Bhutan to pursue sustainable development and remain carbon neutral

The Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Thinley Namgyel led the Bhutanese delegation to the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27)

 Bhutan’s Participation in UNFCCC, COP27


Bhutan elaborated on efforts to pursue sustainable development and committed to remain carbon neutral at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt during the COP 27.

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) which was held from 6-18 November concluded with a historic decision to establish and operationalize a loss and damage fund.

Speaking at the High-Level segment, the Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Thinley Namgyel who was the head of delegation reiterated Bhutan’s commitment to remain carbon neutral and elaborated on efforts to pursue sustainable development. He stressed that a country like Bhutan that has a fragile mountain ecosystem is highly susceptible to the worst impacts of climate change.

The head of delegation notably led two agenda items on adaptation and agriculture at the High-Level Ministerial negotiations on behalf of the LDCs.

Adaptation and scaling of climate finance were of high priority to Bhutan. Thus, in collaboration with Nepal, Bhutan proposed the inclusion of needs and special circumstances of fragile and vulnerable mountainous countries in keeping with the Paris Agreement’s principle of leaving no one behind under the African Group’s agenda on special needs of African Countries.

Bhutan made notable achievements in the negotiations by co-facilitating consultations on the highly technical Article 6.4 (carbon projects) of the Paris Agreement, and Article 15 of the Paris Agreement and Compliance Committee of Kyoto Protocol.

Other delegates included officials from the National Environment Commission, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Disaster Management, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and a youth negotiator. 

Bhutan also negotiated under the LDC group for climate, which the Secretary of National Environment Commission, Sonam P. Wangdi chaired on behalf of Bhutan from 2018-21.

Loss and Damage

The term Loss and Damage (L&D) is used in United Nations climate parlance to describe the impacts of climate change that are beyond what countries can adapt to, either because the damage is irreversible or because countries lack the means to cope.

Least developed countries (LDCs) like Bhutan and most of the world, have historically contributed the least to climate change and yet are the most affected by its impacts.

Climate change causes quantifiable and non-quantifiable losses to livelihoods, human lives, public infrastructure, economy and biodiversity that many countries have immense challenges facing. This brings about the notion of compensating the countries for the loss and damages.

Financing for L&D is distinct from financing for adaptation or mitigation. L&D financing will not only address L&D as and when they occur, but also for achieving comprehensive climate risk management to the most vulnerable, such as the LDCs.

It was a relief to spectators as the Cover Decision for the first time, mentioned that the parties look into “matters relating to funding arrangements responding to L&D associated with the adverse effects of climate change.”

The Santiago network, which was created to catalyze and provide technical assistance to help countries cope with L&D was also decided to be formalized by 2023 to complement the financing mechanism. However, several questions still remain as to the details of the financing mechanism.

How much funding will be allocated to L&D considering that the goal to mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020 by developed countries for climate finance failed to materialize with the COP27 requiring discussion on a new collective quantified goal on climate finance.

Article 6: Cooperative approaches (Carbon markets)

Carbon markets is a task on how to operationalize carbon markets for greater climate ambition according to the Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. It is only the mechanism in the Paris Agreement that enables countries to voluntarily cooperate with each other to enhance climate ambition.

The UNFCCC Secretariat launched its capacity building programme to ensure equitable participation in the implementation and participation of parties under Article 6 at the COP27. Parties also reached satisfactory consensus on the registry and reporting on inter-state carbon markets, rules, modalities and procedures for voluntary carbon markets, and transfer of carbon credits from the Kyoto framework to the Paris Agreement. 

Bhutan is engaging actively in the carbon market negotiations under the Paris Agreement to capture value for the country’s environmental achievement unlike missing the opportunity during the Kyoto Protocol.

Enhanced Ambition?

Many commentators lament that the COP27 did not achieve much progress, if any since the last COP, to move away from fossil fuels, the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

However, the COP27 was an opportunity to also reflect on the complex interconnections that exist in the conversation on climate action beyond fossil fuels. For instance, the changing climate impacts food systems and agriculture, but unsustainable practices in these sectors have in turn played a role in increasing emissions.

For the first time, food security, human health, gender and locally led actions have been recognized to be part of the complex interconnections in the climate conversation and how enabling actors to bring about greater outcomes in these areas can lead to better progress towards the goals in the Paris Agreement.

The side events also showcased how many of the solutions to the climate crisis are coming from business, academia and civil society. 

COP27 has been billed as the world’s last chance to prevent global warming of more than 1.5C above historic levels. However, the recent analysis has shown it is on course for between 2.4C and 2.8C because new plans by countries have been too weak while progress since last year’s summit in Glasgow has stalled.