NC endorses amendment to Montreal Protocol, Bhutan-UAE agreement


The National Council (NC)  on May 27 unanimously passed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete Ozone Layer and the Air Service Agreement between Bhutan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The National Assembly passed the bills in the last session.

The amendment, which was made in Rwanda’s Capital Kigali in October 2016, aims to incorporate Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – powerful greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigeration and air conditioning – to the Montreal Protocol.  As per the agreement, signatory countries are expected to reduce the manufacture and use of HFCs by roughly 80-85 percent from their respective baselines, till 2045.

Highlighting the importance of the amendment to the House, agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said that the Agreement would help countries take measures that will protect environment and human through protection of the ozone layer.

Bhutan, he said, has already ratified the Vienna Convention on the Protection of Ozone Layer that was adopted in 1985 and the Montreal Protocol adopted in 1987. While the Vienna Convention called for cooperation on monitoring, research and data exchange on use of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), the Montreal Protocol imposed obligations to reduce the use of ODS.

“Ratification of the amendment will benefit the country,” the agriculture minister said, adding that Bhutan as a poor country would benefit in terms of assistance.

Member from Gasa, Dorji Khandu, raised concerns about the possibility of the prices of refrigerators and air conditioners being increased. He also said there were reports that the amendment had little benefits.

The agriculture minister questioned the credibility of such reports, saying that such arguments could come from interests groups like manufacturers.

Member from Chhukha, Sangay Dorji, said the government may need to subsidise refrigerators in case of a price rise and that monitoring was important for implementation of the Kigali amendment.

The amendment is also expected to drive innovation and create new economic opportunities in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector.

The ratification would restrict trade of products that contain HFCs as provisioned by the protocol, which would benefit the country. All plans and projects related to the implementation of the amendment would be supported by the concerned international agency.

Deputy chairperson of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, Tashi Samdrup, reported that ratification of the amendment would benefit environmental conservation, strengthen technical advancement and human capacity of the country. All 22 members present voted for the amendment.

Bhutan-UAE air service agreement passed

The House also unanimously passed the Air Service Agreement between Bhutan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was signed in February 2017 in Thimphu, establishing a legal framework for operation of flights between the two countries.

Presenting the agreement in the House, information and communications minister Karma Donnen Wangdi said the agreement will not only help Bhutan expand its air connectivity with the rest of the world but also help promote the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

He said that flights to UAE’s Dubai International Airport would help Bhutan’s economy by increasing employment and business opportunities for the country. He reasoned that the airport was a hub for trade and commerce, promotion of tourism and reliable air connectivity.

Chairman of the foreign relations committee, Lhatu, reported that it would benefit the countries’ airlines in the long run. He said that ratification of the agreement would not mean that it would come into effect immediately.

Member from Paro, Ugyen Tshering however, said that landowners around Paro international airport were concerned about its possible expansion. “Most of the land around the airport belongs to private land owners,” he said, adding that the government should put in place a proper compensation scheme in such a case.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said the airport handles about 24 flights daily, less than 50 percent of the capacity.

Gasa’s member, Dorji Khandu, said the agreement would not benefit much if Bhutan does not receive the fifth freedom right, which is the right to fly between two foreign countries on a flight originating or ending in one’s own country.

Lyonpo said that a delegation from India would be in Bhutan next month to discuss such issues.

The agreement will also allow UAE’s airlines to fly to Bhutan. The committee found that implementation of the agreement may affect the business growth of Bhutan’s two airlines.

The committee also stated that limited infrastructure may lead to runway congestion and slot constraint at Paro airport with possible accidents.

The proposed new air route is expected to cater to flight demand of the passengers travelling from Europe to Bhutan and also for Bhutanese working in the Gulf region.