Climate & Energy

© WWF Bhutan
Bhutan is one of the few Carbon negative countries in the world today. Its rich forest cover of 71% sequesters almost three times more carbon (9.4 million tons of CO2) than country’s overall Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (3.8 million tons of CO2). Bhutan reaffirmed to carbon neutral commitment and low carbon development through the second Nationally Determined Contribution (2021).

Despite contributing the least to the global GHG emissions, Bhutan is disproportionately impacted by climate change; threatening food, water and energy security. Located in the Himalayas, it is inherently fragile and prone to hazards; extremely vulnerable to climate change. Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) is a looming threat. The Himalayan region is warming up three times faster than the global average; glaciers are melting have doubled since the start of 21st century. 

More than 65% of the population are dependent on agriculture, a climate-sensitive sector. Alpine and freshwater ecosystems are considered most vulnerable to climate change impacts, which in turn would affect biodiversity, people, and livelihoods.

The rising temperature is likely to cause loss and alteration of habitat for species such as snow leopard, especially in the steep and fragile mountain ecosystems. At the other end, the subtropical ecosystem along the southern foothills of Bhutan is vulnerable to climate change from the perspective of climate adaptability. The erratic weather patterns, soaring temperatures and unpredictable dry and wet atmospheric conditions render the local communities most vulnerable to climate change. The adaptive capacity of the people to reduce vulnerability in the face of climate change is of prime concern.   There is need for climate vulnerability assessments even at sub-national levels (Dzongkhags, gewogs etc.) to understand area-specific vulnerabilities and develop impactful adaptation measures.

While Bhutan is a net sink for carbon for now, there is rapidly increasing GHG emissions trends over the years. Emissions have nearly doubled between 1994 to 2015, as per the third National GHG Inventory.  With growing population and need for rapid economic development, deforestation and degradation of forest is a growing threat due to competing pressure on forest/forestland. 28,845 hectares of State Reserved Forest Land is predicted to be allotted for other land use between 2015 and 2030 (WMD, 2017).

The annual loss of 1923 hectares of forests is estimated to result in emission of 1.32 million tCO2 annually. Bhutan meets its energy needs primarily from hydropower, biomass, and fossil fuels. Bhutan has surplus hydroelectric energy but imports large quantity of fossil fuels from India to sustain its transport, industry and building sectors. In 2015, Bhutan imported Nu. 7.3 billion worth fossil fuel. The import of fossil fuel and energy increased by 18% in 2017, in the form of diesel and petrol.

In the face of a growing population and need for rapid economic development, sustainable and low carbon development will require innovative approaches and active bottoms-up participation of non-state actors to drive climate action. Responding to the urgent need for climate actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, WWF Bhutan will work with both the Royal Government of Bhutan and the non-state actors to promote sustainable forest management, nature-based solutions, renewable energy technology and energy efficient practices to drive low carbon development and strengthened adaptation capacity of the people against climate risk and impacts. 

WWF will focus on the following strategic interventions to deliver on its goal:
  1. Supporting the conservation or enhancement of forest carbon stock
  2. Supporting emission reduction interventions in key sectors
  3. Promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation
  4. Enabling non-state actors to take up climate actions and reduce carbon footprint
  5. Enhancing climate response capacity at national, sub-national and local levels
GOAL: Environmental assets, ecosystem functions and people protected and are resilient to climate risks and impacts.