Lessons from Bhutan, a Carbon-Negative Country

A small country with a population of 789,288 is regarded as one of the greenest and happiest nations in the world.

Environment and wellbeing have deep and personal ties that cannot be separated. Living in an unclean environment has been proven to be detrimental to one's mental and physical health. The opposite is for the people who live in healthy, productive, and clean environments. They are not only healthier but also rank higher on the happiness scale

Health and wellness will always depend on the environment, and Bhutan has been an example for decades. Bhutan's constitution is based on environmental preservation as the first (and only) country to be carbon negative. The GNH index model serves as the foundation for government discourse, and the country's national identity is centered around environmental sustainability. Bhutan has mandated at least 60% of the country's total land area under forest cover and has also prohibited logging exports since 1999. Despite being a small nation sandwiched between two of the world's largest carbon dioxide producers, China and India, Bhutan has achieved full carbon neutrality. 

TOURISM COUNCIL OF BHUTAN

Source: TOURISM COUNCIL OF BHUTAN

It's admirable how a small country like Bhutan is making exemplary transformations with eco-friendly practices like extensive tree planting and the use of electric vehicles and hydroelectricity. Bhutan's journey to carbon-negative success began in 2009 in Copenhagen during the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN COP 15). Members of the COP committed to being carbon neutral in perpetuity and re-emphasized that vow at COP 21 in 2016. As for Bhutan, the country achieved carbon neutrality in the following ways—

  • Banning logging exports.
  • Placing 60% of the country's total land area under forest cover for all time.
  • Prioritizing free hydroelectric power over toxic fossil resources.
  • Providing free electricity to rural farmers to prevent the burning of firewood for preparing meals. 
  • Providing electric cars to citizens at cost-effective prices to discourage the use of gasoline-powered vehicles.
  • Subsidizing the costs of LED lights and electric public transit. 
  • Taking initiatives to beautify (and greenify) the country.

Bhutan is Carbon Negative

Bhutan's continued devotion to decreasing its negative effects on the environment and championing ecologically friendly practices has yielded effective outcomes at home and around the world. Bhutan has achieved much because of the government and the populace's cooperative effort to prioritize the environment's quality over economic development. One hundred volunteers broke the world record in 2015 for the most trees planted in one hour by planting a total of 49,672 trees. So, while Bhutan may emit 1.5 million tonnes (approx) of CO2 emissions annually, it remains carbon negative because their forests eliminate almost three times more CO2 than they produce. It is fair to say that the country's capacity to be a net carbon sink is because of its natural forests and of course, the efforts of national sustainable programs like Clean Bhutan

Bhutan has its Priorities Straight 

Bhutan's success does show what is possible when eco-sustainability is the sole focus of a country's political agendas. In a world where the air and streets are choking on carbon emissions, the example set by Bhutan inspires hope for the future. The kingdom of Bhutan serves as a concrete illustration of a nation attempting to achieve an equilibrium between environmental protection, economic prosperity, and cultural preservation. And this is something other countries can be motivated with and strive to transition to a greener existence!

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