Why is Bhutan carbon negative? What this tiny country thats already net zero can teach UK

William and Kate visit Tigers Nest ancient monastery in Bhutan

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Bhutan is a nation leading by example in the fight against climate change. It is the only carbon negative country in the world. Today is Day Four of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, and countries from around the globe will be discussing how the world finances the transition to green economies.

The overarching aim for the COP26 summit is to keep the world on track for no more than 1.5C of global warming.

Scientists claim this will help to prevent the world experiencing the worst impacts of climate change.

Many countries around the globe have made commitments to seek to become more carbon-neutral – which no nation has yet achieved.

However, Bhutan has gone above and beyond, and has already attained carbon neutrality.

Bhutan is a very small country located in the Eastern Himalayas.

The country is located between China and India – two countries’ with huge environmental impacts and populations.

Bhutan spans approximately 14,800 square miles and has vast woodlands covering around 70 percent of the country.

The nation, one of the greenest countries in the world, has already reached carbon negative status, by acting as a natural carbon sink and absorbing carbon dioxide.

But what does carbon-negative actually mean?

Carbon negative status means the nation takes more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits.

This means the region offsets carbon through carbon capture, sequestration and avoidance.

Most countries produce far more carbon dioxide than the world’s oceans and plant life are able to absorb, which means these nations are contributing to the impacts of climate change in a big way.

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According to Bhutan’s figures, it removes almost three times as much CO2 as it produces (2.5 million tonnes each year).

The country’s ability to be a net carbon sink is partly a result of its natural forests and its relatively undeveloped status.

Most nationals are employed in the agriculture or forestry sectors.

Comparatively, Luxembourg, a more developed and yet much smaller country, produces four times as much CO2 each year.

Remaining carbon negative is of paramount importance to Bhutan – the nation even made a promise to remain carbon neutral for all of time at COP15 in 2009.

The country is focused on maintaining a very high environmental awareness and appreciating the natural environment.

Bhutan operates many environmental initiatives to keep the country’s carbon negative status, including:

  • Limiting the number of visitors entering the country by charging a daily fee of $250 per person
  • Sourcing electricity from hydropower from Bhutan’s many rivers instead of less environmentally friendly fossil fuels.
  • Banning logging exports in 1999
  • Enshrining the need for environmental protection in the country’s constitution – to ensure there is a minimum of 60 percent of Bhutan’s total land maintained under forest cover for all time.
  • Free electricity is provided to rural farmers
  • Removing all traffic lights and instead using humans to man traffic

The country also measures its wellbeing using a Gross National Happiness reference.

Bhutan’s fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, introduced this concept in 1972.

His thought process was that gross domestic product (GDP) ignored the basic need of every human being: happiness.

This concept of GNH has been imperative in the implementation of Government policies which are based around four basic pillars, one of which is environmental conservation.

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