Which of the following countries was the first to be carbon negative, as in, it absorbs more carbon than it produces?
Considering China, United States of America, Bhutan and Australia, the answer is: Bhutan.
The forests in Bhutan absorb more than 9 million tonnes of carbon each year, while its economy produces less than 4 tonnes of carbon. Other countries that are carbon negative are Suriname and Panama.
The magnificent, tall peaks that shroud Bhutan in mist are some of the most picturesque in the world. Yet, few tourists get to experience its beauty yearly due to Bhutan's move toward more sustainable forms of tourism. The government of Bhutan has put steps in place to prevent massive amounts of tourists from entering their borders at any given time, thus significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the country and allowing for the continued preservation of natural historic sites.
Bhutan leads the world in many other sustainable practices outside the realm of tourism. Almost all of the energy in the Kingdom is generated by hydroelectric power, which is a renewable resource derived from running water sources such as rivers. This greatly counteracts the carbon emissions that Bhutan does produce, while protecting the immense forests of the region. And, since Bhutan is covered in around 70% forest, there's a lot to protect.
Bhutan has also prioritized the protection of national resources by laying in law several other restrictions, such as banning log exports, amending the constitution to ensure forested areas won't drop below 60%, providing free electricity to rural farmers and more.
Bhutan's advancements in environmental protection largely draw from its policy which centers the GNH index model, otherwise known as Gross National Happiness. The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. The was first coined by the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972.
Learn more about Bhutan's environmental activism, history and more here.