Climate change adaptation in Bhutan's renewable natural resources sector

Climate change adaptation in Bhutan's renewable natural resources sector

At a glance

Completed programmes
Min. of Agriculture and Forests, Gross National Happiness Commission
Countries involved
Total budget
4,40 M€
GCCA priority area(s)
Effects of climate change on the region

Bhutan’s development is highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, hydropower and forestry. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers increases risks of flooding and water scarcity in the dry season, while changing monsoon patterns are reflected in shorter rainy seasons characterised by increasingly heavy rains and longer dry seasons when water becomes increasingly scarce. These changes are a threat to people’s livelihoods and the rural economy.

GCCA's action programme
Geographical scope
Country groups
Initial GCCA/GCCA+ contribution
4,400,000.00 €
Specific objectives

Ensure climate change readiness of the renewable natural resources (RNR) sector in Bhutan by mainstreaming climate change into the sector, and by ensuring steps are taken towards addressing climate change adaptation at the multi-sectoral level.

Key achievements
  • The Council for RNR Research in Bhutan (CoRRB), a department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, has been appointed to manage and coordinate the programme and has set up a Programme Coordination Unit. A Scientific Technical Committee has been set up and assigned to initially work on the Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan. A Programme Steering Committee has also been formally established and is meeting once a year.

  • A senior adviser to the programme has been recruited and is supporting the government in the preparation of a Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan for the RNR sector, review of approach to climate change pilot activities, implementation of climate change activities on the ground, monitoring climate change activities, and a RNR Climate Change Information System (CCIS). A "state of climate change report for the RNR sector" was adopted and the Monitoring Framework published on MoAF's website.

  • The initial Sector Action Plan for Adaptation (SAPA) consolidates and integrates the climate change adaptation related programmes, themes and actions of the RNR sector as proposed in the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) and the Bhutan National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). The SAPA has been approved by Secretary of GNHC in May 2013 and endorsed in April 2014. 

  • Draft climate change adaptation policy for the RNR sector has been prepared by MoAF and dated 10/05/2016.  The vision of the policy is to "enhance resilience of the RNR sector to the impacts of climate change through a socially inclusive and responsible green and climate smart agriculture development to ensure national food security conserve natural environment and enhance economic and social well-being of all people living in Bhutan".

  • A third joint annual review meeting (JAR3) took place on 21st July 2016 confirming in particular that a new SAPA2 was adopted by the MoAF in June 2016 which is publicly available.  This updated SAPA 2016 provides a strong basis for the preparation of the 12th Five Year Plan of RGoB which will cover period 2018-2023 and is in synergy with Bhutan Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) in particular.

Main activities per result

A Renewable Natural Resources – Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan is endorsed and mainstreamed into the 11th Five Year Plan (2013-2018), leading to the implementation of concrete actions in the agricultural sector. An institutional framework allowing a multi-sectoral approach to climate change adaptation, in which the RNR adaptation plan is embedded into a wider multi-sectoral climate change adaptation strategy, is also established.

Activities required to achieve the expected results and objectives cover among others a thorough and consultative planning exercise; a realistic budgeting exercise for all planned climate change adaptation actions; the assessment and determination of the responsibility of each stakeholder; and the establishment of a formal coordination mechanism for the planning and implementation of adaptation measures, with leadership provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.

Specific attention is being given to conditions set for the release of variable tranches of budget support. For the first year of the programme, conditions relate to the ‘climate change adaptation readiness’ of the RNR sector’s monitoring and evaluation system, and the improvement of the RNR statistical systems to allow for reliable collection of climate-related data. Five additional indicators have been defined in 2014 and relating to water efficient irrigation systems for horticulture cash crops, households adopting stall feeding lots, National Forest Inventory, conservation and use of indigenous animal breeds and crop varieties for agro-biodiversity, climate change adaptation policy.

The other expected outcome focuses on mitigating climate change in the RNR sector by reducing methane production and introducing methane capture and re-use for fuel. Indicators relate to the introduction of climate change resilient and less methane-emitting rice varieties, the adoption of high-yielding livestock breeds and pasture development, and the use of methane as a fuel through the adoption of integrated livestock-biogas initiatives.

Challenges and lessons learned (selected)
  • The timing of GCCA interventions, and their coincidence with the government’s calendar, can be critical for successful mainstreaming. In this case, delays in the signature of the financing agreement have significantly reduced the window of opportunity to mainstream climate change into the 11th Five-Year Plan.

  • The experience in Bhutan also highlights the importance of selecting concrete and nationally owned indicators and the value of complementing budget support with targeted technical assistance.

  • There are a large number of institutions involved in climate change in Bhutan and coordination of their efforts is still too fragmented.  The GCCA programme has started working on this issue with the MoAF.

Way forward (selected)
  • The programme continues working towards the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into the 11th Five-Year Plan of the RNR sector, in line with the Gross National Happiness Commission’s Framework to mainstream environment, climate change and poverty concerns into the Eleventh Five Year Plan.

  • The programme is supporting the development of a Data Centre which will provide an overview of the impacts of climate change on the RNR-sector based on a landscape as a complex system with multiple interacting sectors.  This should support the operationalization of the overall RNR climate change policy and strategy in Bhutan.

  • A short video clip and other communication materials pictures involving direct beneficiaries in various remote villages in Bhutan is under preparation.