Carbon neutral?

Dorji, commenting on my last post, GNH vs GDP:

… what is surprising is that OL seem to have been engrossed in counting the repetition of GNH instead of the substance of the address itself.

Dorji is right. We should pay attention to, and analyze, the substantive parts of the PM’s address. So that’s exactly what we’ll do over the next few days. Here’s the plan: I’ll pick up some issues, one at a time, and we’ll discuss them.

Let’s begin with something easy: the environment. In his State of the Nation address, the PM informed the Parliament of the government’s decision to keep Bhutan carbon neutral for all time to come:

At the Conference of Parties Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen (COP 15) last December, Bhutan declared that it will forever remain carbon neutral and serve as a net carbon sink.

Climate change is a reality. And, left unchecked, global warming could inflict dire consequences on Bhutan, a country that has become increasingly dependent on the Himalayan water resources.

So the government’s promise sounds good. The “Declaration of the Kingdom of Bhutan – the Land of Gross National Happiness to Save our Planet”, as the proclamation is called, sounds like a good idea.

Is it really a good idea? The government seems to think so. But we, the people, don’t know. We don’t know, because we were never consulted.

In its enthusiasm to make the carbon neutral promise at the Copenhagen Summit, the government seems to have done a hurried job – it signed the declaration on 11th December 2009, and, barely a week later, announced it in Copenhagen – without any consultations with the people. We don’t know if experts were consulted, but we do know that our farmers were not consulted. Similarly, the private sector was not consulted. And, even though the Parliament was in session when the declaration was signed, even the parliament was not consulted.

Is the government required to consult the people and the Parliament? No

Should the government have consulted the people and the Parliament? Yes. After all, the declaration is a momentous promise, one that will have far reaching consequences, one that has been made on our behalf, and our children’s behalf, for all time to come.

And, as it turns out, one that we may find difficult to honour.