Short introduction on Nepal’s emissions

Although CO2 is the driving force behind the temperature changes, other gases such as methane (CH4) also contribute their share to global warming, for example through the exploitation of gas fields, and emissions by livestock. While methane is emitted much less than CO2 on a global scale, it is a much stronger greenhouse gas (GHG). Scientists estimated the relative strength of the important Kyoto greenhouse gases so that we can convert all emissions to an equivalent of CO2 emissions. For example, the emission of one ton of methane has approximately the warming effect of 25 tons of CO2. The factor of 25 reflects the climate forcing on a 100-year time horizon, following the Global Warming Potential presented in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

With greenhouse gas emissions of approximately the equivalent of 41.9 mega tonnes of CO2 (Mt CO2eq), Nepal contributed 0.087% to the global greenhouse gas emissions of 2017 (rank 94 - incl. EU27 on rank 3). All emissions estimates exclude emissions and absorption from land, which result from activities such as cutting down or planting of forests (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry: LULUCF). Emissions from bunker fuels (international aviation and shipping) were also excluded, as they are not accounted for in national totals.

For 2030, Nepal’s global contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is projected to stay at a similar level of approximately 0.089% (50.2 mega tonnes of CO2 equivalent / rank 99 - incl. EU27 on rank 4). The emissions projections for Nepal were derived by downscaling the Shared Socio-Economic Pathways’ (SSPs) “Middle-of-the-Road” baseline marker scenario SSP2. These pathways describe certain narratives of socio-economic developments and were, i.a., used to derive greenhouse gas emissions scenarios that correspond to these developments. SSP2 is a narrative with little shifts in socio-economic patterns compared to historical ones, and is connected to medium socio-economic challenges for both climate mitigation and adaptation. While different models were used for each storyline, per SSP (SSPs1-5) one model was chosen as representative “marker scenario”. As the emissions projections are not readily available on country-level, but national estimates are important, the pathways were downscaled in the aftermath. In 2017, Nepal represented 0.36% of the global population. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017 were 0.062% of the global GDP.

Looking at the highest contributing emissions sectors and gases separately, we find that in 2017 the highest contributing emissions sectors were Agriculture and Energy (60.5% and 27.6%). Amongst the greenhouse gases that are considered in the Kyoto Protocol, the strongest contributor with 62.5% was CH4. This was followed by CO2 emissions, with a significantly lower share of 21.2%. When not considering the sectors and gases independently, but the sector-gas combinations instead, Agriculture CH4 and Energy CO2 (47.1% and 19.0%) represented the largest emissions in 2017.

Greenhouse gas mitigation and Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)

In 2015, the majority of countries agreed to the Paris Agreement (PA), with the goal of “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (Article 2.1.a). Countries stated their pledges and targets towards achieving the PA’s goals in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). With Article 4.4 of the Paris Agreement, Parties decided that “Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”

In its NDC, Nepal communicates its target type to be “Activity-based targets and policy targets in key sectors, including emissions reduction in some sectors.” (NDC, p. 3). Under the “Quantified targets of NDC” section, measures in several areas are presented, including for Energy, AFOLU, and Waste (NDC, p. 3-4). In the energy generation, the country intends to expand the clean energy generation (i.a., unconditional contribution of 5000 MW), and to “By 2030, ensure 15% of the total energy demand is supplied from clean energy sources.”. It sets out e-vehicle sales targets and wants to “develop 200 km of the electric rail network” in the transport sector. Regarding “Residential cooking and biogas”, better stoves and the installation of biogas plants is envisaged. Furthermore, for the AFOLU sector (“Forestry”), Nepal’s aim is to “By 2030, maintain 45% of the total area of the country under forest cover (including other wooded land limited to less than 4%). By 2030, manage 50% of Tarai and Inner Tarai forests and 25% of middle hills and mountain forests sustainably, including through the use of funding from REDD+ initiatives.”. Also the Waste sector is targeted and “By 2025, 380 million litres/day of wastewater will be treated before being discharged, and 60,000 cubic meters/year of faecal sludge will be managed.”. More information on planned measures can be found in the “Detailed Description of Mitigation Component of NDC”. (NDC, p. 4-9). Besides the above-mentioned unconditional contribution, the NDC is conditional upon international support (NDC, p. 3). The country notes that “Nepal’s new NDC is more ambitious than its previous one, both in terms of its sectoral coverage (through the inclusion of land-use change and forestry, energy, and waste) and in terms of its net emission reduction contribution.” (NDC, p. 13).

