Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering during the inaugural ceremony of the 14th Round Table Meeting (RTM) held in the capital this week, reiterated that climate change is real and efforts must be made to reduce its impact given Bhutan’s vulnerability.
Similarly, discussions and commitments from Bhutan’s developing partners and donors during the 2-day long Round Table Meeting revolved around climate change and the need for climate financing to realize the theme of the event—enhancing happiness and sustainable development through partnerships.
In this regard, the government informed before the partners and donors that in order to ensure Bhutan’s developmental achievements are not put off-track by the adverse impacts of climate change, priority will be given to build national and innovative capacity to understand climate change pathways more intricately among the sectors. There are also plans to develop local solutions and to secure the investments required in dealing with climate change impacts.
For a country to be eligible for graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status, the graduation threshold must be met for two of three LDC identification criteria which are Per capita Gross National Income (GNI), the Human Assets Index (HAI), and Economic Vulnerability Index. While Bhutan met the two identified criteria (GNI and HAI) consecutively during the two triennial meetings, Bhutan is yet to meet the Economic Vulnerability Index –and climate change poses a great threat in achieving EVI.
Thinley Namgyel, Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission presented that Bhutan’s economic vulnerabilities are increased even more due to its special vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change. “Despite its sustainable development approach, events such as glacial lake outburst floods, flash floods, landslides, windstorms, forest fires, extreme drought and severe fluctuations in seasonal weather patterns pose looming threats for its highly nature-dependent livelihoods and its hydropower and agricultural-based economy.”
Thinley Namgyel informed the delegates that Bhutan has 677 glaciers and 2794 glacial lakes and Bhutan experienced 21 glacial Lake Outburst flood in the last 2 centuries of which 4 outbursts has been reported in the last forty years. Bhutan also lies in the seismic zone IV and V which makes the country susceptible to earthquake.
Speaking at the RTM during a panel discussion on the climate and disaster resilient development, the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor, said that the climate change impacts in the country has been evident even from the invasive plants and pest which has been a recent phenomenon.
“Bhutan which is highly dependent on agriculture, hydropower for revenue generation, and limited landlocked economic transition is challenged by the climate change impacts. We have tried our best to set an example to the world and placed high importance to address the impacts of climate change. The policies and laws, including the 12th FYP, are all set for low emission climate resilient development,” said Lyonpo Yeshey.
He added that framing such laws and policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the country comes with a cost—extra efforts and foregoing numerous economic opportunities, whereby Bhutan’s policies will have to go through our GNH policy screening tool which is very environment-sensitive, and with such stringent policies in place, it impedes the country’s economic growth.
Some of the challenges Bhutan face in addressing climate change issues in the country include limited technical knowhow, financial constraints, limited human capacity among others.
The discourse that ensued after a clear-cut presentation on Bhutan’s economic vulnerability due to climate change and the devastating impacts it can have on the country, many donors and partners re-affirmed their support and said that new investment avenues can be explored in addition to the existing partnerships to enhance mitigation efforts and ensure sustainable development under GNH philosophy.
“Our pursuit of socio-economic development is delicately balanced with a strong focus on environmental conservation. We are too small in physical size to make any impact globally when it comes to climate change measure. In this regard, Bhutan requires the support of international community, as the impacts of climate change have no physical boundaries,” Lyonchhen appealed to the delegates.