20 June 2019, Thimphu – Bhutan today stepped up its response to climate change with the launch of a project to advance its National Adaptation Plan focused on water. The project, to be implemented with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), benefits from a US$ 2.7 million grant from the Green Climate Fund, a fund created under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges of climate change.
The formulation and implementation of the National Adaptation Plan will be led by the National Environment Commission Secretariat in collaboration with several other government agencies. Civil Society Organisations and Academia will also have an active role in shaping the process.
Bhutan faces a range of threats arising from climate change. Heavy rainfall is becoming more common and have led to flash floods and landslides. At the same time, melting glaciers are impacting water availability and creating a looming risk of glacial lakes outburst floods. In some pockets of the country, there are reports of streams drying up, causing water scarcity.
The hydropower, agriculture, and tourism sectors, which together account for almost a quarter of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), are all highly dependent on, and affected by, climate variability and natural hazards. Agriculture alone is the lifeline of around 58 percent of the population and generates around 17 percent of GDP.
“Bhutan has been working continuously to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change through independent projects and programs. The National Adaptation Plan will take it a step forward by planning for medium- and long-term adaptation interventions,” said Mr. Phento Tshering, Officiating Secretary, National Environment Commission Secretariat.
“By the end of the project, we will have a fully formulated first National Adaptation Plan of Bhutan and also a monitoring and evaluation system to assess climate resilience.”
The new project builds on work already underway to identify and respond to climate change impacts, including a comprehensive National Adaptation Programme of Action, Bhutan’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement (including both mitigation and adaptation), and a current Five-Year Plan with a focus on climate and disaster resilience. Water security has consistently been identified as a national priority.
“The advancement of Bhutan’s National Adaptation Plan is absolutely key not only for building resilience against climate change but also for advancing the 2030 Agenda across the board,” said Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan, Ms. Azusa Kubota.
“This is a key moment for the country, and timely for the UN Climate Action Summit as it reflects the leadership of the Royal Government of Bhutan in achieving low-emission and climate-resilient development, specifically in securing one of the most precious resources we have on our mother planet: the water.”
She added that UNDP has been a long-time partner of the Royal Government of Bhutan in climate adaptation and development.
“We are proud to have supported a number of successful projects, which have contributed to reducing glacial lake outburst flood risk, enhancing national, local and community capacity to prepare for and respond to climate-induced disasters, and maintaining sustainable forest and agricultural systems. UNDP looks forward to working with the government in further advancing its National Adaptation Plan.”