Bhutan pledged to carbon neutrality

But what is the cost-benefit of a sound environmental policy?

12 December, 2009 – As Bhutan showcased its environmental friendly projects at the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate change conference yesterday, it also made a pledge in Thimphu, by signing a declaration, to follow and be guided by a strong sense of conservation ethics and remain a carbon neutral country.

The declaration calls for global attention to Bhutan’s commitment to preserving its rich eco system and in return is asking for support for its mitigation and adaptation measures to adapt to climate change.

“In spite of our status as a small, mountainous developing country, with so many other pressing social and economic development needs and priorities, we feel that there’s no need greater or more important than keeping the planet safe for life to continue,” states the declaration. “Therefore, we commit ourselves to keep absorbing more carbon than we emit and to maintain our country’s status as a net sink for greenhouse gases (GHG).”

“We pledge that we will not produce greenhouse gases in excess of what we can sequester, but we’ll also serve as a carbon sequestration tank for the world in general, and that we’d like to be rewarded for this,” said the prime minister, who signed the declaration after the closing of the winter parliament session. “Because there are costs of conservation in maintaining this ecological balance against rising population, agricultural growth, urbanisation and industrialisation.”

The prime minister said the Bhutanese government and the media have a responsibility to make the world realise that Bhutan is threatened.

“It’s something that’s truly threatening, and it’s that spectre, which has haunted Bhutan from the moment His Majesty the fourth king came to the throne. That is why, he was one of the earliest environmentalists in the world, long before environmental conservation became a fashion.”

The pledge is made against the economic sacrifices Bhutan has made and environmental friendly polices in place, such as high value-low volume tourism, banning the export of timber, high prices for natural resources and discouraging the use of chemical fertilisers, which affects the farmers with decreased income, said the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Dr Pema Gyamtsho. “Bhutan’s rich ecosystem isn’t by default but because of its sound environmental policies.”

According to the minister, Bhutan’s total emission is about 1.5 million tonnes, against its sequestration capacity (carbon absorption capacity) of about 6.3 million tonnes annually. Bhutan’s carbon balance of minus 4.7 million tonnes means that it can still absorb more carbon.

Bhutan is mainly seeking both financial and expertise support from Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, said the agriculture minister. “If we want to keep our forest cover at 60 percent, it comes with a cost. So we’ll have to look at how other countries, especially the rich countries can compensate the economic opportunities that we’ve foregone,” he said.

The minister said that funds are needed to convert to green technologies, to take up organic agriculture, technologies for hydropower generation and to reverse the degradation of land and improve soil fertility.

Maintaining the healthy existing ecosystem, however, is challenging for Bhutan. Besides water and forest management, one of the biggest challenges for Bhutan would be to provide alternatives for income and employment generation by controlling the development of industries in the country.

A copy each of the signed declaration will be handed over by the agriculture minister, who leaves for Copenhagen on Monday, to the prime minister of Denmark and the president of the Cop 15.

“By the end of Cop15, if not at the conference level, at least at the individual level, and bilateral level, we’ll get commitments of support for the steps, the sacrifices that the royal government is making and taking,” said the prime minister. “From the GNH point of view, we’re very concerned. We do fear that, unless we take very strong measures, not only human society but all life forms may not survive, for too long.”

By Sonam Pelden
Source: Kuenselonline

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