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Uniting for Change: Confronting the Climate and Cryosphere Crisis in the Himalayas

The Hindu Kush Himalaya Science-Policy Forum unites scientists, policymakers, development practitioners, and young researchers from across the High Mountain Asia region to discuss critical transboundary issues and collaborative solutions.
Published: 12 Oct, 2023
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⏲ 3 minutes Read

The Hindu Kush Himalaya Science-Policy Forum unites scientists, policymakers, development practitioners, and young researchers from across the High Mountain Asia region to discuss critical transboundary issues and collaborative solutions. 

This year’s event took place over two days at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal and focussed on the climate and cryosphere crisis. 

In his keynote address, ICIMOD Director General Pema Gyamtsho described the urgency of the situation as “undeniable”, citing scientific evidence that tipping points that threatened earth’s very sustainability were perilously close to being reached.

James Kirkham, Chief Scientific Adviser to International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, highlighted the alarming rate at which the cryosphere is warming: with the Arctic warming at four times the global average and the Hindu Kush Himalaya at double the global average.

“Around the world we’ve watched as glaciers have continued their enormous decline,” Kirkham, who used to work at ICIMOD, told the audience. “We’re locked in for extensive mountain ice losses. Loss and damage is already occurring. Delaying mitigation will result in larger loses, greater instability and less time to adapt to our changing mountains. There isn’t much time to act to prevent this. [Limiting warming to] 1.5ºC is our best chance.”

Over two days, participants focused on three core objectives: assessing cryosphere science, discussing national policies and plans, and examining institutional mechanisms. Their goal is to address the far-reaching impacts of cryosphere changes on vital aspects such as water resources, biodiversity, and livelihoods. 

From these deliberations emerged a set of ten-point recommendations, a roadmap to inform the HKH Ministerial Mountain Summit in 2024, and which will be attended by ministers from ICIMOD’s eight regional member countries.

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Participants at the second Hindu Kush Himalaya Science-Policy Forum: Climate and Cryosphere Crisis at ICIMOD headquarters, Nepal. Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD

Recommendations from the policy forum included the establishment of a transdisciplinary HKH Cryosphere Working Group, a regional cryosphere monitoring and research program, and adopting a nexus approach for disaster risks and water resources management.  

The forum emphasized upstream-downstream linkages, nature-based solutions, and research on cascading risks and transboundary implications.

Communication and knowledge exchange and building greater understanding cryosphere change impacts on biodiversity and marginalized communities were all areas earmarked for rapid progress and greater investment. 

The second HKH Science-Policy Forum concluded with a clarion call for immediate action, and consensus that the need for transboundary collaboration has never been more urgent.

In an increasingly complex world, dedicated individuals from diverse backgrounds are transcending boundaries to address the climate and cryosphere crisis. The Himalayas, with their majestic beauty and ecological significance, depend on it.

Author

Head of Communications, ICIMOD

Media Officer, ICIMOD

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