UNDP Environment support seeks forward-looking strategies in 2013

Jan 1, 2013

In 2013, the UNDP Energy, Environment and Disaster Management unit will engage in three new major projects in Bhutan, beginning with planning at the policy level for two of these, and moving towards implementation of the third.

UNDP will support the National Environment Commission (NEC) in reviewing and updating Bhutan's 15-year old National Environment Strategy in order to reflect new priorities that have emerged since 1998. A National Energy Efficiency Policy will also be developed, something that is needed in a country that strives to remain carbon neutral in perpetuity.

Additionally, UNDP will begin the 2nd Phase of its development of a National Human Settlements Policy Formulation, with the support of 13 other agencies. Due to a lack of policy guidelines, Bhutan's Department of Renewable Energy has been unable to implement significant energy efficiency measures, despite having conducted energy audits in the industrial sector in 2006.

Demand side management remains essential for the implementation of an effective energy strategy, and programmes that aim for the sustainable and judicious use of energy at all levels are needed.  Thus, UNDP will begin a process of policy formulation with these goals in mind in 2013, through implementing questionnaires, further energy audits, consultations with stakeholders, as well as tours of other countries in the region to gain insight into best practices towards developing realistic and effective policy instruments in the area of energy efficiency.

Bhutan also continues to strive for balance between being a least developed country with a fragile ecosystem, vulnerability to climate change, a growing population and a dependence on climate sensitive economic sectors with its promises to remain carbon neutral, climate resilient, and to focus its economic development plans on green growth.

For this balance to be found, the country's 15-year old National Environment Strategy sorely needs to be updated.   The NEC will begin consultation in 2013 towards drafting a new national strategy, which will engage in public outreach through the media and seek to increase awareness of the necessity for climate resiliency and low emission development in the country's planning strategies.

UNDP is also beginning the 2nd phase of its Human Settlement Policy Formulation, for which a policy concept note has already been approved by the GNH commission after a consultative workshop which studied settlement trends in various dzongkhags.  Subsequently, implementation of the resulting draft policy began in some western dzongkhags in a pilot workshop that sought more sustainable approaches for these settlements. This draft will be further reviewed in 2013, and opened for consultation with the wider public and various stakeholders, before being finalized.

Core taskforce members will also visit other countries to increase their understanding of human settlement policies.  From this, operational guidelines will be developed with a view towards the practical implementation of these results at the local level. The help of UN Habitat will be sought to support the development of the guidelines.

Through these initiatives, UNDP seeks to develop policies that can aid Bhutan in its search for energy efficiency, carbon-neutrality, and green development strategies that preserve the natural environment, as well as a comprehensive and sustainable human settlements policy.  With the work that has already been done, a solid foundation has been established for these projects towards Bhutan's development for the future.