Bhutan: the carbon-negative nation that puts national happiness before economic growth


Bhutan is a country that captures more carbon than it emits, as published by the Global Citizen Movement*. While other countries pledge to achieve net-zero, this small Himalayan country, sandwiched between China and India, does not need to pledge anything because it declares to have no net carbon emissions. This is due to largely intact forests, a rather small population, but also due to the way leaders are taking care of their country, abandoning the idea that "success" and "making money" are synonyms.

In Bhutan the natural forests absorb 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, while its economy produces 4 million tonnes to sustain a population of about 772 thousand people. 

The Gross National Happiness index is used instead of Gross National Product to measure success. Economic growth is not considered a compass to take political decisions. Putting happiness up front, it is easier to embed environmental protection into laws. Indeed, the GNH index is based on four pillars: sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation, and good governance, all needed to preserve both cultural and natural heritage. Only low-impact tourism that leave a positive footprint is allowed, mass tourism is avoided. And 70% of the total land surface is covered in trees, while 60% of it is protected forest. 

Bhutan can be an example of how to reach net-zero in other countries. Restoring and protecting nature is clearly amongs the solutions, as are changed ideas of economy.

Most other carbon-negative countries are small, forested states, like Suriname and Panama, and a few others are islands, as published on World Population Review. 


* Global Citizen is a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Article by Kathelijne Bonne, geologist and soil scientist.

Good Climate News is an initiative by the Bonne sisters from Belgium, Elisabeth, Helena and Kathelijne. "We believe in the power of good news".

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