Climate Change and Development Context
Bhutan is a land-locked country in the Himalayas. It has rich biodiversity, but faces challenges of a rugged yet fragile mountain landscape. Overall growth has been primarily stimulated by investments in the hydropower sector. Renewable natural resources (agriculture, livestock, forestry), tourism, and construction – spurred by urban development and road projects – are also key contributors. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are low, and are net negative with forest sinks. Though, emissions are rapidly growing in the transport and industry sectors.
The concept of sustainable development is closely aligned with the Bhutanese development philosophy and state policy of Gross National Happiness, first put forward in the early 1970s. Gross National Happiness includes the following pillars: equitable socio-economic development, conservation of the environment, preservation and promotion of culture, and promotion of good governance.
Article 5.1 of the Constitution of Bhutan states that: “Every Bhutanese is a trustee of the Kingdom’s natural resources and environment for the benefit of the present and future generations and it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to contribute to the protection of the natural environment, conservation of the rich biodiversity of Bhutan and prevention of all forms of ecological degradation including noise, visual and physical pollution through the adoption and support of environment friendly practices and policies.”
The Government of Bhutan convenes a Round Table Meeting every two and half years to discuss policy and aid coordination issues with development partners, resulting in alignment of national development priorities and international assistance.
Key National Institutions, Policies and Initiatives
Key institutions: The National Environment Commission (NEC), established in 1992, is a high-level cross-sectoral body chaired by the Prime Minister. NEC is the national focal agency for climate change in Bhutan, the National Focal Agency for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Designated National Authority under the Kyoto Protocol for the Clean Development Mechanism.
The Climate Change Division at NEC Secretariat is responsible for implementing the NEC’s mandate on climate change. A Multisectoral Technical Committee on Climate Change supports the NEC in coordinating climate change activities in Bhutan in a technical and advisory role. NEC also collaborates closely with the Gross National Happiness Commission (planning agency).
Policies and initiatives: Bhutan benefits from clear national mandates related to climate change and development goals. The Economic Development Policy of Bhutan (2010) reflects national consensus for pursuing green growth. Key strategies include: diversifying the economic base with minimal ecological footprint; harnessing and adding value to natural resources in a sustainable manner; and reducing dependency on fossil fuel especially for transportation. Complementary policies, such as the Transport Vision 2040 and Strategy, further detail pathways towards goals such as through low emission development strategies (LEDS) and national appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs).
Bhutan’s Carbon Neutral Declaration at the 15th Conference of Parties (2009) was followed by launch of a National Strategy and Action Plan for Low Carbon Development (2012). The action plan will detail a carbon neutral strategy, including options for key sectors on LEDS and NAMAs, financing, and institutional arrangements for implementation. The constitutional mandate to maintain 60 percent of the country under forest cover is as a key pillar to ensuring carbon neutral development.
Additionally, the Government of Bhutan will soon update the National Environment Strategy (1998) to incorporate strategic elements to pursue low-emission, climate-resilient development and promote inter-generational equity of natural resources.
NEC, in collaboration with the Gross National Happiness Commission, is also undertaking measures to mainstream climate change and build ownership of national strategies and action plans by stakeholders, through consultative processes for strategy and policy formulation, and awareness and capacity building initiatives. The 11th Five Year Plan has identified “climate resilient and carbon neutral development” as one of the key result areas defining the 2013-2018 period.
Additional initiatives that support low emission, climate resilient development, include:
– An Energy+ partnership between Norway and Bhutan, which aims to address GHG mitigation and energy efficiency in the energy sector. The Department of Renewable Energy is executing the program, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank.
– A REDD Readiness Proposal for the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility to facilitate REDD+ activities. The Department of Forests of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, with support from the UN REDD program, has prepared this proposal. Activities align with the ongoing National Forest Inventory which also aims to assess carbon stocks.
– A Low Emission Capacity Building (LECB) Project, implemented by NEC under the United Nations Development Programme LECB program. LECB will help build capacity on climate change mitigation and is expected to produce three NAMA proposals on energy efficiency in housing, transport, and waste management, and two LEDS in the industrial development and transport sectors by 2015.
World Bank Data – Bhutan (accessed 11 Dec 2013). http://data.worldbank.org/country/bhutan
Gross National Happiness Commission Royal Government of Bhutan. “Framework to Mainstream Environment, Climate Change and Poverty (ECP) concerns into the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2013 – 2018)” http://www.bt.undp.org/content/dam/bhutan/docs/Energy_environment/Env-publications/2013-2018-ECPM-Framework.pdf
National Environment Commission (2012). “Bhutan: In Pursuit of Sustainable Development – National Report for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012.”
Asian Development Bank. “Country Partnership Strategy: Bhutan 2014─2018: Environment Assessment Summary”
Thinley Namgyel (presentation delivered 1 October 2013). “Engaging decisionmakers and other stakeholders: Experiences from Bhutan.” http://forums.asialeds.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/4.-Bhutan_Thinley-Namgel.pdf
National Environment Commission, Royal Government of Bhutan website (accessed 19 Nov 2013). http://www.nec.gov.bt/nec1/?page_id=203
Thinley Namgyel (presentation delivered 1 October 2013)
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