National Adaptation Plan process in focus: Lessons from Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked least developed country (LDC) in the Himalayan Mountains, with a population of 768,577, covering an area of 38,394 km². The area is mountainous, with steep slopes and 70% forest cover. The climate varies by altitude from alpine to subtropical and is strongly influenced by monsoons. The terrain limits agricultural productivity, but whilst agriculture contributes only 16% to GDP, it employs around 58% of the workforce. The terrain enables largescale generation of hydropower, which accounts for a third of exports (in particular to neighbouring India), whilst also providing clean energy for domestic use. This, together with large tracts of forests, enables Bhutan to be a net sink of greenhouse gases.

Bhutan is in the medium human development category, at 132 out of 188 countries in terms of its Human Development Index (2016). Although Bhutan has experienced rapid poverty reduction in the past decade, poverty persists and inequities are felt in rural areas in particular. Climate change threatens to undermine the achievement of development and poverty reduction goals.

Climate Change Risks

In Bhutan, mean annual temperatures are predicted to increase by 0.8°C - 1°C by 2039. Changes in rainfall are expected to lead to wetter conditions in the monsoon season and slightly drier winters. Extreme climate events, such as heavy rainfall, are becoming more common and have led to flash floods and landslides.

These hazards are expected to affect a range of sectors. This is anticipated to lead to a decrease in agricultural crop yields, whilst undermining hydropower generation - due to changes in water distribution and Glacial Lake Outburst Flows (GLOF). Together, these impacts could lead to loss of lives and infrastructure from GLOF, as well as threats to biodiversity due to species migration, invasive species and increasing propensity for forest fires.