YK Poudel

Bhutan is facing challenges due to changing consumption habits, resulting in increased waste production, higher energy usage, and strain on transportation systems. A collaborative effort at the national level is essential to address these issues, prioritising the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As per the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for Bhutan, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production (SCP) are root causes of the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Last week, the European Union (EU) and the Department of Environment and Climate Change of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources organised a workshop on SCP to enhance climate ambition in Bhutan.

About 50 participants representing the government, private sector and international development partners discussed the opportunities to enhance the climate ambition of Bhutan using SCP and circular economy measures.

Ugyen Tshering, Member of the National Council, Paro, said that under the 13th Five-Year Plan, Bhutan is aiming to grow the economy to USD five billion by 2029 and to USD 10 billion by 2034 under the overall framework of “High Income Gross National Happiness Economy”.

“Under this new development trajectory of Bhutan, SCP and Circular Economy will be of high importance and express the government’s willingness in further engagements,” he said.

Franck Viault, the EU Head of Cooperation for Bhutan and India, said that Bhutan is setting an example for the world by being carbon negative and its commitment to remain so despite economic growth.

“I hope that the workshop supported by EU funding is useful to link SCP aspects to NDC targets, keeping in mind the importance of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change,” Franck Viault said.

The current and projected climate change scenarios are causing widespread alarm. The recently concluded Global Stocktake process under the Paris Agreement has recognised the serious scientific warnings presented through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) emissions gap report.

As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Bhutan has presented its NDCs aspiring to enhance those targets in 2025. The SCP has the potential to contribute towards enhancing climate benefits while contributing towards sustainable development.


Changing consumption patterns have increased and diversified waste generation, putting pressure on infrastructure, facilities and services.

Moreover, rising energy consumption, both among households and industry has put a pressure on the transport system, affecting agriculture, tourism and other sectors.

According to a press release from the EU-SWITCH Asia programme, surveillance and monitoring challenges make ensuring compliance with existing laws difficult. “Additionally, for Bhutan, inadequate research and development capacity; lack of specific initiatives to promote sustainable production in industries, construction, and agriculture; and a lack of policy and legal framework technical capacities are severe issues to be addressed.”

Thus far

Bhutan, Panama and Suriname are the only carbon negative countries in the world.

With a forest cover of about 69.7 percent and 52 percent protected areas, Bhutan is one of the 10 global biodiversity hotspots.

Within a decade, about 12 percent poverty rate—a fast paced development is witnessed leading to growth and rising issues as well.

The existing legal and policy framework provides space for implementing Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) in Bhutan.

National legislation such as National Environment Protection Act (2007), Biodiversity Act of Bhutan (2003), Environmental Assessment Act (2000) and the Forest and Nature Conservation Act (1995) acts as the foundation to development in Bhutan.

Bhutan is a signatory to multilateral environmental agreement including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the international Plant Protection Convention in 1994, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 2002, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone Layer and the Convention’s supplementary agreement, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 2004, and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal in 2002. Bhutan also ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Moreover, the government presented its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) of the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the 2018 High-level Political Forum in New York, confirming its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The EU’s current support for Bhutan under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Indicative Programme, focuses on three priority areas namely climate change and green growth, good governance for inclusive development; and digital transition in the education and public service delivery sectors.

A total budget of about 41 million Euros between 2021 and 2024—towards SCP, Civil Society Organisations and their engagement with the parliament, public finance management capacity building and investment supports.

Bhutan’s second VNR of the 2030 Agenda states that a culture of SCP across government and whole of society needs to be created and scaled up. It also mentions the importance of the strengthening of institutional and technical capacities to adapt SCP policies to the national context.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region have a direct reference to SCP within the NDC targets to work on energy efficiency, waste management, value chain improvements, green buildings, building material with low carbon footprints, promoting sustainable lifestyles, among others.

The next NDCs enhancement cycle will be completed in 2025 where all parties to the Paris Agreement will enhance their NDC targets progressively.

Launched in 2007, the EU SWITCH-Asia Programme is one of the largest programmatic investments to promote and facilitate the uptake of sustainable consumption and production practices in the Asia and Pacific region in 42 countries including Bhutan.