Bhutan: The Only Carbon Negative Country in the World

by Editor, Lina Kurdi.

By removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits, Bhutan is the only carbon negative country on Earth, annually absorbing over six million tons of carbon dioxide and only producing around 1.6 million tons.

The new government of Bhutan, constituted in 2008, made sustainability its main priority. Nedup Tshering, Member Secretary of leading sustainability charity Clean Bhutan Organisation, said: “Bhutan’s carbon negative status is due to the government’s strict sustainability policies.”

“Bhutan has shown other countries that it is possible to incorporate sustainability in development initiatives.”

Matt Finch, Analyst at UK-based Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, presses the importance of a top-down, governmental approach to carbon neutrality, suggesting, “leadership is all about deciding what to do and doing it, and the leadership of Bhutan have decided they’re going to remain carbon negative … and they’re sticking to their guns.”

As a developing South Asian country situated in the Himalayas, landlocked between India and China, it is a prime example of how sustainable techniques aid developing countries.  

The Bhutan government uses the Gross National Happiness Index rather than Gross Domestic Product Index to measure economic growth. This model enables the Bhutan government to effectively balance economic growth with environmental sustainability.

In Bhutan, the distinctive culture and green environment is not compromised for economic growth. Environmental protection is written into Bhutan’s constitution, which states that indefinitely a minimum of 60% of Bhutan’s land will remain forested. 

Notably, the banning of logging made the final push allowing Bhutan to become carbon negative. With 72% of Bhutan is covered in trees, Bhutan has become a carbon sink primarily due to forestation. The significance of such a huge forested landmass, meaning that even though Bhutan’s CO2 emissions could double by 2040, Bhutan can remain carbon negative if minimum 60% forest cover is maintained. 

In order to maintain the success of their carbon negativity, every year, the government of Bhutan re-evaluates hunting and poaching in the country to conserve parks. The government also sets aside a budget to help communities living near parks or heavily forested areas to manage natural resources. 

Moreover, the country’s significant production of hydroelectricity helps to cancel out millions of tons of carbon dioxide. The hydroelectricity generated by Bhutan’s free-flowing rivers is utilised throughout Bhutan over fossil fuels. Rural farmers are provided with free hydroelectricity to reduce their dependence on wood stoves for cooking and boiling water. Producing substantial amounts of hydroelectricity from its rivers, this renewable energy is also exported to India.

In 2020, Bhutan is on track with the objective of exporting enough electricity to offset 17 million tons of carbon dioxide. According to Clean Bhutan, the Bhutan government has set the initiative to reach zero net greenhouse gas admission and to produce zero waste. Part of this initiative includes expanding its renewable energy usage and production by developing other sources of renewable energy such as solar, wind and biogas power.

Finally, car brand Nissan has partnered with Bhutan and offers electric cars to citizens, as the Bhutan government intends to eventually change all vehicles to electric. 

Setting an example for the rest of the Earth, CleanTech News admires Bhutan’s pursuit of sustainability integrated throughout the nation.

Lina Kurdi

Lina Kurdi is an Editor and Senior Writer at CleanTech News with a primary focus on renewable energy. Lina became interested in sustainability initiatives in 2012, when news of global warming dominated the headlines. From then on, Lina has paid close attention to cleantech developments and the impact they have on protecting the Earth and all its inhabitants. With a particular interest in energy, Lina passionately believes renewable energy is the way forward into a sustainable future with net zero emissions.