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Bhutan

Bhutan is a 745,000 people landlocked country in between India, China and the contested territories of Tibet. It is slightly smaller than the Netherlands, and quite a lot higher up in the mountain.


The independence of Bhutan has endured for centuries and it has never been colonised in its history. Situated on the ancient Silk Road between Tibet, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, the Bhutanese state developed a national identity based on Buddhist theocracy, more precisely the thunder dragon sect. The ruling monarch of Bhutan is from the Wangchuck and is called the Dragon King. In fact, Bhutan’s original name is Druk Yul, or the Land of the Thunder Dragon.


In 2008, it transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy and held the first election to the National Assembly of Bhutan.


The highest peak of Bhutan is the Gangkhar Puensum, the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. Several of the world’s most impenetrable peak give this country its incredibly pristine looks and overlook the valleys in which most people live. 


The climate in Bhutan varies with elevation, from subtropical in the south to temperate in the highlands and polar-type climate in its highest peaks and plateaux. Despite its high average altitude, Bhutan is fertile, lush and arable. 


The country has spearheaded the creation of a new indicator to offer a new take on progress and modernity: the Gross National Happiness. GNH is measured using economic factors, but also other indicators that belong to more immaterial aspects of life and fulfilment such as culture, governance and of course sustainability.


Bhutan is undeniably different from the rest of the world in its approach to society, governance and life. Its people’s attachment to their national identity, culture and natural environment is a source of inspiration for the populations of all the world. With innovative techniques, Bhutan is trailblazing some of the world’s most original ideas to jugulate Anthropocene-related disasters.


TOTAL POPULATION

0.78 million YEAR 2014

CO2 EMISSIONS

1,000 kt COUNTRY, YEAR 2014

2,516,400 kt South Asia, YEAR 2014

“To remain carbon neutral, so that emissions of greenhouse gases do not exceed carbon sequestration by forests.”

PARIS AGREEMENT TARGET

Created by potrace 1.10, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2011

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CLIMATE SIGNIFICANCE

The Eastern Himalayas have been identified as a global biodiversity hotspot, harbouring rare endemic species and providing refuge from human interactions for a particularly wide range of species. Due to its mountainous character, Bhutan remains a largely rural society based on agriculture and forestry, and the majority of its population gathers in the valleys. Its low population density also allows for rare and also more peaceful interaction between wildlife and humans. 

The Kingdom of Bhutan made the commitment to remain carbon neutral as it is already a net carbon sink for the planet. Almost all of its electricity comes from hydropower, a major source of international revenue thanks to the dense river system and potential of the region. Export of electricity from hydropower projects form a major source of revenue for this country who holds enormous amounts of water in the form of glaciers and ice caps. Bhutan, like the other Himalayan countries, has to tread carefully with its two giant neighbours China and India, with which it has peaceful, yet careful relationships. 

More than a quarter of Bhutan is protected as national parks, reserves and other regulated areas. The country’s policy to charge tourists a high fee for each visit (around $200/day) has ensured the social and environmental safety of local populations. 

Plans to identify a further 9% of land area as biodiversity corridors linking the protected areas should foster ecosystems and strengthen species who need more space and land to roam freely. Elephants, pangolins and tigers are among the staple species of this country, and they need safe corridors to stay away from livestock and villages. Forests currently cover 70.46% of the surface, making it the world’s only carbon-negative country in the world.

Bhutan has not waited for the Paris agreement to act on its own resilience. As it reaps the benefits of their country’s preparation works, no doubt that its approach will be emulated by other countries.

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DATA INSIGHTS

According to the World Bank classification, Bhutan is a lower-middle-income country. To understand Bhutan’s position in the fight against climate change, it is useful to observe its history of carbon emissions and exposure to climate risk. The following plots provide an overview of Bhutan’s historic greenhouse gas emissions in perspective with global emission levels, as well as the country’s relative vulnerability and preparedness to climate change.


Bhutan Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Bhutan’s timeline of total GHG emissions and the percentage change from 1990

This plot combines 3 pieces of information measured from 1990 - 2012: The bar chart indicates the volume of the country’s GHG emissions, the dotted line shows the variation of this volume compared to the baseline 1990, and the full line presents the same variation, but globally.


Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and fluorocarbons are the main drivers of global warming. Between 1990 and 2012, the world’s emissions grew by 40%.


Between 1990 and 2000, Bhutan witnessed its emissions increase by 80%. Despite some reductions in its emissions, Bhutan experienced further substantial emissions growth in two years’ time (from 2008 to 2010). Overall, Bhutan’s emissions increased by 158% between 1990 and 2012. It’s important to remind that Bhutan’s forests capture more carbon than the country actually releases.


Bhutan’s emissions are significantly low in comparison with regional emissions. In the year 2012, emissions from the agriculture sector are dominant followed by industrial processes and waste. Emissions from industrial processes have the highest increasing trend between 1990 and 2012 in comparison with other sectors. Overall, the agriculture and personal heating and cooking sectors in Bhutan need attention to ensure sustainability in the country. (Source: WRI, 2018; World Bank, 2018)


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Bhutan Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Bhutan’s timeline of total GHG emissions and the percentage change from 1990

graph

This plot combines 3 pieces of information measured from 1990 - 2012: The bar chart indicates the volume of the country’s GHG emissions, the dotted line shows the variation of this volume compared to the baseline 1990, and the full line presents the same variation, but globally.


Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and fluorocarbons are the main drivers of global warming. Between 1990 and 2012, the world’s emissions grew by 40%.


Between 1990 and 2000, Bhutan witnessed its emissions increase by 80%. Despite some reductions in its emissions, Bhutan experienced further substantial emissions growth in two years’ time (from 2008 to 2010). Overall, Bhutan’s emissions increased by 158% between 1990 and 2012. It’s important to remind that Bhutan’s forests capture more carbon than the country actually releases.


Bhutan’s emissions are significantly low in comparison with regional emissions. In the year 2012, emissions from the agriculture sector are dominant followed by industrial processes and waste. Emissions from industrial processes have the highest increasing trend between 1990 and 2012 in comparison with other sectors. Overall, the agriculture and personal heating and cooking sectors in Bhutan need attention to ensure sustainability in the country. (Source: WRI, 2018; World Bank, 2018)


Bhutan Climate Vulnerability and Readiness (CVRI)

Bhutan’s vulnerability and readiness to combat climate change

This graph ranks a country’s climate performance by measuring its readiness (x-axis) and its vulnerability (y-axis). Both are measured from 0 - 1 (1 being the most ready or most vulnerable). This index combines indicators of a country’s exposure to climate change and others that measure the country’s potential to withstand those shocks. 


Each dot in this plot represents a country. The countries in most urgent situations are on the top left of the graph whilst the most resilient ones stand at the bottom right.


Bhutan is categorized as a country with high vulnerability and fairly effective responsiveness to climate change. However, there is a greater need to strengthen the adaptation capacity. For instance, agriculture capacity such as organic fertilizer usage needs to be improved. Medical staff capacity, health-related services needs to be strengthened to effectively adapt to climate-induced diseases. (Source: ND-GAIN, 2018)


The impacts of climate change vary by country and region. But wherever you are, local-level adaptation projects are necessary. You have all the cards in hand, now go explore our live projects and be one of the good guys.


TAKE ACTION

Bhutan Climate Vulnerability and Readiness (CVRI)

Bhutan’s vulnerability and readiness to combat climate change

graph

This graph ranks a country’s climate performance by measuring its readiness (x-axis) and its vulnerability (y-axis). Both are measured from 0 - 1 (1 being the most ready or most vulnerable). This index combines indicators of a country’s exposure to climate change and others that measure the country’s potential to withstand those shocks. 


Each dot in this plot represents a country. The countries in most urgent situations are on the top left of the graph whilst the most resilient ones stand at the bottom right.


Bhutan is categorized as a country with high vulnerability and fairly effective responsiveness to climate change. However, there is a greater need to strengthen the adaptation capacity. For instance, agriculture capacity such as organic fertilizer usage needs to be improved. Medical staff capacity, health-related services needs to be strengthened to effectively adapt to climate-induced diseases. (Source: ND-GAIN, 2018)


The impacts of climate change vary by country and region. But wherever you are, local-level adaptation projects are necessary. You have all the cards in hand, now go explore our live projects and be one of the good guys.


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