The Fifth Sustainable Summits Conference 2021

Submitted by Kate Williamson | published 29th Nov 2022 | last updated 9th Jan 2023
Sustainable Summits 2021: the full documentary
5th Sustainable Summits 2021 with black and white mountains

Introduction

This weADAPT article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be accessed on the Sustainable Summits 2021 webpage Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full list of contributors, or to quote text. 

Sustainable Summits is an international conference series for sharing solutions on protecting and preserving the world’s mountain regions. The Sustainable Summits conferences are inspired by the growing pressures on our mountain environments, the need to find solutions to the impacts of such pressures, and a drive to uphold the values sustaining these environments. Sustainable Summits 2021 (SS21) was planned to be held in Nepal to showcase the country’s mountain environment, bring international attention to the climate change impacts in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), and to highlight the role of mountains in the lead up to COP 26 in Glasgow in November 2021.

It aimed to: 

  • Honour mountain voices and promote understanding of the Himalaya as an “abode of the gods”
  • Provide a platform for issues from the HKH region to be consolidated and influence local, national, and international policies – particularly COP 26
  • Strengthen tourism in the HKH region
  • Learn and share best practices on the themes of the conference (see below)
  • Explore opportunities for national and regional cooperation
  • Strengthen national, regional, and global networks to share and adopt mountain solutions

Due to COVID 19, however, it was impossible to hold the SS21 conference as originally intended. Therefore, ICIMOD – in collaboration with the Climate Alliance of Himalayan Communities (CAHC); the SS21 organizing committee; and the British Embassy in Kathmandu – produced a series of films covering the same themes, to achieve the same objectives, and to promote the Sustainable Summits message in the region and internationally with a focus on providing an HKH message for COP 26.

The full documentary, comprising all 4 episodes, can be accessed above. To explore each episode separately, see the short films and key messages below. 

Balancing Development Pressures

This introductory episode highlights the impacts climate change is already having, and is predicted to have in the future, on the Hindu Kush Himalaya region. This region is home to 1.9 billion people who all rely on ecosystems for basic services, such as food and water; but this is under threat from climate change. Experts and locals discuss the rapid rate of glacier melt and the changes mountain ecosystems are experiencing, with knock-on effects for biodiversity.

Mountains Nurturing Communities

This episode emphasises the importance of localised and small solutions, that engage the communities who are experiencing the changing mountain environment first-hand. Local innovation is already being used to tackle environmental challenges, whether this be advancements in clean cooking; developments in hydro and solar power; or creation and distribution of low-cost air quality monitors.

Regional Cooperation

Working with local communities is crucial, yet this episode discusses the importance of also viewing climate change as a transboundary issue. This perspective recognises that impacts in one place will have knock-on effects elsewhere, and thus it is key for countries, regions and communities to share knowledge, information and practices. 

Messages for COP26

This final episode focuses on key demands for global policymakers and the need to step-up the ambition on climate action. It emphasises the need for international conferences, like COP, to ensure voices of mountain communities are heard loud and clear.