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Bhutan Holds a 4-Nation Climate Summit

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Issue date: 
November 22, 2011
Publisher Name: 
INDepth News
Rahul Bhatia
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Keen to guard its ranking as Asia's happiest country, Bhutan has hosted a climate summit and an international symposium accompanied by an exhibition in the Kingdom's capital Thimphu – far away from the hustle and bustle of world's metropolitan cities – in run-up to a landmark UN conference in Durban, South Africa, from November 28 to December 9, 2011.

The importance of these events lies in the fact that in the face of climate change, there is urgent need for Himalayan nations to build resilience to buffer the impacts of climate change and generate resources for adaptation, capacity building, and technology transfer. Such actions can no longer wait for a global agreement, a Bhutanese government spokesperson said.

In the Himalayas where the impacts of global climate are manifesting at a rapid pace, the time for action is running out, the spokesperson added. Recognizing this, the Governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India agreed to convene the Bhutan 2011 Climate Summit to:

- Adopt and endorse a 10-year road map for adaptation to climate change in the Eastern Himalaya's sub-region for ensuring food, water and energy security while maintaining biodiversity and eco-system services.

- Secure pledges from partner countries, institutions and individuals to fund and collaborate in the implementation of the road map.

- Create and operationalize regional expert groups to advice Governments in implementing the road maps and addressing emerging challenges.

Four key themes were addressed during the Summit:

- Ensuring food security and livelihoods.

- Securing the natural fresh water systems of the Himalayas.

- Securing biodiversity and ensuring its sustainable use.

- Ensuring energy security and enhancing alternative technologies.

The 'Bhutan Climate Summit for A Living Himalayas', which concluded on November 19, adopted a declaration on behalf of the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, wherein a regional 'framework of cooperation' was agreed by environment ministers from the four countries.

The Framework of Cooperation is aimed at implementing regional cooperative actions to build resilience to climate change in the southern watersheds of the eastern Himalayas by: ensuring energy security and enhancing alternative technologies; securing the natural freshwater systems of the Himalayas; ensuring food security and securing livelihoods; and securing biodiversity and ensuring its sustainable use. The conference also agreed on a mechanism to implement the framework of cooperation.

Exhibition and Symposium

Equally important was an exhibition of posters, demonstrations, and online applications from November 17 to 19. Inaugurated by Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigme Y Thinley of Bhutan, the exhibition showcased key Earth observation applications addressing climate change in the eastern Himalayan region, with a particular focus on Bhutan.

The exhibit was presented in conjunction with the two-day International Symposium 'Connecting from Space to Village: Enabling Climate Change Policy and Actions in the Himalayas'. It was targeted to delegates attending the Bhutan Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas, symposium participants, and the general public.

The exhibit featured web-based access to satellite imagery and map-based information, decision support tools, and interactive visualisations that can provide decision makers with easy access to information.

The showcase was opened to the public on November 19 and demonstrated "real world applications ranging from understanding melting of glaciers and snow to assessing agricultural productivity for food security analysis, detecting forest fires, rapid response mapping for disaster emergency, happiness index mapping, and 3D visualisation of Bumthang and Thimphu," said Basanta Shrestha.

Shrestha heads the Mountain Environmental Natural Resources Information Systems (MENRIS) at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), one of the organisers of the symposium and exhibit.

The international symposium was attended by participants from the eastern Himalayan countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal, including government officials, scientists, researchers, development practitioners, policy-makers, youth, and the media as well as leading personalities, summit delegates, and international experts from the region and beyond.

Bhutan's Minister for Agriculture and Forest, Dr Pema Gyamtsho, highlighted in his inaugural address the importance of recent space technology. "Without this technology it was not possible to have some of the most prominent modern communication benefits such as mobile phone, Internet, Skype, facebook and television.

"With space technology advancement, we are able to take advantage of such technologies to understand climate change challenges by recording and analysing information such as changes in climate variability, food security mapping, glaciers and land-use changes over time."

He added: "Access to such information should be made a fundamental right of all, and it should be made available in the public domain so that today’s slogan ‘from space to village’ could be truly meaningful."

ICIMOD's outgoing Director General Andreas Schild noted that "Mountain countries, especially the Hindu Kush-Himalayan countries, could put forward the mountain agenda in a strong unified voice at the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)" to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from June 20 to 22, 2012.

They could highlight not only the fragility and challenges of the mountain environment, but also the opportunities and contributions that mountains provide to the world, such as mountain products, ecosystem services, tourism, and low carbon footprint.

In a keynote address, Professor Emeritus Bruno Messerli, an eminent scientist from Switzerland emphasised that regional cooperation among the countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is a must for sharing and exchange of scientific information for better understanding of climate change in the region.

The symposium was organised jointly by ICIMOD, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in close cooperation with Bhutan's Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and other national and international partners. [IDN-InDepthNews - November 20, 2011]


Extpub | by Dr. Radut