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Bhutan’s King optimistic about climate solutions

Thimphu,
“Bhutan sees GCF as a strategic partner for climate action in Bhutan.” This was echoed in the various meetings that the Green Climate Fund delegation had during the scoping mission to Bhutan from 26 August to 1 September 2018. The mission was in Bhutan to engage how climate finance can help bolster national efforts to tackle climate change. A national structured dialogue was held between the Royal Government of Bhutan and the mission.

During the visit, the delegation was very fortunate to receive an audience with His Majesty The King of Bhutan and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, who recognised the importance of the Green Climate Fund and the use of science and technology to further curb the effects of climate change, the impacts of which are on agriculture production, water security and community livelihood.

While Bhutan is well known for its focus on personal wellbeing through its Gross National Happiness Index, it has also established strong climate change credentials. A study in the lead up to the Paris Agreement at the end of 2015 found that Bhutan absorbs three times more CO2 emissions than it emits. The country’s ability to act as a carbon sink is attributed partly to its extensive forest cover. Bhutan has a constitutional mandate to maintain a minimum of 60 percent of its land as forest.

GCF is supporting the ambitious goal of Bhutan through an investment of USD 26.6 million in the “Bhutan for Life” project, which has just begun implementation. The Project is aimed at promoting nature and forest conservation to help the country remain carbon neutral.

While water rich, Bhutan is also water stressed. Despite having a per capita mean annual flow availability of 109,000 cubic meters, one of the highest in the region, many parts of the country have shortage of drinking and irrigation water.

Changing rainfall patterns, increasing temperature, flooding, landslides and windstorms have led to seasonal and local water scarcity for drinking and agriculture - leaving thousands of acres of paddy field fallow and contributing to growing rural-urban migration.

Bhutan has experienced rapid development during the past decades, along with the growth of its population and urbanisation. This in turn has led to a rapid increase in solid waste generation, and increasing emissions from transportation and industry. 

In addition to the “Bhutan for Life” project, GCF is matching the priorities of the Royal Government of Bhutan by providing support to develop ideas for other projects with funds for country programme development, project preparation and technical support and advice.

Jerry Velasquez, director of mitigation and adaptation at GCF, said “Bhutan has the opportunity to develop a strategic pipeline of projects that will systematically address key climate threats and meet its goals of keeping its carbon neutrality.” “Through this process, we hope that Bhutan can become a model and example on how best to access resources from the GCF,” he added.
 
The Royal Government of Bhutan has made clear commitments to follow a low-emissions and climate-resilient development pathway, as stated in its Nationally Determined Contribution. While there is strong political commitment to get the work done, the need of international support is crucial to achieve the objectives that Bhutan has set for itself. Bhutan’s National Designated Authority (NDA), the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat, says it wants to maximise its access to GCF finance to support the 12th Five Year Plan and reduce its resource gap.
  
GCF has approved nearly USD 30 million in support to Bhutan, in terms of projects, capacity building of government officials, and water adaptation planning. The Royal Government of Bhutan has submitted projects to GCF requesting USD 37 million focusing on low emission transport, and climate-resilient agriculture and water resources management.
 
Further projects on watershed and flood management, urban waste management, avoiding deforestation, and early warning systems are also being prepared as part of GCF country program. These initiatives form the core of Bhutan's first GCF country programme, which will outline the projects the country intends to submit to GCF during the coming three years.