… The country has asked for development assistance in return

COP21: Bhutan has reaffirmed to remain carbon neutral and pursue low emission development to achieve the ambitious global targets of climate change post 2020.

National Environment Commission (NEC) vice chairperson and agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji submitted Bhutan’s commitments or the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat yesterday.

Countries across the globe committed to create a new international climate agreement by the end of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris this December. In preparation, countries agreed to outline what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement.

National Environment Commission (NEC) officials said the INDC submission indicates the actions the countries will take under a new climate agreement.

These contributions will largely determine whether the world achieves an ambitious 2015 agreement and is put on a path toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future after 2020.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said, “Bhutan’s INDCs are more than our fair share of efforts to combat climate change.” He called on the global community to provide adequate support in the country’s resolve and efforts to fulfil the commitments.

The minister said Bhutan’s contribution to combat climate change is made with the view that there is no need greater, or more important, than keeping the planet safe.

NEC’s Climate Change division head Thinley Namgyel said, “Bhutan today emits 2.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) against the sequestration by forests, which is about 6.3 million tonnes of CO2.”

“In addition, export of surplus clean hydroelectricity to the region will help to offset emissions up to 22.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025,” he said.

Today, Bhutan offsets 4.4 million tonnes of CO2e through exports of hydroelectricity, while access to clean electricity is almost 100 percent in urban areas and 94 percent in rural areas.

However, challenges remain aplenty.

Although the highest emissions are from the agriculture sector, they have more or less remained constant, but emissions from sectors such as industries and transport are rapidly increasing.

From 2000 to 2013, emissions from the energy sector rose by 191.6 percent to 0.79 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Emissions from the industrial processes increased by 154.3 percent to 0.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) and the emissions from waste jumped 247.54 percent to 0.16 million tonnes of CO2e in the same period.

Bhutan’s INDC builds on the declaration to remain carbon neutral made in 2009. The officials said the INDC cover a wide range of sectors and draw on existing legislations, policies and strategies.

Mitigation measures

Some mitigation measures are in place such as sustainable land management practices, improved livestock management, promotion of organic agriculture and promotion of zero emission vehicles.

The 11th Plan has integrated carbon neutral development as part of the national key result areas to guide planning and implementation of development activities within all sectors.

To reduce green house gas emissions, the country identified nine strategies, plans, and actions.

Managing the energy demands promoting energy efficient appliances and integrating low emission strategies in urban and rural settlements through green buildings and sustainable construction methods are some of the strategies identified for mitigation.

The country remains highly vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change because of the fragile mountain ecosystems and economic structure.

“The most vulnerable sectors are water resources, agriculture, forests and biodiversity and hydropower sectors,” the INDC stated. “It’s projected that both the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events would increase with changing climate.”


Besides being a land locked and poor country, the country is threatened by climate change because the population depends highly on agriculture and the significant role of hydropower in its economic development.

Despite following a cautious approach to development by balancing economic development and environment conservation, climate change threatens to derail the gains the country made towards sustainable socio-economic development.

“Therefore, international support is essential to address the adverse impacts of climate change that are already starting to taking place and also to safeguard the gains made towards sustainable development,” the INDC stated.

The country has its National Adaptation Programme of Action in 2006, and updated in 2012, of which few priority actions are being implemented.

For adaptation to adverse impacts, 10 priority adaptation needs are identified.

The INDC also elaborates on how the country would implement each of mitigation and adaption measures.  The actions were decided after thorough consultations with NGOs, private sector and government agencies.

The INDC actions would also be integrated in the 12th Plan, as they would take effect after 2020.

“The success of the implementation of the actions in the INDC will depend on the level of financial and technical support received,” the document states.

It states that the country remains committed to addressing climate change and strives towards a legally binding agreement to keep global temperature increase to not more than 1.5 degree Celsius.

NEC officials said there are three likely outcomes from the conference. “It could be a climate change protocol, the strongest in terms of legality, which the least developed and islands countries wants,” Thinley Namgyel said.

Tshering Palden