By Hibah Khan|
June 21, 2022|
3 min read
While major governments throughout the world are working on measures to achieve carbon neutrality, 3 countries stand out for their amazing effort at becoming carbon negative and we’re here to shout about them.
Last year at COP26, The Glasgow Climate Pact was agreed by participating nations with the goal of turning the 2020s into a decade of climate action and support.
Many countries expressed, amongst other things, that they would be increasing efforts to reduce climate change and diminish greenhouse gas emissions. Every country across the world has been combating climate change in their own unique way, some more successfully than others.
Even the total of these efforts, however, does not appear to be sufficient. No matter how many international conferences and summits are held, the truth is that governments all around the world are failing to reduce carbon emissions.
In spite of that, 3 tiny countries are gaining international recognition for their revolutionary climate change measures: Bhutan, Suriname and Panama.
Before we deepdive into what these 3 countries have done you may be thinking to yourself: What does carbon negative exactly mean?
Carbon negative is emitting less than 0 carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gases. However, because it is impossible to emit a negative amount of carbon (or any other physical material), being carbon negative refers to your total emissions. To be carbon negative, you must offset more carbon than you contribute to the environment through carbon collection, sequestration or avoidance.
In simpler terms: Carbon negative implies removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than is emitted.
Bhutan, located in Southern Asia, has been carbon-negative for quite some time. They began their road toward carbon neutrality and beyond in the 1970s by promoting the implementation of sustainable forest management.
Bhutan chose to balance conservation and development above tearing down trees for agriculture and industries, resulting in outstanding forest conditions. Currently, forests and trees cover around 72% of Bhutan’s land area. They officially became carbon negative in 2021.
Some of the ways they became carbon negative included:
– Log exports being prohibited.
– The constitution was rewritten to ensure that forested areas did not fall below 60%.
– Bhutan’s plethora of rivers create free hydroelectric power, which is used instead of less environmentally friendly fossil resources.
– Farmers in rural areas are given free electricity.
Suriname is one of many South American countries famed for its extensive forests. Suriname, which has a population of around 600,000 people, has been carbon-negative since 2014. Their vast forests cover over 93% of the country and act as a carbon sink.
Suriname, unfortunately, is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea levels may harm or destroy its coastal ecosystems, including arable land, erode GDP and harm or destroy the houses of more than 80% of the population. This coastal zone has already undergone substantial erosion and destruction from severe rainfall, flooding and more that is predicted to worsen as a result of climate change.
Some of the things they’re doing to remain carbon negative include:
– Becoming one of the first countries with an all-green vehicle capital, eliminating all fossil-fuel car engines.
– Sustainable and “clean” electricity is also an objective and Suriname has vowed to “maintain the share of electricity from renewable sources above 35% by 2030.”
This Central American country is internationally recognised for its mountains, rivers and tropical environment but Panama is even more than that.. The country has been able to halt the destruction of their forests, with over 60% of its area presently covered in forest. Panama has been carbon negative since 2021.
Panama has expanded its marine protected area by 30%. Creating a reserve of more than 67,000 square kilometres, nearly the size of the country, increasing the protection of its marine regions to 30%. Panama hopes to safeguard marine life and ensure the long-term sustainability of marine resources through this commitment.
What are Panama doing to continue their carbon negative path:
– Panama plans to reforest an additional 50,000 hectares of forests by 2050.
– They intend to phase out heavy fuels including coal by 2023.
– Recognise the Latin American indigenous people/ regions spread across Panama. As a result, they recognise and respect indigenous territories’ legal rights as well as understanding that Indigenous and tribal populations are the greatest at protecting forests because of their inherent appreciation and regard for nature.
Bonus Recognition: Tasmania:
Albeit not a country Tasmania is one of the first jurisdictions across the world that has become carbon negative just recently in 2022. Tasmania, unlike the rest of Australia, already has a low emission profile due to its reliance on hydroelectric power. Its biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is logging of old-growth forests, which emit considerable volumes of carbon dioxide when cut down. Tasmania has gone from being a net emitter of about 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year to becoming carbon negative in the last decade!
Tasmania however, is still facing problems. The campaign to stop logging native forests is still ongoing and currently a struggle is presently underway in Tarkine forest against a proposed tailings mine.
Click here to read more about Tasmania reaching carbon negative.
There are numerous other examples of countries taking the necessary steps and working toward carbon negative, such as: Tuvalu, Tonga, Saint Helena and Montserrat and we love to see it.
Bhutan, Suriname and Panama, all of which have distinct economies and environmental settings, have achieved carbon negative status in their own ways. Their unwavering commitment to decreasing their negative environmental impact and promoting ecologically friendly practices have yielded beneficial results both within their country and globally.
Needless to say, these 3 countries demonstrate to the globe what is achievable and that becoming a carbon-negative country is possible. With the right leadership and genuine concern for the environment, the fight against global warming begins with visionaries like Lotay Tshering (Bhutan’s President), Chan Santokhi (Suriname’s President) and Laurentino Cortizo (Panama’s President), who are setting an example.
Check out this National Geographic article, for a great breakdown on sustainability in Bhutan’s national identity.