How Bhutan became the world’s first carbon-negative country: The unique approach towards balancing the economy and preserving nature
In recent years, many countries have declared their intentions to become carbon-neutral states, such as the United States, Europe, and China. However, did you know that there is already a country that not only achieved carbon-neutral status but surpassed it, receiving the title of the world’s first carbon-negative country? This innovative country is the Kingdom of Bhutan, located in South Asia, and it has a unique approach towards balancing its economy while preserving its natural resources and cultural heritage.
The Dragon Country
Bhutan, also known as Drukul or the Dragon Country, is one of the most closed states on our planet. It has a difficult geopolitical situation, located between India, China, and several small countries. The country had a long history of civil war until 1972 when the fourth king, Jigme Singei Wangchuk, launched reforms to bring the country out of total isolation. Since then, Bhutan has slowly and carefully introduced modernization and infrastructure, including electricity, telephones, and television, which arrived late to the country and formed a unique approach in the local society.
Gross National Happiness
In Bhutan, the government’s approach to almost every issue related to the state system is done in its unique way. Instead of the generally accepted concept of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the term “national happiness” is used. According to a survey, more than 96% of local residents consider themselves to be happy people.
Bhutan’s approach to environmental standards is closely linked to religious trends and traditions. The majority of Bhutanese people profess Buddhism, and the government develops the country in strict accordance with their worldview. Religion influences all aspects of life, supported by a fairly strong vertical of power. However, the government headed by the fifth king, Jigme Caser Namgyal, approaches the governance with a surprising vision that many states can envy. The king personally travels around the country and encourages citizens to participate in the development of their country. Bhutan’s land reform remains to be one of the most successful government projects in the world.
Factors That Made Bhutan a Carbon-Negative Nation
Bhutan’s approach to the environment lies in the strict regulation of its tourism industry, which is the third most important in the country’s economy. The current leadership is actively developing this industry while ensuring that the growing number of foreign visitors does not have a detrimental effect on the environment. For example, tourists are required to pay between $200 to $250 a day of their stay in the land of the dragon, which includes everything they need to travel, from a three-star hotel to camping gear. This amount includes a development levy that goes towards financing health, education, and the environment. As a result, study and medicine are entirely free in Bhutan.
Additionally, Bhutan perceives nature as a full-fledged participant in all processes within the country. It’s considered as a huge nature reserve, and it’s forbidden to use chemical fertilizers for cultivating the land, as well as any industry that can harm the environment. Even the houses in Bhutan are built with an eye on minimal harm to nature, with mandatory bright colors and a large number of patterns.
Apart from the factors mentioned above, the slow development of infrastructure in Bhutan has also contributed to its carbon-negative status. The first road surface was built here only in the 60s, and cars are still a kind of curiosity for the local residents. The focus of Bhutan’s leadership is on self-sufficiency and respect for nature. The constitution of Bhutan states that 60% of the country’s territory should be preserved as reserves and protected by law as an inviable forest. Today, woodland accounts for over 70% of the country’s total area.
In conclusion, Bhutan’s unique approach towards balancing its economy and preserving its natural resources and cultural heritage should serve as an inspiration for other countries. With its strict regulatory policies, Bhutan is building a sustainable future for its citizens. Bhutan has become the only country that absorbs carbon rather than emitting it into the atmosphere. By 2030, they plan to achieve zero levels of air pollution with greenhouse gases, which, in combination with the vast expanses of green space, will lead to the country beginning to absorb several times more carbon than it does now.
Therefore, the world must learn from Bhutan’s success story and consider it an example of a country that prioritizes environmental sustainability, social development, and ancestral cultural heritage. Bhutan stands as a model that other countries can aspire to, and it has demonstrated that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive but can complement each other.