As the COP26 climate conference continues this week, all eyes are on countries’ plans to achieve their net-zero emissions goals. For most nations, this accomplishment is slated for 2045 or 2050, but for a select few, carbon neutrality is not on their mindsーbecause they’re already carbon negative.
The exclusive club of carbon negative countries is indeed small, including only Bhutan and Suriname, but Panama is expected to be certified by the end of the year, forming an impressive coalition of countries demonstrating that hard work and dedication can yield very real climate accomplishments.
The forested Himalayan nation of Bhutan is already well known for measuring its success using the Gross National Happiness Index, rather than GDP, but its environmental success goes beyond just achieving equity and satisfaction for all citizens.
Bhutan not only has heavy protections in place for its valuable carbon-sucking forests, but it has also placed strict emissions regulations in place while investing in renewable energy and making changes to electrify transport and cut waste. The country’s journey to carbon negative started in the 1970s when the king vetoed plans to boost the economy by cutting forests. The result is that the country currently captures nine million tonnes of carbon each year while emitting just four.
Across the world in South America, Suriname is taking similar measures, emphasizing the value of their lush rainforests. Together, the two nations, joined by presumed carbon-negative Panama, have formed a formal alliance at COP26, calling for support for their green initiatives and the implementation of structural changes that will make it easier for more countries to join their sustainable club.
These requests include international finance measures, preferential trade, and carbon pricing which will allow more countries to follow in their footsteps. Panama’s foreign minister, Erika Mounes, spoke at the conference about the dedication it takes to truly preserve forests: “Being carbon negative has a cost. There’s surveillance – when you have a protected area you have to make sure it’s actually protected.” She also credits dedicated citizens and the role they have played in boosting environmental accountability.
Hopefully, this new alliance not only raises awareness of countries who have already met and exceeded carbon neutral pledges but also demonstrates that with enough commitment, harmonious coexistence with nature can be achieved. This alliance also sets a precedent for the more than 100 nations who pledged at COP26 to stop deforestation by the end of the decade.
“If we’re able to do it, then many more can do it,” said Mounes.