In 2020, CO2 emissions per capita for Nepal was 0.59 tonnes; this was an increase from 0.02 tonnes in 1971, growing at an average annual rate of 8.18%. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission also has doubled in the last few years. Carbon dioxide emissions are those stemming from the burning of fossil fuels and manufacture of cement, and include CO2 produced during consumption of solid, liquid, gas fuels and gas flaring.
The Corporate Carbon Footprint includes all emissions that are influenced by a company’s decision. This means that in addition to direct emissions, all indirect emissions are also included. For manufacturing companies this implies that the entire value chain is part of the Corporate Carbon Footprint.
In simple terms, carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use and end-of-life of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide — the gas most commonly emitted by humans — and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Usually, the bulk of an individual’s carbon footprint will come from transportation, housing and food.
Nepal as a developing country has low carbon footprint but growing industries, haphazard construction, deforestation, waste generation, rapid urbanisation among multiple other factors have been contributing to the increase of CO2 emissions at a rapid pace.
Nepal, with over 150 other nations, signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. Nepal ratified the Convention on May 2, 1994, and this convention came into force in Nepal on July 31, 1994. In accordance with the IPCC Guidelines, Nepal’s GHG inventory is divided into five main categories: Energy Activities, Industrial Processes, Agriculture, Land-use Change and Forestry, and Waste Management. Nepal as a country with no fossil fuel deposits has a vast potential for renewable energy like hydropower, biomass and wind. Although Nepal is lacking in technology and finance to address climate change appropriately, the country is well placed to meet most energy needs from emission free sources.
The UNFCCC plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and meet its commitment to net-zero by 2050 by cutting down on emissions from sectors including agriculture, forestry, land, energy, industrial, and waste management. Nepal’s emission may still be negligible but is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and extreme weather events.
With the increase in number of industries and businesses, we asked a few stakeholders whether the corporate sector of Nepal is sensitised to the need for reduction of carbon footprint. What are some examples of companies controlling CO2 emission in their company, what are the challenges and is it just a CSR gig for some?
Co- founder, Doko Recyclers
Despite contributing only 0.027% to the total global emissions, Nepal has experienced changes in temperature and precipitation at a rate faster than the global average.
Companies in Nepal need to innovate their approach to CSR strategy, it should not be treated as just another way to spend the budget on social activities. Organisations have to incorporate reducing carbon footprint as one of their company strategies and streamline activities that contribute to this outcome. Once this has been incorporated, employees will gear towards achieving this goal and activities will be designed towards this. Businesses are not mandated to participate in the circular economy (CE) and we have seen negligible participation in Nepal.
We believe organisations in Nepal should increase awareness among management and employees through expert sessions on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, CE and reflect on statistics on climate change and its impact and focus on individual and collective actions that can help to restore the ecosystem. We find lack of awareness is a major cause for not taking any initiative with regards to reducing one’s footprint. Greenhouse Gas emissions from post-consumer waste and wastewater are a small contributor to total global GHG emissions, thus it can be managed and solved with concrete steps.
Evidence shows that Greenhouse Gas emissions occur at every stage of the plastic life cycle, including extraction and transportation of plastic raw materials, plastic manufacturing, and waste treatment and entering the environment hence reducing single use plastic consumption should be taken seriously. In addition, significant GHG generation is avoided through controlled composting and recycling initiatives. Doko encourages consumers to think about waste beyond the landfill and into their daily practices imbibing the notion of reducing, reusing and recycling in that order. Some other initiatives are promoting the use of electric vehicles, making personal mobility fuel-less, e-waste recycling through proper channels, etc.
Similar to other parts of the world, the government should set a cap on how many tonnes of emissions certain sectors can release and build policies around this. Regulatory frameworks such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) where coordinated engagement of various stakeholders – producers/importers, consumers and particularly on end-of-life product management is worked out simultaneously can help the economy by utilising secondary raw materials through scrap.
There are many available carbon footprint calculators that help you estimate your carbon emissions and the process to offset your footprint. One approach would be to conduct an environmental audit based on which companies like Doko Recyclers can create plans that lead to carbon neutrality for companies.
The process to bring about behavioural and structural change to achieve a thriving and circular Nepali economy is difficult and full of challenges. However, these challenges also provide avenues for new and unique solutions to revamp and remodel current systems set in place. We are not working on a clean slate but there are still certainly many gaps to fill in the system and innovations to be made. We have recently seen a surge in sustainable initiatives across the country from eco bricks to e-mobility, a growth we wholeheartedly welcome.
Chairman, Mato, Golyan Group
Any industry that we see produces carbon emission at a certain level; that can differ for every other company. On our part, we have been trying to reduce carbon emissions to a minimal level by using renewable sources of energy as much as possible. The Golyan Group is focused on hydropower, solar energy installation, agriculture, and forestry planting. This gives us the opportunity to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint.
