Over 110 countries have pledged to reach Net Zero Emissions in compliance with The Paris Agreement, but they are yet to set adequate policies and laws to battle climate change. Number of countries have made legally binding agreements, and proposals, or have only discussed action plans to take. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit offers a Net Zero Tracker to list countries in the “Net Zero Emissions Race”.
What does it mean to be Net Zero Emissions or Carbon Negative?
‘Net Zero Emissions’ refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide is the leading greenhouse gas emission in the atmosphere produced by human activities. High levels of carbon dioxide increase the amount of heat that is trapped, this is one of the measure causes of climate change. To avoid a climate catastrophe, greenhouse gas emissions must be as low as possible. In other words, we need to get as close as possible to real zero. This means that we need to rapidly phase out all fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – and transition to renewable energy across all sectors of the life.
So far only eight countries, have achieved negative carbon dioxide emissions status.
These countries have shown us how we can address climate change with compassion, commitment and creativity and come out on top.
Bhutan has achieved the status of The First Carbon-negative country in the world. Bhutan had made a commitment to conserving the nation’s pristine environment. The government of Bhutan has a history of basing political decisions on a Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, before economic growth.
Here are some of the ways Bhutan won the race of Net Zero Emissions:
- The government has put restrictions to large amounts of tourists from entering the country at any given time.
- More than 70% of the country is covered in trees making Bhutan a carbon sink – meaning that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces. Bhutan absorbs roughly seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and only produces around two million tonnes.
- A ban was placed on log exports.
- The constitution states that 60% of the country’s total land area remains under forest cover for all time.
- Free hydroelectric power generated by Bhutan’s many rivers is used instead of less environmentally friendly fossil fuels.
- Free electricity is provided to rural farmers.
- A partnership with Nissan to provide the country with electrical cars.
- Bhutan’s unwavering focus on reducing its negative impact on the environment and the promotion of environmentally friendly practices has had positive results in the country itself, as well as worldwide.
It is important to note that Bhutan is a small, non-industrialised nation and their environmental method would see challenges on a larger scale. However, Bhutan’s achievement does demonstrate what can be achieved when environmental sustainability is at the forefront of the political agenda.
Comoros is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has a population of 800,000 densely concentrated in the main coastal towns of its four islands in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.
The measures that supports its net zero status:
- Low emissions from agriculture, fishing and rearing livestock, which account for about half of the country’s economy
- Strict environmental protection for almost a quarter of the landmass.
- The Union of the Comoros commits to an emissions reduction target of 23% (excluding Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) and an increase of CO2 absorption by 47% by 2030.
- Alternatives to the use of fossil fuel resources are the hydroelectricity, solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy.
- The Comoros are an ideal site for the use of solar energy. It is mostly sunny all year long.
- The development of photovoltaic energy and wind energy would contribute to reduce a total national reduction in GHG emissions of 17%.
Congo rainforests dominate 88% of the landmass of Gabon in central Africa. The UN has called Gabon A Model Of Environmental Conservation.
- Situated in the Congo Basin, which is one of the world’s largest ‘carbon sinks’.
- Gabon emits very little carbon dioxide while absorbing great quantities.
- Due to a strong commitment to non-deforestation and sustainable management of its natural resources.
- Gabon unconditionally commits to remaining a carbon-neutral country up to and beyond 2050.
- With international support, the country pledges to continue to act as a “net carbon sink” by maintaining its net carbon absorption.
- The adaptation component has been enhanced, expanding its sectorial coverage and elaborating new measures and actions.
- The engagement of key stakeholders from government institutions, civil society and the private sector.
Guyana sits on the northern coast of South America surrounded by Amazon rainforest, having already achieved net zero emissions.
- Guyana is a Tree-Canopy-rich country.
- The government claimed to have reached its net-zero ambitions in 2021.
- The country is dedicated for a further 70% cut in emissions by 2030.
- However, the country became the world’s newest oil producer in 2019, which could challenge its status as a net zero greenhouse gas emitter.
- This is thanks to Guyana’s dense rainforest and despite it beginning to pump crude oil at the end of 2019.
- The government has played down the dissonance between its oil-producing status and its emissions reduction goals, saying that oil revenue can be directed to the green economy.
Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the island of Madagascar relies on agriculture and fishing for its main economic output. It is currently a net zero emitter.
According to Global Forest Watch, large-scale deforestation has seen a quarter of the country’s forest canopy cover disappear since 2000.
If the current rate of tree loss continues, unfortunately, Madagascar will become a net carbon dioxide emitter by 2030.
- Madagascar aims to reduce the rate of deforestation and promote large-scale reforestation.
- These efforts could be strengthened by adopting a feebate system for forest carbon storage.
- Encouraging the take up of energy-efficient appliances that reduce dependence on forest resources.
The small Amazon nation of Suriname is among the most forest-rich countries in the world, with canopy covering 93% of its landmass. Due to the variety of habitats and temperatures, biodiversity in Suriname is considered high.
The Efforts To Be A Net Zero Emission Country
- In 2013, Suriname’s REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal was approved by the member countries of the Participants Committee of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
- In 2015, the Trio and Wayana communities presented a declaration of cooperation to the National Assembly of Suriname that announces an indigenous conservation corridor spanning 72,000 sq. km. of southern Suriname.
- In all, 16% of the country’s land area is national parks and lakes.
- The Central Suriname Nature Reserve has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unspoiled forests and biodiversity.
The tiny coral island of Niue sits in the South Pacific Ocean and is home to a local population of around 2,000 people, with many more living overseas.
Fishing, agriculture and tourism form the main economic activities. However, its exposed position leaves it vulnerable to the impact of climate change, from sea level rise, ocean acidification and the increasing threat of cyclones.
The measures that supports its net zero status:
- It is a net carbon sink – contributing just 0.0001% to global greenhouse gas emissions.
- Niue is focusing on solar power provision, with help from the European Union.
- It aims to become 80% renewable by 2025.
- The Niue Island Organic Farmers Association was committed to making Niue the world’s first fully organic nation by 2020
- In 2023 the governments of Niue and other island states launched the “Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific”, calling a “rapid and just transition” to renewable energy.
- Strengthening of environmental law, including introducing the crime of ecocide
Panama was one of the first three countries to achieve net-zero emissions joined with Bhutan and Suriname at Cop26 that called for trade and carbon-pricing support.
- Panama aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
- It is aiming to lower carbon dioxide emissions from its energy sector by at least 11.5% between 2022 and 2030
- The reforestation of 50,000 hectares across the country by 2050 enhancing its status as a carbon sink.
- Panama has also reinforced its target for 15% of energy generation to come from renewables by 2030.
- At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Panama joined with Suriname and Bhutan to form an alliance of carbon-negative countries, encouraging greater efforts to reach Net Zero Emission.
While highlighted the country’s innovative strategies, the former Prime Minister of Bhutan, ended his talk with the message:
“I invite you to help me, to carry this dream beyond our borders to all those who care about our planet’s future. After all, we’re here to dream together, to work together, to fight climate change together, and to protect our planet together.”
“Because the reality is we are in it together.”
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