Lonely Planet Writer

Bhutan most ‘carbon negative’ country in the world

At this week’s Paris Climate Change Conference an underrated and unlikely champion of combating climate change was the little Himalayan nation of Bhutan.

Prayer flags along the Druk Path Trek, Bhutan.
Prayer flags along the Druk Path Trek, Bhutan. Image by Jean-Marie Hullot / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bhutan pledged to reforest its land of which two-thirds is already covered by forests. Bhutan is in fact already considered the world leading ‘carbon negative’ country, as it sucks up three times the CO2 emissions that the 700,000 population produces, turning the country into a carbon sink according to the the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s(ECUI) ‘carbon comparator’ tool. In 2014 Bhutan broke a world record for trees planted in one day – 50,000 – and its commitment to reforestation is set to break new records. However, large portions of the country still lack access to the electricity grid.

Speaking to The Guardian, Richard Black, the director of ECIU, explained the country’s impressive commitment to reforestation and low carbon emissions by explaining its vulnerable geographical position among the Himalayas, an area that has seen dramatic changes in weather and water supply shortages caused by changes in climate. “As a small state high in the Himalayas, Bhutan faces disruption to water supplies, extreme weather and impacts on ecosystems as a result of changes to the climate, so it is in their interests to address the problem both domestically and through the UN climate process,” Black said.

Paro, Bhutan.
Paro, Bhutan. Image by Nagarjun Kandukuru / CC BY 2.0

Other risks for Bhutan come in the form of the mountain glaciers that have been retreating and could have a potentially disastrous effect on the country. The ECIU’s carbon comparator functions as a searchable database, and is useful in keeping countries accountable as well as keeping the public informed.