Nepal is a country that consists of 45% of forest land which is remarkable. But our giant neighbours are one of the most carbon emission producing countries which directly or indirectly hampers us. In fact, Nepal is helping the ecosystem as we have less habitat and industrial spaces. I think this aspect should be highlighted as we are lobbying to reduce carbon emission in every way possible and the efforts of minimising it should be highlighted and recognised.
Mato is a brand promoting local products procured from the farmers of Nepal by educating and enabling them to produce goods without any added preservatives. The brand represents earth, nature and purity. We try to promote our farmers to not use any kind of pesticides as about 30% of global emissions leading to climate change are attributable to agricultural activities, including pesticide use.
The first challenge anyone who wants to reduce carbon footprint begins with their own mindset. When we are in the position of changemakers, we have to think about everything in a broader manner. One needs to be convinced about the idea because it’s a costly affair, it’s not an easy thing to do. We have to make the changes from our hearts. It will be difficult to achieve it. Second challenge is convincing people that this is good for us. Wherever there is more carbon emission, it directly has an effect on people. The quality of air is polluted and there is so much there that will hamper our health. And the last challenge is finance. As a corporate house, the financial implications are costlier but it’s high time for us to come into an eco-friendly model, and we have to do it despite the financial debits.
Generally, when we think about CSR, it is definitely considered a medium where we take the most advantage from, but it is also one of the most crucial components when it comes to giving back to the community. In the past four years, Mato has been educating our farmers (anna datas) to not use any kind of pesticides or chemical fertilisers. We are specifically looking after the funding to save the soil. As far as CSR is concerned, we are making efforts in leaving green footprints anywhere we reach. In my opinion, it is high time for all corporate houses to take this into consideration because in the long run, it is very important in terms of sustainability, growth and development.
Architect and Urban Planner, Wonaw and Associates
When we look at the architectural fraternity in Nepal, less has been done to promote sustainability. We as a company are actively trying to reduce carbon emission through the projects we design and implement.
Working in the tourism industry with various hotel chains, banks and residences, carbon footprints are bound to be present. From our company, Wonaw Associates, we try to work in a manner where there is minimum carbon footprint during the design and construction process along with keeping sustainability in check.
From the early stages of designing the project to site selection to actual location allocation, we have to be mindful of the impact it can create on the environment and the community we are building. For instance, we minimise or negate working with any corporation that uses mammoth amounts of water, electricity, non-renewable resources. To minimise it, we use rainwater integrated in the buildings which are filtered naturally and can be used for any purpose. It can be used to promote long-term sustainability.
Challenges are present when we try to change the norm. Using architecture in a sustainable way itself imposes a lot of barriers. The biggest challenge is the mindset of the people. It is one of the most difficult aspects to change. Big corporations tend to be profit motivated and wouldn’t want to do as much as they can to take these measures which makes them environment friendly. It is definitely doable but until there is a change in mindset, it is very difficult to reduce the footprints as much as we could.
As for CSR, it is very important for business houses especially as many may not know how to reduce emission at the personal level, hence experts’ opinion and guidance on various ways can benefit the company itself.
More than CSR, I wish people looked at it as their duty and not just to fulfil the part of CSR. I’ve designed The Pavilions Himalayas The Farm which is an eco farm. Its sustainability has made it one of the most famous resorts in a short time and has been recognised by international media as well. All in all, bringing changes comes from within and it’s not only about CSR but doing it with your heart to reduce carbon footprints.
Vice President, JA Group
Sensitivity on carbon footprints
Nepal once was a carbon negative country but unfortunately, now we are not. But if we just stop cutting our trees and let nature take its course, we could be carbon negative through our lush green forests in no time. Do you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever created still exists since its invention in the 1930s, almost 100 years ago? Imagine how many toothbrushes that means and this is just one form of plastic. Especially in a developing country like ours, single-use plastic is everywhere. We as individuals should try to change that at the personal as well as organisational level as soon as possible. The government should help organisations like ours who are working day and night to make renewable energy accessible to all.
Controlling CO2 emissions and roles
We at JA Group think it’s high time that we start worrying about climate change and working towards controlling CO2 emissions. With all our projects we have kept in mind the impact that we could cause on the environment. Many developing countries cannot afford alternative renewable energy but Nepal is an exception. With hydropower energy, Nepal can meet not just its own electricity needs, but also serve energy hungry neighbours like Bangladesh and India. And hydropower energy has the lowest carbon footprint of all energy types. We have been involved in the hydropower sector for the last three decades. We were the first private organisation to develop a project in this sector. We all know the transportation sector generates the largest share of Greenhouse Gas emissions. We have to create a sustainable fleet infrastructure to help us reduce our carbon footprint. Going electric is the only way and we have seen a lot of improvement in that sector in Nepal but the government should be more active and work towards it. We, for instance, have decided to buy only electric vehicles for our organisation.
