Paris agreement only first step, says Tibetan official

Dharamsala, Dec 15 (IANS) The agreement in Paris on climate change is a step in the right direction, but it is only a first step, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said on Tuesday.

It also emphasised that a comprehensive understanding of global climate change is impossible without looking at Tibet.

“If world leaders are serious about avoiding a global environmental catastrophe, Tibet’s importance to the sustainability of the world’s fragile ecosystem must be recognised,” Dicki Chhoyang, CTA’s head of information and international relations, said in a statement.

Tibet, also known as the Roof of the World, is an environmentally strategic area and plays a critical role in addressing climate change, she said.

She said Tibet has suffered from massive deforestation, contributing to climate change. Tibet’s forests once covered 25.2 million hectare.

By China’s own estimates, 80 percent of Tibet’s forests have been destroyed.

“China committed to cap carbon emissions by 2030. Although a welcome announcement, this commitment must not be realised by further damaging Tibet’s environment,” she said.

China’s proposed expansion of hydropower dams is not the solution. China has already dammed every major river in Tibet. And more damming is expected, Chhoyang added.

Stressing that people of Tibet must have a say on what happens on their lands, she said: “Tibetan nomads are the expert custodians of their lands and their traditional knowledge must be incorporated into climate mitigation and adaptation practices.”

Although binding language on the protection of human rights was deleted from the final text, the implementation of the Paris Agreement must provide protection for groups on the frontlines of the climate crisis, including Tibetans, she said.

Tibet is increasingly experiencing the effects of climate change. The Tibetan plateau has seen an increase in temperature of approximately 0.3 degree Celsius every 10 years, say climate researchers of the CTA.

In the past 50 years, the temperature has increased by 1.3 degrees Celsius, three times the global average, they said.

This resulted in ice cover retreating by 82 percent and 10 percent degrading of permafrost.

Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel laureate the Dalai Lama has been saying “the blue planet” of his homeland Tibet is currently vulnerable to climate change and needs to be protected not just for the people of Tibet but also for the world’s environmental health and sustainability.

The Dalai Lama has been living in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959. The Tibetan exile administration is based in this northern Indian hill town.

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