Bhutan, a small Himalayan kingdom, has garnered international attention for its ambitious efforts to achieve a state of “net-zero” emissions. In a world grappling with the challenges of climate change, Bhutan’s approach provides valuable lessons that other nations can learn from. The concept of “net zero” typically refers to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed, often through offsetting measures. Bhutan is often cited as a country making significant strides in this direction. However, I do not have access to current news or developments beyond that date. I can provide a general outline of an editorial analysis based on the information available up to 2022, but I recommend checking more recent sources for the latest updates and developments related to Bhutan’s net-zero efforts.
Tag: GS Paper-3: Environmental pollution & degradation.
Net Zero Emissions; UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in France; Stupendous achievements of tiny countries; Case study of Bhutan.
Forests are part of Bhutan’s sacred cultural heritage, and the government follows a climate-smart forest economy.
Decoding the editorial: Net Zero Emissions
- The World Economic Forum reported in December last year that eight countries, Bhutan, Comoros, Gabon, Guyana, Madagascar, Niue, Panama, and Suriname, had reached net zero emissions, as per collated research from Energy Monitor.
- This meant that these eight countries had become carbon sinks, absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than they emitted.
- Bhutan’s forests may be small, but they are in no way insignificant.
UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in France
- In 2015, 196 Parties entered into the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change.
- The goal of the agreement was to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
- Yet, according to research, by 2030, the world will still be emitting 50 Giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions growing rapidly.
Stupendous achievements of tiny countries
All these countries are committed to sustainability and have strict environmental protection policies in place.
- Comoros, in the Indian Ocean, is a poor and densely populated country, yet it has low emissions from agriculture, fishing, and rearing livestock and follows strict environmental protection policies.
- Madagascar’s economy, too, is that of agriculture and fishing.
- However, large-scale deforestation might change all this.
- Gabon, in Central Africa, is fortunate to be blessed with the Congo rainforests, which act as a carbon sink.
- It is committed to non-deforestation and sustainable management of its natural resources.
- The UN has even called Gabon a model of environmental conservation.
- Guyana, on the northern coast of South America, is surrounded by the Amazon rainforest, another carbon sink. And so is the small Amazon nation of Suriname.
- Niue, in the South Pacific Ocean, has a small population, and fishing, agriculture, and tourism are its main economies.
- Panama, another net zero emitter, is blessed with rainforests and has a low population.
- The government here plans to reforest 50,000 hectares of land by 2050.
Case study of Bhutan
- It is the first nation in the world to reach net zero emissions.
- With a population of 800,000 and 70 percent of its land covered by forests, Bhutan practises sustainable organic farming and forestry.
- It has protected natural parks and runs on hydropower, and tourism is its main economic activity.
- According to media reports, Bhutan charges a $200 sustainable development fee per day to tourists, doubling the cost for visitors.
- A small price to pay for eco-tourism and protecting the environment.
- Forests are part of Bhutan’s sacred cultural heritage, and the government follows a climate-smart forest economy.
- Smart forest management helps minimise GHG emissions, encourage wildlife, limit forest fires, and sustainably manage forest produce for wood, fruit, and rubber, thus creating a circular economy.
- Bhutan’s forests had shrunk to 60% in 1990 due to excessive logging, but with strict laws and a systemic crackdown on illegal timber operations, forest coverage grew to 71% in just a decade.
- The country has launched a few pilot projects as a testbed for sustainable timber construction solutions.
- There are challenges of maintaining a climate-smart forest economy, especially when demand outstrips supply.
- There’s a danger of degradation and deforestation, as has happened to some of the rainforest nations earlier.
In India, Sikkim aims to become carbon negative with the initiative of planting 100 saplings for every newborn. A Forest Department study stated that 112 government schools in Chandigarh had become carbon negative as part of an effort to make Chandigarh carbon neutral by 2030.
Source: Deccan Herald
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What does “net zero” mean in the context of Bhutan’s efforts, and how does Bhutan achieve it?
A: “Net zero” means that a country absorbs or offsets as many greenhouse gases as it emits. In Bhutan, this is achieved through a combination of renewable energy, particularly hydropower, and conservation efforts that increase carbon sequestration.
2. What role does hydropower play in Bhutan’s journey to net zero emissions?
A: Hydropower is a crucial component of Bhutan’s net-zero strategy. The country harnesses its abundant water resources to generate clean, renewable energy, not only fulfilling its domestic energy needs but also exporting surplus power to neighboring countries.
3. How does Bhutan’s focus on conservation and biodiversity contribute to its net-zero goals?
A: Bhutan’s emphasis on conservation and preserving biodiversity involves protecting significant portions of its land as national parks and reserves. This contributes to carbon sequestration and reduces the overall carbon footprint of the country.
4. What is the Gross National Happiness (GNH) framework, and how does it relate to Bhutan’s net-zero efforts?
A: Bhutan’s GNH framework is an alternative to traditional GDP-based measurement, focusing on the well-being of its citizens and the environment. It aligns with Bhutan’s net-zero goals by encouraging sustainable development and environmental stewardship.
5. How can other nations learn from Bhutan’s approach to achieve net zero emissions?
A: Bhutan’s journey to net zero offers valuable lessons, including the importance of clean energy, conservation, sustainable development, and international collaboration. Other nations can learn from Bhutan’s holistic approach and apply similar strategies to address climate change and achieve net-zero emissions in their own contexts.
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