Bhutan's promise to stay carbon-neutral

by Jusleen Basra

With the Earth’s polar ice caps melting at a pace faster than we can fathom and the streets of countries such as India boiling at around 123℉, there is no doubt that the world is getting warmer. As cliché as it may seem, climate change is a real problem. And it seems as though most countries are ignoring it … at least, most large countries. 
To put it into perspective, Bhutan is about half the size of South Carolina. And yet, as small as it is, the country has established a monumental reputation of being eco-friendly. As of today, about 70% of the country is under natural forest cover, and Article 5 in their Constitution literally states, “The Government shall ensure that, in order to conserve the country’s natural resources and to prevent degradation of the ecosystem, a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time.” A pretty incredible law, right? In addition, their fast-flowing rivers generate enough electricity to offset tons of carbon dioxide so that by 2020, Bhutan will be able to generate enough to offset over 17 million tons of CO2! 
Bhutan also operates under a GNH system -- Gross National Happiness -- rather than a GNP (Gross National Product) system. The term GNH was coined in 1972 by Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and operates using four pillars: sustainable development, promotion and protection of culture, environmental conservation, and the establishment of a good government. The fact that Bhutan chose to avoid focusing on material development and profit is extremely admirable. Instead, their aim is to sustain the rich and beautiful culture they still maintain to this day, and to make its citizens, as well as the Earth, smile. In fact, Gross National Happiness has inspired an actual movement that is now circulating throughout the political world, with hopes to spread happiness rather than wealth and material gains! 
Clearly, Bhutan has built quite a reputation of being supportive and environmentally friendly, and, (thankfully!) they will continue keeping their land under natural forest cover, while using hydroelectric power to offset millions of tons of carbon dioxide. But, according to Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, the country is not carbon neutral as of today. It is carbon negative. That means that the amount of carbon dioxide they generate as a society is LESS than the amount their forests generate. And in last December at the Paris UN climate change conference, Bhutan has promised to keep their country carbon neutral for eternity. Yes, eternity
Of course, with all ambitious endeavors, there is a bit of an obstacle. Bhutan’s natural resources are depleting. Their population is growing faster than ever before, and industry and commerce is consuming natural resources voraciously. As Bhutan’s government democratizes and their economy augments, keeping the promise they made last December is becoming much more difficult. So, in order to raise enough funds to keep their promise, Bhutan, teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund, has begun a campaign called “Bhutan for Life”. With just a little bit of help from the rest of the world, and from people who care, they will be able to make a significant contribution to protecting possibly the most essential aspect of our lives- the beautiful planet Earth. 



Post a Comment