Nepal cabinet meets at Everest to send climate message

SYANGBOCHE, Nepal (Reuters) - Nepal’s cabinet began a meeting close to the base camp of Mount Everest on Friday to send a message on the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, days before global climate talks start in Copenhagen.

Wearing oxygen masks and heavy jackets, Nepal’s Prime Minister and more than 20 ministers flew in by helicopter to meet 5,242 meters (17,200 feet) above sea level with Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, towering in the backdrop.

The base camp is the point from where climbers to the Everest summit begin their ascent.

“Global warming is having a serious impact on our economy,” Finance Minister Surendra Pandey told Reuters ahead of the unprecedented meeting. “We have changing patterns of rain. Glaciers are melting.”

About 100 world leaders will meet in the Danish capital for the December 7-18 U.N. summit on combating global warming.

For its part, Kathmandu is sending along some of its renowned Everest climbers to highlight the challenges facing Nepal, such as floods from glacier melting, erratic rains, longer dry spells and unprecedented forest fires.

Home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest peaks, including Mount Everest, Nepal is vulnerable to climate change despite being responsible for only 0.025 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the world’s lowest, officials say.

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Thousands of glaciers in the Himalayas that are the source of water for 10 major Asian rivers could go dry in the next five decades because of global warming, experts say.

In freezing temperatures and surrounded by snowy peaks, Nepal’s cabinet began meeting at Kalapathar, a small patch of grassy land that is also one of the target destinations for trekkers.

“We are being punished for the crime we never committed. Developed countries must help check the effects of global warming on the Himalayas,” Forest Minister Deepak Bohara said earlier this week.

The meet follows in the footsteps of the Maldives, which held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting in October to underline how rising sea levels threaten the Indian Ocean archipelago’s existence.

Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Bill Tarrant