For a developing country like ours, progress happens at the cost of cutting down trees. Nijgadh was strategically planned to be the largest airport in South Asia in terms of area, but that would have cost us so much. It would have damaged the local communities, environment, and biodiversity. The Supreme Court said no to Nijgadh airport over environmental concerns and I hope there is no overturning of this decision. The second most effective way to decrease the carbon footprint is to reduce, reuse and recycle but it is very difficult to introduce and implement this concept at the local level. We need to reduce the amount of energy that we use, eat fewer animal products, shop locally, travel smart, and reduce our waste. Waste management is another major crisis that we are facing. The connection between waste and climate change is increasingly visible and so is the connection between climate change and agriculture and the supply chain. We know how extreme weather events are disruptive to both agriculture and the supply chain. We need to separate organic waste from other waste to avoid sending organic materials to landfill. Separating organic waste at its source and treating it helps to reduce the amount of waste that goes to the landfill. When food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, an even more toxic greenhouse gas. The separated organic waste material is treated separately to produce a low emission alternative such as composting. And kudos to our mayor Balen Shah for starting this initiative but a lot of challenges lie in front of us.
One of the major hiccups I personally see is the very lack of local awareness of carbon emissions and climate change amongst the general citizens and failure of our so called first generation Grand-Pa leaders (born at the same time as the toothbrush) leading our government to communicate and implement CO2 emission as a policy among the business organisations that are rampantly doing whatsoever to make huge profits.
Similarly, recent studies have indicated that micro plastics are found in human blood which is saddening news but not shocking at all.
We take our CSR very seriously and as mentioned earlier all our projects going forward are with keeping the environment and climate change in mind. We need to be the generation that possesses the power to make both people and planet thrive. We should not wait for the government to enforce rules but we as a private business house should be more aware and thoughtful about the future generations rather than today’s profits. CSR is not only about investing in the priority sector but also investing in knowledge and bringing awareness about climate change and reducing carbon emission or using alternative resources by industries or at the day-to-day level. It is sad that our nation does not have proper set of laws and actually our government should promote and initiate carbon trading in Nepal like EU whereby setting an overall limit or cap on the amount of emissions that are allowed especially for carbon emitting industries like cement factories.
One of our projects is going back to the soil. We have just been involved in an agro-bio industry where we produce 100% organic fertilisers. We all know that chemical fertilisers/pesticides kill the good bacteria and living organisms making our soil infertile, causes erosion, nutrient imbalance and loss of soil biodiversity. And from our soil through the crops all the side effects come to our body. Today we see every household has a diabetic, thyroid or heart patient. Even newborns are affected. That’s why there is a need to go back and change our soil or let’s say enrich our soil like it was before all these pesticides and chemical fertilisers came into existence. Our organic bio fertiliser has nutrients called organic carbon or good carbon which is a feed to those bacteria and living organisms that make our soil rich, healthy and fertile, eventually resulting in healthier plants, flowers, and fruits for an entire forest. I know we cannot make a significant difference by selling it to individuals or in exclusive niche markets so that is why we are initiating and trying to work with the government. Organic fertiliser is the need of the hour. We are working on bulk production and distribution so one day every farmer has easy access to it. We want to work with the government and set up a plant in every state so our nation can be self-sufficient. I hope we can make a little amount of difference to our soil, our earth and our body and hopefully one day again be a carbon negative nation.
CEO, Gham Power Nepal
As a solar company, Gham Power’s ultimate objective has always been to reduce carbon footprint as much as possible and help businesses in becoming greener through solar. With the increased CO2 emissions in Nepal, it has become crucial to take apt measures toward the shift to renewable energy sources.
Throughout our 12 years of experience in the energy sector, we have approached several businesses and institutions. Most of them are not comfortable investing in renewable energy and opt for quick solutions and short-term investments such as diesel generators for reliable electricity. The majority do not see solar or other renewable options as a long-term investment, instead, they think of it as a liability. Their first concern has always been the cost and they are not ready to deal with the hassle of the operational and maintenance aspect of it.
Considering all of these issues, we started offering a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) model for our solar systems which is a financing model where the business only purchases the power that the solar system produces. In this model, Gham Power owns the solar system and is solely responsible for maintaining and operating the system. This model helps the business to receive all the cost savings through solar without any operational risk and get the electricity with zero upfront investment.
Even with the introduction of this model, environmental sustainability is still a new concept in Nepal and businesses still choose convenience and short-term benefits over reliable and sustainable electricity. In order to make the businesses naturally involved in becoming sustainable, there should be government-level involvement where there is a provision of incentives and green certifications for institutions that implement green energy. CSR could also be a significant tool to promote the use of green energy in businesses. All in all, more education and awareness on controlling CO2 emissions should be the way forward.