United Nations In Bhutan Committed To Combating Climate Change


The UN in Bhutan plans to make the agricultural sector more resilient to climate change.

(Source: UNDP Bhutan)


By Phub Gyem BBS

To assist Bhutan in combating climate change and to mitigate its impact, the United Nations (UN) in Bhutan will be spending 40 per cent of their resources to work on climate action. Agriculture is at the forefront of the various projects planned under climate action. This is highlighted in the UN in Bhutan’s annual result report which was released on 26 July 2019.

The report highlighted that Bhutan has been exposed to the ill effects of climate change through erratic weather patterns, fast receding glaciers and risks of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) despite its commitment to remain carbon negative for all time.

Making Bhutan’s agricultural sector more resilient to climate change

The UN in Bhutan plans to make the agricultural sector more resilient to climate change. To this effect, the UN in Bhutan has been able to secure 25.3m USD from the Green Climate Fund.


As Climate Change causes shortage of irrigation water, a project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), supported by UNDP Bhutan, and initiated and implemented by the Royal Government of Bhutan, is helping to address the problem in parts of Bhutan. The project helped construct pressurised piped irrigation channels in select water-scarce villages. The result being improved crop yield and livelihood. The pressurised piped irrigation system is not only climate resilient but also requires little or no maintenance unlike the conventional open irrigation channels. Moreover, it ensures uninterrupted water flow. 

Source: Facebook/UNDP Bhutan


UN officials in the country said that there are various projects in the pipeline to help Bhutan’s agricultural sector mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“We also have been able to work to mitigate landslides in Phuentsholing and we are working with the national weather centre to make weather forecast more predictable. We all know that farmers have been affected by the changing weather patterns. On the mitigation side, we are working with the Royal Government of Bhutan on making the transportation sector more green and clean by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The first activity is that 300 taxis will become electric and it’s a new project with funding from the Green Environment facility,” said Jurgen Nagler, the Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan.


In Bhutan, UNDP supports the government in its efforts to switch over to Electric Vehicles (EV) to reduce fossil fuel emissions through a Global Environment Facility financed low-emission transport project. Implemented by Ministry of Information and Communications, Royal Government of Bhutan, the project aims to have taxi operators trade in their fossil-fueled vehicles to electric ones within three years. The goal is help Bhutan maintain its carbon negative state. In this video, Chencho Norbu, a taxi driver from Paro, who has been driving EV taxi for over three years now, shares his experiences and why other taxi drivers should also opt for EV cars. 

Source: Facebook/UNDP Bhutan


Managing rural-urban migration

“If we don’t adapt to climate change, then one of the concerns some people have is that the rate of rural-urban migration could increase. We already have too many gungtongs here in Bhutan. By adapting wisely to climate change, we can anticipate and we can ensure that those people who live in rural areas live well,” added Gerald Daly, the Resident Coordinator of UN in Bhutan.

Building the capacity of Bhutanese scholars to study climate change

UN in Bhutan also aims to help Bhutan address and tackle climate change and its impacts by building the capacity of Bhutanese scholars to study climate change and to secure funds from international communities for this pristine nation to combat climate change.


Photo: Facebook/UNDP Bhutan


“How can those young students in Bhutan who are studying anything to do with climate studies, how can we make sure that they have the best resources possible so that not only are they creating or having BA Degrees, but over the time Masters Programmes and it may seem very optimistic today in 2019 but we need to be anticipating that someday we will also have PhD programmes in Climate Studies,” Gerald Daly said.

Other entities involved in preparing Bhutan to combat Climate Change

The UN in Bhutan is also working very closely with the Royal Government of Bhutan, the Gross National Happiness Commission, the National Environment Commission and the Agriculture Ministry to come up with a national adaptation plan.

“So it is important that we do know how we can better prepare for the expected climate change to happen and to develop new innovative proposals to secure additional funding from the international community to Bhutan,” Jurgen Nagler said.

In 2018, the UN in Bhutan spent over US$15m to support Bhutan in achieving its developmental priorities and the major chunk was spent on climate action.


This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


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