Proceedings of the Symposium Incentivizing Mountain Communities for Ecosystem Services in the Context of a Changing Climate: International Conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihoods

Proceedings of the Symposium Incentivizing Mountain Communities for Ecosystem Services in the Context of a Changing Climate: International Conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihoods

The Context:
The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) is a global asset with rich cultural and biological diversity. The region is characterized by diverse ecosystems, and a wealth of natural resources. But limited accessibility and remoteness of location have led its human inhabitants into poverty. Managing ecosystems in the region is challenging not only due to its remoteness, but also due to the high dependency of local livelihoods on natural resources. Managing upstream ecosystems for a sustainable supply of ecosystem services that people living both upstream and downstream presently enjoy requires a proper consideration of the resilience of these ecosystems. Innovative approaches to incentivizing upstream communities are necessary as subsistence livelihood options for them are limited to land use practices,  agriculture, and forests.
Payment for ecosystem services (PES) is an evolving concept for incentivizing service providers through market-based solutions. However, in the mountains, especially in the HKH, pure market-based solutions may not be effective. Mountain communities have limited arable land which means putting it to commercial use is not a real possibility. They also have a higher dependency on natural ecosystems than people living downstream. Mountain areas are inaccessible, with limited transport and other infrastructure. Moreover, the changing climate poses additional challenges to mountain communities where low agricultural productivity is already a problem. Therefore, a promising hybrid model which considers both market and non-market instruments may work as a potential PES scheme. This also means that payment may not be necessarily in cash. It could, for example, be in the form of development projects to incentivize upstream communities, and encourage their efforts towards managing upstream ecosystems.
The ICIMOD-supported symposium, Incentivizing Mountain Communities for Ecosystem Services in the Context of a Changing Climate, was designed to generate a discussion on incentivizing mountain communities – particularly in the HKH, and request researchers and policy makers to debate and agree on a possible modality on an incentive based mechanism for a sustainable supply of ecosystem services in the context of a changing climate.

Objectives of the Symposium:
Biodiversity has been an important subject of research and global discourse as it forms the basis of peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Biodiversity is closely linked to climate, culture and conservation efforts. Protecting biodiversity while meeting the needs of people in the context of a changing climate remains a great challenge. Climate change has emerged as one of the most important environmental, social and economic issues of the day. Its impacts are most severe for the global poor. South Asia, in particular, is one of the regions most affected by climate change. The International Conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihood (ICBCL) was organized in Kathmandu from 10 to 12 January 2017 against this backdrop.
The three-day conference focused on exploring approaches from the natural and social sciences to support economic development, particularly in developing countries which face serious climate hazards, biological invasion, biodiversity loss, agriculture and water stress. The conference brought together 300 national and 100 international scientists, policy makers and development workers to facilitate the integration of science, technology, policy and action. The focus was on finding innovative applications for scientific and technological research to promote rural enterprises, and support broad improvements in nutrition, health and living standards. As part of the conference, ICIMOD organized a symposium with eminent experts in the fields of ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation from Bhutan, China, India, Bangladesh and Nepal participating.
The major objectives of the symposium were to:
•   Explore general trends related to understanding ecosystem services, and its significance for the HKH
•   Debate research-policy linkages to support incentives for ecosystem services
•   Develop a common framework for incentives for ecosystem services in the Himalaya

The report was co-funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nepal.

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