The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
This Country Is Already Carbon Neutral and Now Plans to Go 100% Organic and Zero-Waste
Bhutan has been hailed as one of the greenest countries on Earth. Currently, the country’s carbon emissions rate is a negligible 0.8 metric tons per capita, according to the World Bank. Not only is Bhutan carbon neutral, it's also a carbon sink—making it one of the few countries in the world to have negative carbon emissions.
"According to recent figures, the country emits around 1.5 million tonnes of carbon annually, while its forests absorb over 6 million tonnes," says Proudly Carbon Neutral. Despite this, it still wants to go even further to zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, while also going 100 percent organic by 2020 and zero-waste by 2030.
In 2011, the government launched the National Organic Program in order to help the country meet its goal of 100 percent organic by 2020. Reuters reports on the success of the program so far:
By teaching farmers good organic farming practices and how to earn more money by growing organic produce, and by providing financial support, Bhutan hopes to reduce waste, decrease the country’s dependence on imported food, and ensure it remains climate-neutral, producing no more climate-changing emissions each year than its forests absorb.
Already praised by environmentalists for its low carbon emissions and heavy use of hydropower, Bhutan hopes to become even greener by showing that environmentally friendly farming can also make money.
The government is offering free training programs in organic farming to turn Bhutan's subsistence farmers barely eking out a living into successful entrepreneurs. The switch to organic is also helping this Himalayan mountain kingdom achieve its zero waste goal, as well.
"Now, from leaves to cow dung to chicken poop, everything is used," a new organic farmer told Reuters. “I have no trash, only compost."
Hurdles remain, however. The country is still highly dependent on imported food. "According to a 2014 study on food security by the Royal Bhutan College of Thimphu, less than four percent of Bhutan’s total land is under food cultivation, which is why almost 50 percent of the country’s rice is imported from India and Thailand," says Reuters. One farmer complains that the government needs to help widen the market for organic produce. Many people still opt for imported foods over local ones because they are cheaper.
Still, Bhutan is light years ahead of most countries. The country has an entire section of its constitution devoted to the environment that opens with:
Every Bhutanese is a trustee of the Kingdom’s natural resources and environment for the benefit of the present and future generations and it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to contribute to the protection of the natural environment, conservation of the rich biodiversity of Bhutan and prevention of all forms of ecological degradation including noise, visual and physical pollution through the adoption and support of environment friendly practices and policies.
Bhutan is currently 72 percent forested and the constitution requires that no less than 60 percent of the country remains forested. The Buddhist nation also refuses to judge its success on Gross Domestic Product, instead using an index that measures Gross National Happiness.
Though Bhutan is not powered by 100 percent renewable energy, it aims to be in the near future. It has an abundant supply of hydroelectricity—so much that it exports 75 percent of its power to India. Its current renewable energy share is 60 percent. And a partnership announced last year with Nissan could help ensure that the country doesn't increase its fossil fuel use or its carbon emissions. Nissan partnered with the Bhutanese government to provide hundreds of electric cars to the country—with the promise of thousands soon after. Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay wants to eventually convert all of Bhutan’s vehicles to electric power.
But more than a year after the launch, only about 50 electric Nissan vehicles were on the roads, though at least 22 more had been ordered as of June. That's about a tenth of a percent of the total cars on the road in Bhutan. CEO of Thunder Motors (the local partner of Nissan) told Reuters purchases of electric vehicles are underwhelming because of a lack of government support for "developing more charging infrastructure and land for building charging stations."
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.