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Choki Wangmo  

Bhutan’s forests sequestered 9.4 million tonnes (MT) of CO2 and emitted 3.8MT of CO2, resulting in net negative emissions of 5.6MT of CO2 in 2015, according to the third national greenhouse gas inventory.

However, an official with National Environment Commission (NEC), Tshering Yangzom, said that modelling studies showed a moderate rise in emission level (6.25 MT CO2e by 2046 and 6.43 MT CO2e by 2050) in the case of a medium GDP growth rate of 4 percent.

“There are emission high reduction potentials in waste, livestock, and basic metals,” she said yesterday during a virtual consultation with development partners and relevant agencies on Bhutan’s low emission development strategies (LEDS) and second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). 

Without mitigation activities, Tshering Yangzom said that the emission level would rise to 6.4 MtCO2e while the forest sink capacity would be just 3.6 MtCO2e, which would put the country’s carbon neutral status at risk.

The largest emission under the business-as-usual scenario would be from the transport sector as it is highly dependent on fossil fuels, she said.

Globally, without urgent action, studies have shown that warming is likely to reach 4-5°C, exceeding the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5-2°C.

With reduced emission in sectors like transport, industry, human settlement, and food security, Tshering Yangzom said that Bhutan would be able to maintain the carbon-neutral status. This includes enhancing forest sink through forest management, efficient vehicle and public transport use and sustainable agriculture, among others.

National consultant for the second NDC, Thinley Namgyel, said that NEC prepared LEDS in different sectors—human settlement, industries, transport, and food security and NDC—that will be soon submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate.

Forestry sector 

National coordinator for REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), Jigme Tenzin (PhD), said that land-use change was the second-highest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Bhutan.

Timber harvesting, fuelwood, forest fires, he said, were some of the drivers of forest degradation that releases CO2. “A hectare of deforestation releases 624 tonnes of CO2. Timber harvesting accounted for annual emissions of 0.31 million tonnes.”

He said that harvesting one cft of timber released about 0.04 tonnes of CO2.

Between 2015 and 2019, Bhutan harvested 8.7 million cft of timber annually.

He said that if Bhutan doesn’t maintain emissions from deforestation and forest degradation at a baseline of 505,837 tonnes of CO2e annually, maintaining the country’s carbon neutral status would be difficult.

Agriculture sector

Studies have shown that emissions from the agriculture sector  is decreasing—34 .8 percent in 1994 to 15.22 percent in 2000 to 14.5 percent in 2015. The LEDS for food security covering the agriculture and livestock sector identifies six mitigation actions aimed at reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.

An official with the agriculture ministry, Tashi Yangzom, said that the prioritised mitigation measures in the sector included switching from synthetic to organic fertilisers, improved agricultural practices, increased biomass through increase perennial crop production, domestic biogas production, reduction of continuous rice flooding, and increased cattle productivity through improved feeding.

Human settlement

Activities in the human settlement sector are considered across energy in buildings, transport infrastructure, waste management, land-use in urban areas, and information communication and technology.

Urban planner, Samdrup Norbu, said that LEDS for human settlements identified measures over the short- and medium-term scenario (2020-2030). Some of the emission reduction measures include rolling out solar photovoltaic (PV) on buildings, replacement of LPG and firewood by electricity, increase in composting and recycling, energy-efficient and green building design, efficient street lighting, and wastewater management.

Mitigation measures identified for the long run (2030-2050) are the promotion of alternative building materials, provision of digital municipal services, intra-urban transport, and preservation of open and green spaces.

Industry

Assistant environment officer with the economic affairs ministry, Pema Yangdon, said that the greenhouse gas emissions from the industries was projected to triple by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario.

The LEDS for industries identifies opportunities for mitigation through technical measures and diversification of the sector away from heavy industries to promoting industries with higher value-addition and manufacturing products with cross-cutting benefits in other sectors.

The LEDS for industries recommends the establishment of a revolving fund mechanism, green loans, concessional financing, establishing a cleaner production centre, and capacity building to realise the mitigation potentials.

Transport sector 

Chief Planning Officer with the information communications ministry, Chimi Dorji, said that by 2050, the country would have more than 300,000 vehicles.

He said that in 2019, transport-related emissions accounted for 398,829 mtCO2e, which is inclusive of emissions from petrol and diesel fuel supply chains. “Primary contributor to emissions is heavy vehicles and light vehicles, followed by buses and taxis.”

He said that the emission from the transport sector was expected to rise by 1.25 mtCO2e by 2050 at an average year-on-year growth rate of 10 percent. “Significant rise in emissions is expected from light vehicles followed by medium and heavy vehicles.”

The LEDS for transport and mobility identifies eleven mitigation options for transport and mobility in Bhutan, which are electric passenger vehicles, emission standards, shared mobility, bus rapid transit, and freight train, among others.

Bhutan submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the Paris Agreement in 2015. Upon ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2017, INDC became Bhutan’s first NDC. The NDC reaffirmed Bhutan’s pledge to remain carbon neutral and laid out the priorities for low greenhouse gas emission development across nine areas.

Thinley Namgyel said that Bhutan maintained the commitment to remain carbon neutral where the emission of greenhouse gases would not exceed carbon sequestration as first pledged in 2009 and reaffirmed in the first NDC. “It charts a way for Bhutan to continue pursuing a low emission development pathway towards our national objectives for sustainable development while meeting our obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

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