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Nepal Ambition gap

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

1.5°C compatible pathways

Nepal’s conditional 2030 targets put the country on track to reach 69-76 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030 (or 55-70% above 2011 levels) excluding LULUCF.2 Cost-effective pathways compatible with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal indicates that Nepal could reduce its domestic emissions to around 27-37 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030 (or 18-40% below 2011 levels) excluding LULUCF.27

Nepal’s fair share of global climate action, as assessed by the Climate Action Tracker, lies well above this cost-effective emissions pathway, indicating that the country should receive international support – including finance, technology transfer and capacity building – to completely bridge the emissions gap between its fair share and the country’s cost-effective pathway. Nepal’s 2020 NDC estimates that USD 25 billion would be required to achieve the NDC‘s mitigation targets, of which Nepal would invest USD 3.4 billion unconditionally.

This emissions accounting does not take into consideration the significant LULUCF sinks that the country holds. Today Nepal maintains just over 41.69% of its land under forest cover.22 In 2011, when forest cover was closer to 39%, the carbon sink capacity was estimated at 13 MtCO₂e/yr.3 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 2030.4

Long term pathway

In its 2021 LTS, Nepal has stated its intention to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2045, through ambitious conditional targets. Nepal envisions fulfilling this goal mainly by increasing its renewable energy capacity, and 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. Nepal’s LTS targets are conditional on the country receiving international support, including through climate finance, capacity building and technology transfer.5

Cost-effective pathways assessed here indicate that Nepal will need to reduce its GHG emissions to 18-23 MtCO₂e/yr or 48-59% below 2011 by 2050, which would then need to be balanced by corresponding land sinks to reach net zero by mid-century.28,29 Given the level of sinks that Nepal benefits from — estimated at around 13 MtCO₂e/yr in 2011 and projected to increase another 5 MtCO₂e/yr until 2030 — the country is well positioned to reach the level of sinks required to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2045.4

In Nepal, emissions from livestock and crop cultivation account for two-thirds of national emissions. These sub-sectors are harder to decarbonise completely due to lack of viable alternative technology and implications on food and livelihood security.

As Nepal harnesses more of its hydropower and solar capacity and promotes electrification of its major end-use sectors, the energy sector has the potential to decarbonise — reducing both CO₂ and non-CO₂ emissions. Although some models show negative emissions from bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), this is unlikely to happen as Nepal does not have any proven CDR storage capacity.

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.

Methodology

Nepalʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
−100%−50%0%50%19902010203020502070
Reference year
2011
1.5°C emissions level
−29%
Estimated 2030 NDC
+55%
Ambition gap
−84%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
Estimated 2030 NDC
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2011
45MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

Energy from fossil fuels made up around 25% of Nepal’s primary energy mix in 2021.16 Our analysis suggests that fossil fuel consumption in Nepal will need to rapidly decline to 5% by 2030 and reach zero by around 2040 (excluding non-energy fossil fuels).

To enable such reductions, Nepal will need to considerably scale up its renewable energy supply. In 2021, almost 91% of Nepal’s renewable energy source included traditional biomass used mostly in the residential sector—which has implications for human health.16 The remaining 9% was based on other renewables, including hydropower. Analysed pathways show a need to increase renewables to up to 80-90% by 2040 and close to 100% by 2050, shifting away from biomass use to increase hydropower, solar and wind energy. This will be possible through electrification of end-use sectors such as cooking and transportation.

Lower penetration of renewables would mean that Nepal would need to increase its level of land sinks to balance additional remaining emissions. While Nepal already has significant land sinks, there is no proven CDR storage capacity in the country and adoption of BECCS remains highly unlikely. While measures to reduce emissions often come with co-benefits for society (for example, improved energy access, lower costs, cleaner air), the same is not true for many CDR options. If deployed at large scale, CDR technologies could entail negative side-effects across different dimensions of sustainable development.

Methodology

Nepalʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020501 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020501 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020501 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020501 000
  • Unabated fossil
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS

Nepalʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

−10−50510152019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for Nepal. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Indicator
2011
Reference year
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
45
63
32
27 to 37
23
21 to 26
19
18 to 23
Relative to reference year in %
−29%
−40 to −18%
−49%
−52 to −42%
−57%
−59 to −48%
Total CO₂
MtCO₂/yr
7
20
7
7 to 9
4
2 to 5
1
0 to 3
2061
2051
Relative to reference year in %
8%
3 to 37%
−32%
−73 to −25%
−79%
−99 to −50%

Footnotes