Based on the emissions reductions estimates provided in Nepal’s NDC, we calculate the reductions to amount to 0.737 MtCO2eq in 2025, and 1.486 MtCO2eq in 2030 (NDC, p. 3-4). The GWP is not specified. While total BAU emissions are not included in the NDC, it is available for several sub-sectors. From this, the lower limit of the projected BAU are 4.987 MtCO2eq in 2025, and 5.704 MtCO2eq in 2030. The availability of national estimates of emissions mitigation targets and pathways in line with countries’ NDCs is of great importance when, e.g., aggregating to global emissions to then derive, i.a., the resulting end-of-century warming levels. In the case of Nepal, as total BAU emissions are not included in the NDC, target estimates rely on “external” (non-NDC) emissions projections.

The contribution’s coverage is mentioned on several occasions throughout the NDC. While the country states as “Coverage: Energy; Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU); Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU); and Waste” (NDC, p. 3), which are all main IPCC emissions sectors, Nepal also notes that “Due to limited data availability, not all sectors are covered in Nepal’s NDC.” (NDC, p. 15), and that “In the next Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Nepal may update the reference indicators of existing sectors and/or may provide new values for sectors not previously covered. Nepal will update the values of reference indicators in such cases.” (NDC, p. 9). We assume the information on missing coverage to refer to sub-sectors, for which the NDC includes the following information “Sectors: Energy (Electricity generation, Transportation, Residential demand (energy demand for cooking)); Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use (AFOLU) (Deforestation and forest degradation); Agriculture; Industrial process and product use (IPPU); Waste” (NDC, p. 10). From the basket of Kyoto GHGs, CO2, CH4, and N2O are listed as covered (NDC, p. 10), why we assume F-gases not to be targeted. Without taking the sub-sectoral indications into account and therefore covering all sectors, our assessment results in an estimated 100% of 2017’ emissions being targeted by the NDC (based on PRIMAP-hist v2.1 HISTCR exclLU, in AR4), as for Nepal the dataset does not present emissions data for the F-gases.

Concerning Article 6 of the PA (cooperation and markets), the country communicates that “Nepal may explore potential markets that allow higher mitigation ambition while promoting sustainable development and environmental integrity.” (NDC, p. 16), and for the country’s long-term vision, “In accordance with Article 4, paragraph 19 of the Paris Agreement, Nepal is formulating a long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy by 2021. The strategy aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050.” (NDC, p. 2).

The NDC-assessment is based on Nepal’s NDC submitted to the UNFCCC in December 2020. Relying on “external” non-NDC data (SSP2) and the assessed national share of targeted emissions, for Nepal we quantify the 2025 conditional target as 51.0 Mt CO2eq AR4 (absolute reduction compared to Business-As-Usual: -0.737 MtCO2eq, inclLU), and estimate the 2030 conditional target as 56.0 Mt CO2eq AR4 (-1.486 MtCO2eq, inclLU).

The Figure below provides additional information, regarding both the baseline emissions used in our assessment and the quantified mitigated pathways for Nepal.

Baseline emissions and mitigated emissions pathways based on the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution. In terms of national emissions, we look at the SSP2 baseline marker scenario, and the emissions of all IPCC sectors. Contributions from LULUCF are excluded (exclLU), and the emissions are based on GWPs from AR4. The left panel (a) shows the baseline emissions, indicating the contributions of the Kyoto Greenhouse Gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and the basket of F-gases to the national emissions. If we could extract baseline data exclLU from the NDC, you can see their values as black squares (converted from GWP SAR to AR4 if needed). In the right panel (b), the quantified mitigated emissions pathways are shown, based on information from the country’s NDC and also on non-NDC emissions baselines, per target conditionality and range (marked un-/conditional best/worst). Even though not all countries have targets with different conditionalities or ranges, we need assumptions for all four cases to build one global pathway per conditionality plus range combination and to derive corresponding temperature estimates. Therefore, we indicate these four pathways here. Per combination, we performed several quantifications with differing assumptions and show the median and the minimal and maximal pathways here. Additionally, if we could quantify the targets based on data extracted purely from the NDC - or if the targets were directly given in absolute emissions, these targets are shown as squares (in the GWP originally given in the NDC).


Data sources and further information

  • Historical emissions: PRIMAP-hist v2.1 (Guetschow et al., 2016, 2019).
  • Historical socio-economic data: PRIMAP-hist Socio-Eco v2.1 (Guetschow et al., 2019).
  • Projected emissions and socio-economic data: downscaled SSPs (Guetschow et al., 2020, 2020).
  • NDC quantifications: NDCmitiQ (Guenther et al., 2020, 2021).
  • GDP is given in purchasing power parity (PPP).
  • Main emissions sectors (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC): Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture and LULUCF (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry), also named AFOLU (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use), and Waste.
  • Kyoto GHG: basket of several GHGs, namely carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and since the second Kyoto Protocol period (2013-20) additionally nitrogen fluoride (NF3).
  • Global Warming Potentials (GWPs): GHGs have very different warming potentials. To make them comparable and for aggregation purposes, GWPs are used (how much energy will 1 ton of a certain gas absorb over a defined period of time, relative to the same mass of CO2?).


1 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), 14473 Potsdam, Germany