon the world to minimise the negative effect of climate change on Mount Everest and other mountains in the Himalayan range,” Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told the local community and reporters.

The cabinet also decided to expand Nepal’s protected areas, such as wildlife reserves, and the country’s forest cover to 40% from the current 26%. It did not give a timeline.

In freezing temperatures and surrounded by snowy peaks, the ministers met at Kalapathar, a small patch of grassy land that is also one of the target destinations for trekkers.

Home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest peaks, including Mount Everest, Nepal is vulnerable to climate change despite being responsible for only 0,025% of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the world’s lowest, officials say.

Thousands of glaciers in the Himalayas that are the source of water for 10 major Asian rivers could go dry in the next five decades because of global warming, experts say.

“The Himalayas are getting hot and we are getting the brunt of it because of the actions of the developed countries,” said Thakur Prasad Sharma, Nepal’s Environment Minister.

“This Cabinet meeting was meant to highlight our point that we are being punished for no mistake of our own.”

About 100 world leaders will meet in the Danish capital for the December 7 to 18 United Nations summit on combating global warming.

For its part, Kathmandu is sending along some of its renowned Everest climbers to highlight the challenges facing Nepal, such as floods from glacier melting, erratic rains, longer dry spells and unprecedented forest fires.

The unusual meeting follows in the footsteps of the Maldives, which held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting in October to highlight how rising sea levels threaten the Indian Ocean archipelago’s existence.—Reuters

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