Bhutan joins nations to pioneer a new financing approach for biodiversity conservation

Jun 7, 2016

Bhutan's biodiversity: Much more than what pictures can capture. (Photos: WWF Bhutan/Ngawang-UNDP)

With SDG 15 on ‘Life on Land’ as a Royal Government priority, the UNDP-led BIOFIN project kicks off in the world’s only ‘carbon-negative’ nation.

National biodiversity and climate partners are set to gather in Thimphu, Bhutan, this week to kick start the UNDP-supported Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), through which Bhutan will embark on a three-year journey to determine how to best finance conservation of the nation’s rich and unique biodiversity.

Bhutan joins 29 other BIOFIN countries worldwide, with the support of the European Commission and the Governments of Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Flanders. Each nation is set to leverage resources for biodiversity conservation through long-term financial solutions, forging relationships between national biodiversity stakeholders and global conservation partners.

Through the initiative, Bhutan will define its current investment in biodiversity conservation, identify its financial needs and gaps through national assessments and resource mobilization challenges and opportunities. It will also explore potential revenue streams and expand the traditional boundaries of development finance to consider private sector, local fund providers and other partners, in line with the blended finance vision of Agenda 2030.

The aim is to build an evidence-based investment case to attract investors to share in the nation’s unique conservation journey, and so supporting global achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land.

Bhutan is a global leader on environmental conservation, with a constitutional requirement to preserve at least 60% of the nation under forest cover for all time. Today, the nation’s forest cover has the capacity to sequester 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide -- four times of what the Bhutan emits -- making it the only carbon negative country in the world.

Coupled with a healthy forest cover, Bhutan’s sound watershed management has the potential to produce about 20,000 Megawatts (MW) of clean electricity. A recent evaluation has valued Bhutan’s total ecosystem services to be around US$ 15.5 billion per year.

Bhutan is recognized as a global leader in conservation, a reputation they wish to preserve and advance, including through initiatives such as BIOFIN.

Doing so will be critical to support the nation’s efforts to reduce the current income poverty rate from 12 percent to 5 percent by 2018, with biodiversity understood as the natural capital of the poor. But it will require investment. Today, despite its carbon negative status, Bhutan has one of the highest per capita consumption of fuel wood in the world at almost 1.3 tonnes per person.  Sixty-nine percent of the population relies on climate-sensitive agriculture to earn a living, and the nation’s economic growth is dependent on the hydro-power sector, a sector subject to the changing rainfall patterns of climate change and with the potential to irreversibly damage the nation’s biodiversity and ecosystems if not pursued in sustainable manner.

As initial attempts by other nations such as Costa Rica, Chile, and Thailand, BIOFIN in Bhutan can help deliver results across other development challenges, including climate change and disaster risk reduction. How to do so will be one of the topics of discussion amongst the Bhutanese partners gathering in the Thimphu this week, including from the Gross National Happiness Commission, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and other, non-governmental institutions.

For more information, contact

Mr. Ngawang Gyeltshen, UNDP Bhutan,ngawang.gyeltshen@undp.org  (+975- 17164535) or please visit: http://bit.ly/1YcdxDp

For more information on UNDP’s biodiversity-related results, please visit: http://bit.ly/1lRXgOcfor more information on UNDP’s work in Bhutan, please visit: http://www.bt.undp.org/