The analysis of cost-efficient pathways show that the country would need to reduce its emissions by 18-40% below 2011 levels or reach a level of 27-37 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030, to be on a 1.5°C compatible domestic emissions pathway.27
Nepalʼs total GHG emissions
excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr
- 1.5°C compatible pathways
- Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
- Current policy projections
- 1.5°C emissions range
- Historical emissions
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 business as usual (BAU) levels. 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
1 Government of Nepal. Second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). 0–21 (2020).
2 Climate Action Tracker. Nepal | Target Update Tracker. (2020).
3 Ministry of Forest and Environment. National Level Forests and Land Cover Analysis of Nepal using Google Earth Images. 46 (2019).
4 Central Department of Environmental Science Tribhuvan University. Nepal’s GHG Inventory for Third National Communication. (2017).
5 Government of Nepal. Nepal’s Long-term Strategy for Net-zero Emissions. (2021).
6 Climate Analytics. 1.5°C national pathway explorer — India (sectors: power). (2022).
7 Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). Nepal Electricity Authority: A review in fiscal year 2020/2021. (2021).
8 Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). A year in review (fiscal Year 2016/2017). (2017).
9 Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). A year in review (fiscal Year 2017/2018). (2018).
10 Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). A year in review (fiscal Year 2018/2019). (2019).
11 Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). A year in review (fiscal Year 2019/2020). (2020).
12 IEA. Data & Statistics – IEA. (2021).
13 Government of Nepal. Nepal’s 15th Five-Year Plan, (Fiscal Year 2019/20 – 2023/24). (2019).
14 Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE). Assessment of Electric Mobility Targets for Nepal’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). (2021).
15 National Planning Commission Central Bureau of Statistics. Report on the Nepal Labour Force Survey. (2019).
16 Ministry of Finance. Economic Survey 2020/21. (2021).
17 Ministry of Finance. Economic Survey 2018/19. (2019).
18 CBS. Annual Household Survey 2016/17. (2017).
19 Nepal Rastra Bank. Macroeconomic Indicators Of Nepal. (2021).
20 Government of Nepal. Nepal Fiscal Budget 2021/22. (2021).
21 Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE). Assessment of Electric Cooking Targets for Nepal’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). (2021).
22 FRTC. National Land Cover Monitoring System of Nepal. (2022).
23 ESMAP. Nepal – Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) Survey – MTF_Nepal_Executive_Summary.pdf – ENERGYDATA.INFO. (2019).
24 Water and Energy Commission Secretariat. Final Report on Energy Sector Vision 2050 A.D. (2013).
25 DoTM. Details of Registered Vehicles till End of Falgun of Fiscal Year 2075-76.
26 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.
27 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.
28 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.
29 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.
30 Benchmarks across countries cover combined share of hydrogen, district heating and electricity for the buildings sector. In the case of Nepal, hydrogen and district heating are unlikely to happen in Nepal which has a high renewable potential and could rely mostly on electricity which is the main component of these benchmarks in the case of Nepal.
31 Benchmarks across countries cover combined share of hydrogen, biomass and electricity for the industry sector. In the case of Nepal, hydrogen and biomass are unlikely to happen in Nepal which has a high renewable potential and could rely mostly on electricity which is the main component of these benchmarks in the case of Nepal.
32 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.
33 Global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C tend to include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches, and often rely on rather conservative assumptions in the development of renewable energy technologies. This tends to result in greater reliance on technological CDR than if a faster transition to renewables were achieved. The scenarios available at the time of this analysis focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology, and our downscaling methods do not yet take national BECCS potentials into account.
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.26
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.
Land-use and forestry
However, this emissions accounting does not consider the LULUCF emissions sink which is substantial for Nepal. Today, the country maintains a little over 41.69% of their land as forests.2 In 2011, when forest cover was closer to 39%, the carbon sink capacity was estimated at 13 MtCO₂e/yr.3,4 As Nepal expands forest coverage and improves forest management practices, the country’s land sink capacity will increase. In its latest GHG inventory, Nepal projects that forest sink capacities may grow by an additional 5 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030.3
Net zero GHG
Nepal’s LTS states its intention to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2045.5
Nepal envisions fulfilling this ambitious goal by increasing its renewable energy potential, through clean electrification of all major end-use sectors (including transport, buildings, and industries), by increasing and maintaining the country’s forest cover, through sustainable agriculture and forestry and through sustainable waste management practices.5
Nepal’s long-term targets are conditional on the country receiving international support, including through climate finance, capacity building and technology transfer.5 1.5°C emissions pathways assessed here indicate that by 2050 the country would need to reduce its emissions by 48-59% below 2011 levels, not taking into account potential of land use sinks. Nepal will then need to balance its remaining GHG emissions to a level of removal of around 18-23 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.28,29
- While Nepal’s domestic power generation for the central grid is next to fully decarbonised, Nepal imports on average around 33% of the electricity in the central grid from its neighbour India, where the power sector is still largely reliant on fossil fuels.6 Power consumption thus remains somewhat carbon intensive, with approximately 25% of the consumption in 2021 relying on imported fossil fuel generated electricity.7–11
- To reduce such imports and the ensuing trade deficits, Nepal has invested in increasing its hydropower capacity in the past few decades. As more planned hydropower plants come online and Nepal’s domestic power generation capacity increases over the next decade, electricity import is expected to drop over the next decade.
- 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.12 Nepal aims to increase its renewable energy capacity to 15 GW by 2030 and 53.2 GW by 2050 to ensure increased access and improved quality of life for its citizens and electrification of all major end-use sectors, while also creating a surplus for export.1,5,13
- Emissions from this sector were around 0.4 MtCO₂ in 2011 and future projections show only marginal growth.4 Electrification of heating and cooking infrastructure, feasible due to Nepal’s significant renewable energy potential, brings along multiple environmental, social and economic co-benefits.
- Increased electrification of Nepal’s buildings, with more than half of energy needs related to cooking, heating and lighting of this sector expected to be met with clean electricity by 2050 will be key to decarbonise the sector.30
- Transport is a rapidly growing source of emissions in Nepal.16
- Cost-effective pathways show that Nepal could reduce its emissions in this sector to 2-4 MtCO₂ by 2030 and 0-3 MtCO₂ by 2050 through the electrification of its vehicle fleet.
- Industrial processes and energy related emissions are a small but steadily growing source of emissions in Nepal. Brick and cement industries are the most polluting in this sector and rely largely on coal for their energy demand.4
- Cost-effective pathways show the potential for energy-related industrial emissions to reach 0-3 MtCO₂ by 2030 and to be phased out by 2050. To do so, the electrification rate needs to reach 77% by 2050 from less than a fifth in 2019.31
- Nepal’s NDC aims to formulate guidelines and mechanisms to monitor emissions from large industries by 2025 and develop and enact emissions standards and adopt low emissions technology in brick and cement industries to replace coal by 2030.1 Nepal’s LTS aims to decrease industrial energy-related emissions to 3.72 MtCO₂ by 2030 and to 1.04 MtCO₂ by 2050, primarily through electrification of industrial end-uses, improvement in energy efficiency, and replacement of traditional brick kilns with better performing and electric ones.5