This week, a class II student took the world stage through her letter and pressed the world leaders to save her village from climate change disasters. In other news, Bhutan is reported to soon face Indian Rupee crisis. Both can be directly attributed to the climate injustice the nation is suffering. While no one may be able to save her village or outflow of INR,  it is time that Bhutan must seriously push for climate justice to make good her loss and offset the INR flow.

Twenty Seventh Conference of the Parties is a week away in Egypt and Bhutan would be participating as a least developed nation among thousands of participants.

Under the dynamic leadership of our monarchs, Bhutan made the most cautious steps to protect and conserve the environment and was able to commit itself to remaining carbon neutral under international conventions. Further, Bhutan’s venture into clean energy has not only impacted Bhutan positively but India by a huge offset in their endeavour to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean energy. To fulfil its commitments, the government has initiated numerous strategies including the promotion of electric cars which is a very expensive affair, initiation of digital technology and waste management as national flagship programs.

Yet Bhutan is increasingly becoming vulnerable to numerous negative consequences of climate change in recent times. Economically, hydropower is the single most factor in Bhutan’s external debt in Indian Rupees amounting to billions. Agriculture forms the backbone of the country and helps generate huge amounts of Indian and other foreign currencies through exportation. It is going through a major crisis as Bhutan faces an erratic monsoon with extreme weather causing flash floods, landslides and water crises among the farmers. Bhutan is recognized as one of the top 10 hotspots for biodiversity. Due to climate change issues, this rich biodiversity, both flora and fauna are facing numerous challenxges to survive.

However, besides some fresh air, Bhutan does not get anything for its international commitments. While the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, Paris Agreement and other international instruments guarantees countries like Bhutan huge economic benefits in the form of funds from developed nations, it has been frustratingly difficult.  Bhutan has not even been able to access such funds which were fought for years.

Therefore, in the upcoming COP and beyond, Bhutan must negotiate and make tough demands against those countries responsible for remedying the impacts either through compensation or funds for mitigation and adaption which can be used to pay our external debts and farmers as well as in our actions to remain carbon negative. Bhutan must also negotiate for the right to carbon trading to offset our clean energy in the international market without restrictions. Without these funds, the increasing financial crisis whether INR shortage or external debt payment may, not only threaten Bhutan economically and socially but also the very existence and sovereignty of the country. Bhutan’s fight must not be only on the basis of environmental conservation, climate change mitigation and adaption but also on the basis of right to remedy the damages caused by them and its sovereignty and financial and economic security. In this era of technology and world order, climate justice is increasingly becoming important because its impacts are too numerous and more so affects the most vulnerable groups demographically such as women, poorer sections of the society and children from disadvantaged families.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.