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What is Nepalʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

In brief

This is a summary of the most important findings of our analysis. Get a brief overview over the most important figures and entry points into the various parts of the in depth analysis.

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Ambition gap

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Nepalʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−200 %−150 %−100 %−50 %0 %50 %20002020204020601234
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
Legend
  1. 1
    1.5°C emissions level
    −34 %
  2. 2
    Estimated 2030 NDC
    +54 %
  3. 3
    Ambition gap
    −88 %
  4. 4
    Reference year
    2011
Key messages

Nepal submitted its updated NDC in December 2020, where it presented ambitious sectoral policy and emissions reduction targets, including reducing its 2030 emissions from the transport and cooking sectors by 28% and 23% respectively compared to BAU. By 2030, Nepal will also unconditionally expand clean energy from 1.4 GW to 5 GW and add an additional 10 GW to this capacity, conditional upon international support.

1 Climate Action Tracker. Nepal | Target Update Tracker. (2020).

2 DFRS. State of Nepal’s Forests. Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) Nepal. (2015).

3 Central Department of Environmental Science Tribhuvan University. Nepal’s GHG Inventory for Third National Communication. (2017).

4 Government of Nepal. Second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). 0–21 (2020).

5 Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). A year in review (fiscal Year 2019/2020). (2020).

6 IEA. Data & Statistics – IEA. (2021).

7 Government of Nepal. Nepal’s 15th Five-Year Plan, (Fiscal Year 2019/20 – 2023/24). (2019).

8 Government of Nepal. Nepal in Figures 2020. (2020).

9 Climate Action Tracker. Data & Trends: Nepal. (2021).

10 Ministry of Finance. Economic Survey 2018/19. (2019).

11 CBS. Annual Household Survey 2016/17. (2017).

12 Nepal Rastra Bank. Macroeconomic Indicators of Nepal. (2019).

13 Government of Nepal. Nepal Fiscal Budget 2021/22. (2021).

14 Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE). Assessment of Electric Cooking Targets for Nepal’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). (2021).

15 Ministry of Forest and Environment. National Level Forests and Land Cover Analysis of Nepal using Google Earth Images. 46 (2019).

16 ESMAP. Nepal – Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) Survey – MTF_Nepal_Executive_Summary.pdf – ENERGYDATA.INFO. (2019).

17 Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE). Assessment of Electric Mobility Targets for Nepal’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). (2021).

18 See the Climate Action Tracker for assumptions on the conditional NDC assessment. It was not possible to estimate the impact of all of the listed mitigation actions, which means the total reduction under the conditional NDC could potentially be higher than our estimates and high uncertainty remains regarding the NDC assessment.

19 The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways assessed by the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria and downscaled from regional to national level. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile are provided here. Underlying global pathways and detailed methodology are made available here.

20 In analysed global-least cost pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS). While this is unlikely to be developed in Nepal, already benefiting from a high level of land sink, these pathways tend to attribute technological CDR regardless of countries potential. Thus, the level of sinks indicated in the analysed are rather a lower estimate of what the country would need to balance by 2050.

21 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for countries, they underestimate the feasible space for developed countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

22 See the Climate Action Tracker for details assumptions. It was not possible to estimate the impact of all of the listed mitigation actions, which means the total reduction under the conditional NDC could potentially be higher than the estimates.

A conservative estimate of these measures (where transport, waste and residential sector measures are considered for the higher range, and only energy sector measures are considered for the lower range) show that GHG emissions would decrease by 1.9-5.6 MtCO2e/yr reaching a level of around 55-70% above 2011 (or 69-76 MtCO2e/yr) by 2030, excluding LULUCF emissions.1 Given that all listed measures were not quantifiable, Nepal’s overall emissions reductions target is likely to be higher than this estimate.18

The analysis of cost-efficient pathways show that the country would need to reduce its emissions by 23-43% below 2011 levels or reach a level of 25-34 MtCO2e/yr by 2030, to be on a 1.5°C compatible domestic emissions pathway.19

Nepal’s fair share as assessed by the Climate Action Tracker lies well above this domestic emissions pathway, indicating that the country should receive international support, including finance, technology transfer and capacity building, to completely close the emissions gap between its fair share and the domestic pathway.

This emissions accounting does not consider LULUCF emissions sink which is substantial for Nepal. The country maintains a little over 40% of their land as forests which was estimated to compensate for 30% of the country’s emissions in 2011.2,3 Additionally, by 2030, Nepal aims to increase and maintain up to 45% of its total area under forest cover.4

In its 2020 NDC Nepal states its intention to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. Nepal will finalize its Long-Term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategy in 2021.

1.5°C emissions pathways assessed here indicate that by 2050 the country would need to reduce its emissions by 51-62% below 2011 levels, excluding LULUCF. Nepal will then need to balance its remaining GHG emissions to a level of around 18-39 MtCO2e/yr. Given the current level of land sinks that Nepal benefits from, the country is well positioned to balance its remaining emissions by mid-century.20,21

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Key messages

While domestic power generation is fully decarbonised, Nepal imports approximately a fifth of the electricity in the central grid from its neighbor India, where the power sector is still largely reliant on fossil fuels. Power consumption thus remains somewhat carbon intensive, with approximately 18% of the consumption in 2020 relying on imported fossil fuel generated electricity. Recent trends, however, show electricity import dropping in Nepal as domestic power generation capacity increases.5

To reduce such imports and the ensuing trade deficits, Nepal has invested in increasing its hydropower capacity in the past few decades. Currently, a majority of domestically produced power in the central grid comes from hydro and the remaining small percentage from solar. In remote hilly areas, electricity is produced mostly through off-grid small hydro and solar systems.

While electricity access for Nepali citizens is increasing steadily in the last few years, per capita consumption remains ten times lower than the global average.6 Nepal aims to increase its hydropower capacity ten-fold by 2030 to ensure increased access and improved quality of life for its citizens, while also creating a surplus for export.4,7

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Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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Current targets
Required targets
2030
  1. 2030 100 % Renewable share
2050
  1. 2050 100 % Renewable share

Footnotes