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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

bhutan’s graduation from ldc could hamper flow of funds to fight climate change

Bhutan has declared to remain carbon neutral provided that support is forthcoming
If Bhutan graduates from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the country will not be able to access financing meant only for the LDCs like the LDC fund of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The head of Bhutan’s Environment Monitoring Division of the National Environment Commission, Thinley Namgyel, said graduating from LDC status does not make Bhutan’s efforts to combat climate change any different.
LDCs are given certain privileges to combat climate change. Under the UNFCCC, special consideration for the needs of LDCs is defined under Article 4.9 which states that, “The Parties shall take full account of the specific needs and special situations of the least developed countries in their actions with regard to funding and transfer of technology.”
Another special consideration given to LDCs is the more relaxed timeline within which LDC Parties to the UNFCCC can submit national reports to the UNFCCC.
Thinley Namgyel said if Bhutan graduates from LDC status, it will not have access to LDC fund of the UNFCCC but there will be access to other funds like the Adaptation Fund (under the Kyoto Protocol), Special Climate Change Fund (under the UNFCCC), bilateral and multilateral donors, and also in the future the Green Climate Fund.
Bhutan has so far accessed US$3.4mn from the LDC Fund to implement the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) project to reduce the risk of Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) at Thorthormi Lake and to establish an early warning system in the Punatsangchhu valley.
“Recently with increase in donations to the LDC Fund, the ceiling was raised to US$10m for each LDC. Since we already accessed $3.4m there is about $6.4m with which we can implement the remaining projects identified in our NAPA,” said Thinley Namgyel.
He said many other LDCs are still trying to access the LDC Fund but are having difficulty either due to capacity or technical issues.
“The LDC classification is an economic one and not indicative of our vulnerability to climate change. We will still remain vulnerable as small developing country with a very fragile mountainous landscape,” he said.
“One important factor to keep in mind is that even if we graduate from LDC status it does not mean we are suddenly able to afford all the costs of dealing with climate change,” he added.
He explained that as a small country, the use of per capita income in the LDC classification is misleading. “We may have the highest per capita income in South Asia but that is mainly due to hydropower projects funded through loans, and the fact remains that we still have one of the smallest economies.”
He said Bhutan has made significant socio-economic progress over the past decades but climate change has the potential to reverse many of the gains especially as the hydropower sector on which the country is banking on to help graduate from LDC status is highly vulnerable to climate change.
During the United Nations Conference on LDC in Istanbul, Turkey, the Istanbul Program of Action committed to halve the number of least developed countries by 2020 which puts further pressure on Bhutan which is already regarded as one of the top contenders for graduation.
To be an LDC, a country’s per capita income should be less than US$ 905. However, Bhutan’s per capita income has already reached around US$ 2,154.90 which means it has doubled the LDC rate and has to technically graduate.
Speaking earlier to Business Bhutan during the UN Conference on LDCs in Istanbul, the chief  of the international organizations under the foreign ministry’s multilateral department, Kinzang, said: “The only thing holding Bhutan back from graduating is its human asset index like infant mortality rate (40 per 1,000 live births), literacy rate (59.5%), poverty rate and economic vulnerability of being landlocked country heavily dependent on exports, limited economic activities and vulnerability to climate change and other crises”.
The economic affairs minister, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, who led the Bhutanese delegation at the UN Conference on LDCs in May this year, called for continuous assistance to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) including Bhutan.
Speaking at the conference, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk said Bhutan as a small landlocked and least developed country, with very fragile mountain ecosystem was highly vulnerable to catastrophic glacial lake outburst, floods, drying water sources, increasing landslides and flashfloods, freak windstorms, decreasing snowfall and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
“The irony of climate change is that it’s devastating impacts are being felt more by the developing countries that are least responsible for causing the problem and has the lowest capacity to adapt and mitigate,” said the minister then.

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