Bhutan is rated “role model” as it has communicated its goal of remaining carbon neutral, where emissions will not exceed carbon sequestration from forests. If current sequestration rates from forestry do not decline over time, Bhutan is likely to reach this target.
The forestry sector is pivotal for the Bhutanese carbon neutrality pledge, as its sequestration capacity currently exceeds GHG emissions. The Government also called on the international community to support this target. Forests currently cover 73% of the Bhutanese Landscape, and the country has a constitutional mandate to maintain this share above 60%. Government estimates found that the forestry sector in Bhutan provides ecosystem services worth $14 Billion per year, four times higher than GDP (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2012).
In such a context, the country has also put forward the concept of “Gross National Happiness”, in contrast with the established notion of “Gross Domestic Product”, and the utilitarian political theory. However, the challenge is how to translate the “happiness maximisation goal” into domestic policies and measures (Duncan, 2013).
Specific actions have been taken in order to preserve forestry and for reducing fuel-wood consumption (as in the Sustainable Rural Electrification Project). In addition, Bhutan has set a target of 20 MW of renewable energy capacity in 2020 (ADP, 2013).
We rate Bhutan “role model”. This means that Bhutan’s target is in line with a global 2°C pathway. This target includes carbon sequestration from forestry. Current policy projections are also in the “sufficient” range if current sequestration rates will not decline over time.
GHG emissions from Bhutan are negligible, as they amount to less then 2.23 MtCO2-e (2010 data), which corresponds to approximately 3 MtCO2-e per capita. Under current policy projections, GHG emissions will increase over time, driven by economic growth, up to 4.4 MtCO2-e in 2020 (excluding forestry). However, if emissions/removals from forestry are accounted for, Bhutan emerges as a negative emitter.
With an estimated capacity of 30 GW, hydropower is the mainstay of the electricity sector, and also the main source of revenues for the Government, as it accounts for 19% of total GDP (Second National Communication). Bhutan is a net exporter of electricity, even though 40% of the population does not have access to it (Irena, Country profiles, 2009 data). In fact, the high cost of grid extension (roughly 14000 $ per Km) has hindered energy access domestically. As a result, 75% of domestic electric capacity is exported to India (Dorji et al. 2012). In such a context, in 2005, the Government implemented the “Rural Electrification Master Plan“, which aims to achieve a 100% electrification rate. Despite emissions from electricity generation being negligible (as the hydropower is considered as carbon-neutral), further extension of the existing grid capacity will lead to higher GHG emissions. If the grid emission factor is accounted for, emissions from electricity sector are projected to reach 2.2 MtCO2 in 2020 (Second National Communication). Also the cement industry is an important driver of GHG emissions that could reach 1.4 MtCO2 in 2020, if additional policies will be not put in place (Second National Communication).
ADB (2013): Economics of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in South Asia: Options and Costs. ISBN 978-92-9092-143-1 (Print), 978-92-9092-383-1 (PDF).
Dorji, T., T. Urmee, P. Jennings (2012). "Options for off-grid electrification in the Kingdom of Bhutan". Renewable Energy
Volume 45, September 2012, Pages 51–58.
Duncan, G. (2013). "Should Happiness-Maximization be the Goal of Government?". The Exploration of Happiness Happiness Studies Book Series 2013, pp 303-320 .
EA Energy Analyses /COWI (2012): Bhutan: A national strategy and action plan for low carbon development, Final report - 31-01-2012.
EPA (2014): Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases: International Emissions and Projections, Environmental Protection Agency, United States.
FAOSTAT (2014): Faostat Database, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States of America. Accessed on 19th November 2014.
IRENA (2014): Renewable Energy Country Profile - Bhutan. Accessed on 19th November 2014.
Kingdom of Bhutan (2011): Second National Communication to the UNFCCC. National Environment Commission, Royal Government of Bhutan.
Royal Government of Bhutan (2012): Bhutan in pursuit of Sustainable Development – National Report for the United Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 , May 2012
UNFCCC: GHG emissions profile - Bhutan, GHG emission profiles for non-Annex I Parties.