‘Protect landscapes to protect everything’: Bhutan announces national push for climate resiliency and conservation

Last Updated: 25 Aug 2018



11 November 2017, ThimphuAs COP23 international climate talks continue in Bonn, Bhutan has launched a ground-breaking US$13.9 million Global Environment Facility project aimed at enhancing the resilience of communities and protecting the country’s unique and rich biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.

The UNDP-supported 'Enhancing Sustainability and Climate Resilience of Forest and Agriculture Landscape and Community Livelihoods in Bhutan’ will be implemented over six years. Covering 12 dzongkhags, 38 gewogs, four biological corridors and three protected areas, the project is Bhutan’s first integrated initiative, designed to support the interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Life on Land (SDG15), Climate Action (SDG13) and No Poverty (SDG1).

Launching the project in the presence of the Minister for Agriculture and Forests, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and the Minister for Works and Human Settlement, Lyonpo Dorji Choden, CEO and Chairperson for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Ms. Naoko Ishii, remarked on the leadership of Bhutan in environmental conservation.

“The visionary nature of Bhutan is manifest in this project. Combining biodiversity and ecosystem management work with climate change adaptation actions, Bhutan is again leading the world with an example of truly integrated programming,” said Ishii.

The new project is funded with $US1.1 million from the GEF Trust Fund for Sustainable Forest Management incentive fund, $2.3 million from thw GEF Trust Fund for Biodiversity and Land Degradation Focal Area, and $10.5 million from the GEF Least Developed Countries Fund.

Bhutan has been witnessing clear signs of climate change, including melting glaciers, erratic monsoonal activities with extreme weather events and increase in incidents of forest fire.  Building the resilience of its people – of whom 69% remain dependent on agriculture – is a key priority of the Royal Government.

Commending the integrated and collaborative nature of the initiative, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said,  “UNDP is proud to continue supporting the Government of Bhutan in building resilience and meeting its development aspirations – in particular the interconnected goals of reducing poverty, adapting to climate change and protecting its precious habitats and biodiversity.”

The launch of the UNDP-supported project coincides with the launch of the Royal Government’s Bhutan for Lifean innovative, multi-partner funding initiative developed with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that aims to provide a sustained flow of finance to maintain Bhutan’s protected areas and biological corridors for perpetuity. US$2.2m from the UNDP-supported project will contribute to the conservation milestones of Bhutan for Life, focusing on operationalizing four of Bhutan’s eight biological corridors through climate-adaptive conservation plans, improved governance, and improving the lives of people who live in or around the corridors and adjoining protected parks.

“The contribution of $2.2 million to Bhutan for Life, made possible through close collaboration of the Royal Government, UNDP, the Global Environment Facility and WWF, is a testament to working together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through new development financing means,” said Steiner in a statement read at the project launch.

Remoteness, limited access to markets, and climate-induced droughts or floods present significant challenges to building resilient farming systems in Bhutan. This new project, with oversight from Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission, will provide direct support to communities, demonstrating how climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management support local development. It will invest in a range of adaptation measures, including climate-resilient irrigation and road design, crop diversification; creation of biodiversity and conservation-oriented jobs, enhanced markets and market accessibility, and sustainable land management. 

Notes to the Editor

UNDP has been working with the Royal Government and people of Bhutan since 1973 to reduce inequality, build resilience and empower the disadvantaged to achieve Gross National Happiness and the Sustainable Development Goals. This project’s formulation began in 2016, building on the results of two previous UNDP-supported projects under Bhutan’s National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA). The first, reducing risks associated with Glacial Lake Outburst Floods - historically lowering the perilous Thorthormi lake - the second, focusing on landslide management, flood prevention, disaster risk reduction and management, to manage forest and agricultural landscapes for enhanced climate resilience. In 2006, Bhutan was one of the first Least Developed Countries to prepare its NAPA, which provides a process for Least Developed Countries to identify urgent and immediate climate change adaptation needs.
For more information on UNDP’s work in Bhutan, please visit http://www.bt.undp.org/

For the project 'Enhancing Sustainability and Climate Resilience of Forest and Agriculture Landscape and Community Livelihoods in Bhutan’ http://www.adaptation-undp.org/projects/enhancing-sustainability-and-cli...

For Bhutan for Life http://www.bfl.org.bt/

Photos are available upon request.

For Further Details:

Mr. Pema Bazar, Project Manager, Gross National Happiness Commission, pbazar@gnhc.gov.bt +975-17172838

Mr. Tshering Penjor, UNDP Bhutan, tshering.penjor@undp.org +975 17991899

Ms. Kate Jean Smith, UNDP Bangkok on kate.smith@undp.org +669 5002 5120