Leaders from about 150 countries have gathered in Paris with a hope to create a new international climate agreement by the end of the Conference of the Parties (COP21).
High on the agenda is to set up a global fight against climate change. By the end of the summit, in two-weeks time, leaders, including a Bhutanese delegation to the summit, are to reach a point where both rich and poor countries would agree to cut down emission levels of greenhouse gases.
The summit would be overshadowed by negotiations among the big countries that are also blamed for contributing the most to climate change. There are fears that disagreement among rich and poor countries would lead to another meltdown in the talks. This happened six years ago in Copenhagen. But in the last six years, a lot has happened to convince leaders, both representing rich and poor that the situation has become hotter.
If 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record, the frequency of record breaking hottest years has become shorter indicating that the planet is heating up fast. Scientists warn that the world cannot exceed two degrees of warming to avoid a catastrophe. The dangers are clear and present.
The impact of climate change doesn’t differentiate rich and the poor, the big and the small. The effort should be global in scale and each of the members present should commit to a change to save humanity.
Those representing Bhutan can be confident as, small as we may be, we have set a trend. We have pledged to be carbon neutral and we are a carbon sink. 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 our export of clean energy which local experts say will help to offset emissions by up to 22.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2025.
In the corridors of the grand summit avenue, Bhutan’s delegation can walk with their heads held high. But there are problems.
Living high up on the young Himalayan Mountains, we are in a fragile eco system. Our ancestors realised that. Therefore, our lakes are sacred, trees have lives and glaciers cannot be disturbed, as the protective spirit would be angered. These beliefs, now proven by science, are passed down for generations, not through science, but through stories, myths and religious teachings.
Our development strategies always considered environment and respect for the nature as a critical component. With guidance of our visionary leaders, we have always taken a balanced approach to development. But that is not enough.
A small county like Bhutan cannot easily influence global thinking and there are climate change skeptics including from the developed world. Even with a commitment in Paris, the repercussion of what mankind had done will be felt for long.
We are already feeling the heat. Flash floods, strange pattern of rainfall, new diseases that hamper yield are already common in Bhutan. It may be not our doing, but the impact doesn’t differentiate. And fragile ecosystems like ours will bear the brunt.
Adaptation and mitigation is what we need. And for that we need the funds. The success of the measures will depend on what the rich nations consider in financial aid and technical support.