Washington, November 4, 2015 – Last month, the 49th GEF Council approved a new US$14-million integrated project, Promoting Enhancing Sustainability and Resilience of Forest and Agricultural Landscapes in Bhutan. The new project responds to the need for integrated and multi-stakeholder approaches to tackle complex, interdependent environmental issues. It also exemplifies the importance of climate finance in catalyzing innovation and transformational change required for a climate-safe future.
Climate change, biodiversity, and other issues will be on the agenda of the International Conference on Gross National Happiness (GNH) that begins today in Paro, Bhutan.
Originating from the 1970s, Bhutan’s vision of the GNH implies sustainable development with a holistic approach towards progress and equally important non-economic aspects of wellbeing. Launched in 2008, the GNH index provides policy incentives for Bhutan’s government, civil society organization, and businesses to track a country’s economic and non-economic progress. Environmental conservation is one of the four pillars measured in the GNH Index.
Like the recently adopted Sustainable Develop Goals (SDGs), the GNH Index provides a guide for action in key areas where governments, the private sector, and civil society need to invest to realize sustainable development targets within planetary boundaries.
At a GEF-hosted event on the margins of the SDG Summit in New York, H.E. L.T. Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan, underscored the need to focus on social inclusiveness for sustainable development, not just GDP. To help advance the implementation of the SDGs and the GNH Index in Bhutan in a holistic manner, the new GEF project will aim to enhance sustainability and resilience of Bhutan’s core economic drivers while providing environmental benefits. Specifically, the project will help build resilience of community livelihoods and agriculture as well as strengthen biological corridors through investments in forest and biodiversity management.
With over 60% of the population living off agriculture and 72% of forest land coverage, Bhutan’s economy heavily relies on sustainable land management practices. The country is also a biodiversity hotspot, hosting the highest proportion of land in protected areas of Asian countries.
The new project will involve key sectors and local communities, to help over 155,000 people with agriculture resilience, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable forest management at the landscape level. It includes improved management of over 350,000 hectares of globally important biological areas and an additional 100,000 hectares of land, and reduction of 3 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 eq).
Bhutan is strongly committed to the implementation of the SDGs, the GNH Index, and the integrated protection of its agricultural, biodiversity, and forest resources. As a result, the country has a high potential for delivering on climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and improved land management.
The GEF previously invested over US$40 million in Bhutan’s biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable land management. The projects promoted renewable energy, and supported conservation efforts in forest and agriculture landscapes. These efforts included setting up sustainable financing systems in protected areas, and the world’s first environmental trust fund replicated and scaled up globally.