Sandwiched between China and India is the country of Bhutan. At first glance, the country, with a population of less than 700,000 and spanning a mere 14,8000 square miles (about the size of Maryland), seems average at best. However, its dedication to environmental sustainability is unique among the countries of the world.
Bhutan takes on a new spin of the Gross National Product (GNP) with Gross National Happiness (GNH), which is based on four pillars: sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and good governance.
“Our enlightened monarchs have worked tirelessly to develop our country, balancing economic growth carefully with social development, environmental sustainability, and cultural preservation, all within the framework of good governance,” said Tshering Tobgay, Bhutan’s prime minister in a TED Talk.
These four pillars are reflected in their Constitution. Bhutan’s Constitution states that at least 60% of its land should be forested, according to the United Nations. The country stays true to this, as 72% of its country is covered with woodlands. These forests alone sequester 6.6 million tons of carbon, while the country emits 2.2 million tons. Meanwhile, Bhutan offsets another 4.4 million tons through their dams, which produce hydropower. By 2025, they plan to export enough electricity to offset 22.4 million tons of carbon.
Overall, Bhutan takes in 8 million tons of carbon per year, which makes them not only carbon neutral, but carbon negative.
They announced their commitment to being carbon negative during the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009. However, no one took notice. This changed during the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, during which they announced their commitment to carbon negativity once again. This time, their message was noticed, and even admired. This resulted in the formation of the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, members of which include Brazil, Canada, and 19 other countries. Inspired by Bhutan’s bold claim, the countries within the Carbon Neutrality Coalition plan to go beyond the carbon-reduction targets set during the Paris Climate Agreement.
Bhutan wishes to take this inspirational spirit further with Earth For Life, a global fund to kickstart conservation of underprotected areas, in the hopes of reducing global carbon emissions.
“I invite you to help me, to carry this dream beyond our borders to all those who care about our planet’s future,” Tobgay proclaimed in his TED Talk. “After all, we’re here to dream together, to work together, to fight climate change together, to protect our planet together. Because the reality is we are in it together.”