According to the Chairperson of National Environment Commission (NEC), Foreign Minister, Dr Tandi Dorji, the frequently occurring landslides and flashfloods are the outcome of global warming. As for Bhutan, the government is trying, to the best of their ability, but the world community needs to take action, as the glaciers are melting.
A massive landslide in Laya killed ten highlanders on 17 June. The temporary store of Dobji Dzong was swept away on 12 July. A landslide tragedy occurred in Pasakha, when a woman and her seven-month-old infant were killed on 30 June. Floods in Trongsa and the landslides in multiple locations along the Taba-Lanjophakha road in Thimphu were caused by the continuous rainfall. Several roads have been blocked or cut off due to the landslides. Pemagatshel landslide killed a couple on 26 August. “While Bhutan is not a global warming contributor, we are one of the most heavily affected. As a tiny landlocked country, Bhutan is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, with a fragile, mountain-driven ecology and significant reliance on climate sensitive areas, such as hydropower and agriculture. In addition, Bhutan, as a least-developed nation, lacks the capacity and the resources to deal with climate change problems,” Lyonpo said.Lyonpo said that Bhutan is already doing too much. The Climate Change Policy of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2020 was adopted with a vision for “a prosperous, resilient and carbon neutral Bhutan where the pursuit of gross national happiness for the present and future generations is secure under a changing climate.”
“The policy aims to provide strategic guidance to ensure that Bhutan remains carbon neutral and protect the wellbeing of the people of Bhutan by adapting to climate change in an efficient and effective manner, ensure meaningful participation of all relevant stakeholders in climate change action in a coordinated and coherent manner, with clear roles and responsibilities, and ensure that the challenges and opportunities of climate change are addressed at all appropriate levels, through adequate means of implementation (finance, technology, capacity building and awareness) and integration into relevant plans and policies,” Lyonpo said.
As per the second nationally determined contribution, climate change has been integrated into development planning with “Climate Neutrality, Climate and Disaster Resilience” identified as the sixth National Key Result Area (NKRA) of the 12th Five Year Plan (2018-2023).
With the five-year plan’s objective as “Just, Harmonious and Sustainable Society through Enhanced Decentralization”, the priority areas for mitigation and adaptation in the NDC were developed into programs, primarily under this NKRA and other NKRAs for implementation across different sectors at the national and local levels4.
Two GCF funded projects are also being implemented through the “Bhutan for Life” project for managing the network of protected areas, as a key component of our carbon sink. Another project, “Supporting Climate Resilience and Transformational Change in the Agriculture Sector in Bhutan” addresses the adverse impacts of climate change on rural livelihood security and poverty, and the effects of sector-led development practices on the ecological integrity of biodiversity-rich forested landscapes.
Lyonpo said, “Yes, we invest money on resilience to climate change, but that is not enough, as we have other priorities, like as providing our people with health and education. We do not thus have sufficient money to invest in reduction, mitigation and adaptation. Therefore, we requested the international committee, rich nations that are polluting, and therefore, they have to pay so that we will also do our part. Otherwise, we also want to be rich.”
Through the Strategic Program for Climate Resilience with the World Bank, a program of climate risk management (and low carbon development) investments and activities has been prepared.
The Bhutan Electric Vehicle (EV) Roadmap (2020-2025) has also been developed for a transition to zero emission mobility with targets for 2035, 2045 and 2050. The Bhutan Sustainable Low- Emission Urban Transport System Project is being implemented to initiate the transition to EV mobility by focusing on taxis as the primary target for eventual market transformation.
Lyonpo said electric vehicles receive a tax reduction so people are encouraged to use more electric vehicles. The Cabinet was ready to abandon the Prados and Land Cruisers, if the COVID-19 did not arrive, and drive electric cars to set an example. Lhengye Zhungtsho also issued an order declaring that all procurement for government vehicles shall be electric.
“Zero tax on electric cars has been announced. We encourage individuals to develop green buildings in terms of housing, such as solar energy for heating water. And we want to use less pesticide and cultivate more organic foods, in terms of agriculture. In order to see less water (usage), we want to utilize better farming methods. Instead of cultivating one kind of crop, we want to alter the cultivation, so that the land becomes more fertile,” Lyonpo said, adding that such changes, policies, and strategies to be implemented will only be possible if the country has enough funds.
Bhutan has started working towards preparing the Long Term Low GHG Emission and Climate Resilient Development Strategy (LTS). LTS will provide the overall long-term direction and guidance for Bhutan to remain carbon neutral. The development of the LTS was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. LTS is now to be completed by 2022.