As the Twenty-Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP28) unfolds here in the United Arab Emirates, the global focus on climate issues, encompassing mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage, is more critical than ever. A notable debut is Bhutan’s participation with the unveiling of the Bhutan Pavilion, a significant stride for a nation committed to environmental stewardship. However, amidst the optimism surrounding COP28, the challenges faced by countries like Bhutan underscore the pressing need for enhanced support and accessibility to climate financing.

The inauguration of COP28, with the presidency transferred to the United Arab Emirates, saw Dr. Sultan Al Jaber express hope and commitment. President Al Jaber underscored the pivotal role of finance in facilitating climate action and development, acknowledging historical inadequacies in the availability, accessibility, and affordability of climate finance. He pledged to unlock additional finance, ensuring that developing nations are not forced to compromise between development and climate action. The promise to deliver on the $100 billion climate finance goal and funding for loss and damage resonated as a crucial commitment. Such assurance is a big step for affected countries if this promise comes through.

Bhutan, having ratified key international agreements such as the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol, boasts stringent national laws on environment and climate change. Despite international recognition through numerous awards, accessing promised funding remains a formidable challenge. As a small country deeply rooted in conservation, Bhutan’s constitutional requirement to maintain 60% of the country’s forest coverage underscores its commitment.

With Bhutan transitioning from a Least Developed Country (LDC), its representation at COP demands a more robust and competent delegation. While Bhutan excels domestically in conservation, forest protection, waste management, and clean energy, its presence at COP remains reflective of LDC strengths. The imminent graduation from the LDC category necessitates Bhutan to assert itself more assertively on the global stage, ensuring that its sacrifices and challenges are not overlooked.

The establishment of the first-ever Bhutan Pavilion signifies a strategic move to amplify Bhutan’s voice on the international stage. The Pavilion serves as a platform to engage global scientists, policymakers, and scholars, facilitating the dissemination of Bhutan’s message to the world. The sizable delegation comprising senior bureaucrats, climate experts, civil society representatives, students, and faculty exemplifies a united effort to represent Bhutan and forms a unified front, symbolizing Bhutan’s holistic and collective representation, a departure from past COPs where diverse entities represented the nation without much cohesive coordination.

The Bhutan Pavilion’s inauguration at COP28, themed “Sustaining Carbon Neutrality,” signifies a pivotal achievement in Bhutan’s global diplomacy and environmental advocacy. A meticulously planned endeavor, this strategic initiative aims to elevate Bhutan’s influence and amplify its voice on the international stage with over forty events. Prepared over nearly a year, the Pavilion extends beyond a mere structure, embodying a comprehensive approach to engage diverse stakeholders and convey Bhutan’s unwavering commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development. This collective effort underscores Bhutan’s dedication to fostering global collaboration and addressing environmental challenges collaboratively.

As COP28 progresses, Bhutan’s presence and challenges underscore the urgency for tailored support mechanisms and enhanced accessibility to climate financing. The Bhutan Pavilion represents an opportunity for global collaboration, providing a unified front to address the intricate environmental issues faced by the nation. It is imperative that the international community recognizes Bhutan’s unique contributions and supports its endeavors, ensuring a sustainable and equitable global response to climate change.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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