Clark remarks at Himalayan Screening

Jun 14, 2011

Opening Remarks by Helen Clark
Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

on the occasion of the preview screening of
“Revealed: The Himalayan Meltdown”

Asia Society, New York
Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Thank you for joining us at this preview screening of Revealed: The Himalayan Meltdown.

This documentary takes us on a two thousand kilometer journey, beginning high in the Himalayas. It addresses a topic which affects all of us – the impacts of climate change on people’s lives, communities, and societies.

We will hear about research on the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers, and how that impacts on the countries which depend on them and their snow pack for seasonal meltwater for irrigation, energy, and household and livelihood uses.

We will see the impact on the Asian river valleys flowing from the Himalayas – the mudslides from the shifting monsoon rains, the changing mountain terrain, and new areas of drought – all posing considerable risk to human life and to the wellbeing of more than a billion people.

This film shows how people’s lives are already being affected by shifts in ecosystems, including by more extreme weather conditions. It also shows the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the communities facing these challenges.

Developing countries are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but are less able to afford to adapt to it.  For them, the future is now - they must already today adapt to the changing climate and prepare for an uncertain tomorrow.

This film offers some examples of how the countries and communities affected by the Himalayan glacier melt are responding to the problems.

It shows how Bhutan is reducing the emerging risk of glacial lake outburst floods; how Bangladesh is protecting its vulnerable coastlines with mangroves; and how some regions in India and Nepal are harvesting freshwater from fog and artificial ice bodies.

But more needs to be done with the support of the international community. For example:

  • greater financial support is needed for adaptation, disaster early warning systems, climate change research and modeling, and the transfer of green technologies;
  • specifically, the Himalayan research institutions need adequate financial support to carry out important long-term assessments; and
  • while international climate change models and scenarios capture global warming trends on a broad scale, they do not adequately project the local risks which materialize in river basins and mountain valleys. For better modeling of changing risk patterns, larger networks of weather stations and stronger networking and co-operation within and beyond the region are essential.
The glacial melt in the Himalayas is only one of the effects of climate change in Asia. People in the low lying areas of the Mekong Delta have concerns about rising sea levels and greater salinity in their soils and groundwater. Other countries, such as Laos and Cambodia, are experiencing both longer dry spells and heavier rainfall, causing flood risk and erosion.   

UNDP hopes that this film will help stimulate a stronger international response to the challenges of climate change. Quality research, technology transfer, and increased climate finance can all help developing countries in Asia and elsewhere to adapt and adjust to the change which is happening now.

Enjoy the film!

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