By Tandin Wangchuk
Bhutan is one of the most climate change vulnerable countries owing to its small economy, dependence on farming and agriculture, and nature of its topography among a host of other natural and socio-economic factors.
However, Bhutan’s commitment has been unwavering, even as it prepares to graduate from a Least Developed Country to a Middle-Income Country, and despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, its priorities are in place.
In addition, with Gross National Happiness (GNH) as its guiding development philosophy, nature, climate change and conservation are in consonance with its development agenda things seems geared right in tackling climate-related issues in the country.
The Climate Promise made as part of the Paris Agreement is only strengthened with the country’s commitment to raise climate ambition with the formulation of 2nd Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and the first National Adaptation Plan (NAP).
Earlier this month, the National Environment Commission (NEC) Chair, Lyonpo Tandi Dorji, told that while Bhutan as a small country is doing all that we can to battle climate change, he is afraid that our actions alone may not be enough.
“Our actions along with actions from LDCs must be supported by those who have the capacity with finances and technology. In this regard, I remain much encouraged, and note the many pledges being made towards net-zero by many developed countries across the world. Indeed, we must all work to ensure that the virtue, force, and strength of multilateralism be harnessed to speed up the process of addressing climate change,” he said.
Further, the NEC Secretary Dasho Sonam P Wangdi added that the fact that we have all come together to work on this reemphasizes the need for action from everyone on climate change.
He said Bhutan as the Chair of the Least Developed Countries under the UNFCCC has been leading the 46 LDCs on climate change.
“We are the most vulnerable yet we have been insignificant in causing the problem. So the LDCs have been calling for scaling up of ambitions on climate change because for us, resolving this problem is a matter of our survival,” the Secretary said.
The Resident Representative of UNDP Azusa Kubota also said that, as their humble contributions, UNDP in Bhutan has been privileged to support the Royal Government in advancing climate actions.
She said UNDP in Bhutan firmly believe in the power of science and data in formulating strategies and policies.
“Therefore, we sincerely hope that Bhutan’s next Nationally Determined Contributions will raise its benchmark, based on Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS), National Adaptation Plan (NAP), sustainable climate financing, while being in full alignment with the country’s ambition towards its green recovery from the pandemic and the 21st Century economic development,” she said.
She also reminded that we must understand that UNDP’s commitment goes directly to the communities and that so far, they have jointly implemented adaptation projects through the NAPA and the climate adaptation in agriculture sector, funded by the Green Climate Fund.
Asuza Kubota also stated that they are also committed to supporting mitigation and nature-based solutions, the examples being the promotion of electric vehicles to realize a low emission transport system in Bhutan and the upcoming eco-tourism project which will demonstrate nature-based solution at the grassroots.
“Water will remain our central focus. With support from the GEF-LDCF funding, we will be supporting the local communities to adapt to the ever-increasing climate-induced water problems,” the Resident Representative said.
The Climate Series comes during the “super year for nature” and ahead of COP26 scheduled in November in Glasgow, Scotland. It aims to bring to the fore Bhutan’s climate voices and actions, as countries are expected to ramp up support for accelerated actions towards the goal of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degree Celsius, or preferably below 1.5 degree Celsius.
Voices from Bhutan
Aimed at creating wider awareness on the impacts of climate change and calling for action, the National Environment Commission in partnership with UNDP, Royal University of Bhutan, Bhutan Ecological Society, Bhutan Foundation, WWF Bhutan and UNCDF launched a Climate Series titled “Raising Climate Ambition: Voices from Bhutan” earlier on May this year.
The five-part virtual series will target both local and international audiences and will from May – October 2021. The events will be organized at various locations, including institutes and colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan, with COVID protocols in place and the most participants accessing the events virtually.
The first event was themed “Witness to Warming: Local Stories, Needs and Solutions” and investigated how climate change manifests on the ground and in communities.
UNDP said that owing to its small economy, dependence on farming and agriculture, and nature of its topography, Bhutan is one of the most climate change vulnerable countries in the world.
“But Bhutan’s commitment to addressing climate change is unwavering, even as it prepares to graduate from a Least Developed Country to a Middle-Income Country. With Gross National Happiness (GNH) as its guiding development philosophy, nature, climate change, and conservation are in agreement with its development agenda,” it reflected.
The Climate Promise, made as part of the Paris Agreement, is only strengthened with the country’s commitment to raising climate ambition with the formulation of 2nd Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS), and the first National Adaptation Plan (NAP).
The series aims to bring to the fore Bhutan’s climate voices and actions, as countries are expected to ramp up support for accelerated efforts to limit global temperature rise to below 2º Celsius or preferably below 1.5º Celsius.
During the launch event, three reports including the Roadmap & Strategy for Strengthening Climate Change Research in Bhutan were released.
The Climate research roadmap will provide an overview of what research and curriculum needs exist for climate action in Bhutan and identify critical steps, resource needs, organizational re-structuring, research areas, and timeframes for implementation.
The study on Gender and Climate Change in Bhutan dives into the gender-climate nexus in Bhutan in the sectors of agriculture, energy, and waste, focusing on gender roles and gender-differentiated impacts of climate change.
The analysis is evidence-based with a sample size of 600 households and provides recommendations on policy, planning, and governance with action plans for mainstream implementation. The National Commission led the study for Women and Children (NCWC) with support from UNDP.
Finally, the NEC has developed a Biodiversity User List that brings together all the information on critical biodiversity in Bhutan. The Biodiversity User List is geared to raise awareness and enhance service delivery for regulating agencies.