Bhutan is not only the happiest country, but also the first carbon negative country in the world. With 70% of the nation’s land covered by forest, Bhutan is able to absorb more carbon dioxide than it emits.
Unlike other countries that measure economic strength with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and pursue economic growth as the ultimate goal, Bhutan adopts the Gross National Happiness (GNH) in the past five decades, stressing on the society’s spiritual development and respect for nature.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is located between China and India, stretching approximately 38,000 square kilometers, with 70% of the nation covered by forest. The country emitted 2.2 million tons of CO2 in 2017, however, its extensive forests have the potential to capture and store nearly three times that amount.
Additionally, Bhutan exports most of its renewable energy produced from fast-flowing rivers, allowing them to offset about 6 million tons of CO2 emissions.
Most countries in the world generate more carbon than they can absorb, increasing the risk of global climate change. According to estimates, the top 5 emitters in 2020 were China (31% of global emissions), the US (14%), India (7%), Russia (5%), and Japan (3%).
Bhutan controls the domestic carbon level with strict conservation, regulating that at least 60% of its land should be covered by forest. More than half of the country is covered by national protection areas. To preserve the forest and avoid hunting, mining, and forest pollution, the government also provides favorable living conditions for those who live in protected areas. Programs for protecting national resources, such Clean Bhutan or Green Bhutan, are also active.
Moreover, Bhutan provides farmers with free electricity generated by rivers. These rivers give entirely renewable and clean electricity with huge an amount that Bhutan can even sell green energy to India.
Bhutan also teamed up with Nissan to develop a subsidy program to promote electric cars. The government also subsidizes LED lights for more eco-friendly lighting and links protected areas with biological corridors, which allows animals to roam around the country.
However, it’s important to note that not every country in the world has such easy access to renewables. Bhutan has only about 800,000 residents and its energy demand is much lower than in many other countries, as it is not an industrial country.
Bhutan is on track of achieving the government’s goal of zero waste by 2030. It’s estimated that Bhutan’s emissions could almost double by 2040. If the country keeps its current levels of forest cover, it will remain carbon negative. Also, requiring each visitor entering the country to pay a daily fee of up to US$250 is also a great way to ensure the environment is not damaged by mass tourism.