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Twitter moments recently had a moment about Bhutan being the only carbon neutral country in the world: Why Bhutan Is All Alone in the Carbon-Neutral Nation Club and one tweet in the Twitter moments said

Here's why Bhutan is the only carbon-neutral country in the world.

The claim is also repeated elsewhere. For example, Australia’s climate council claimed in 2017 that Bhutan is the only country that’s carbon negative, and mentions the country’s focus on gross national happiness as a reason for that.

The original article (plus the climate council one) doesn’t list which countries are closest to meeting carbon neutrality but haven’t met it.

By contrast, Wikipedia lists another country as carbon neutral: Suriname.

Is Bhutan carbon neutral, and is it the only country to be carbon neutral?

  • For some reason western countries love to push the notion of the wonderous Bhutan, most happy country in the world, only country to be carbon neutral, etc. I honestly don't know what the reason is, but it makes no sense to me. – user1721135 Mar 11 at 16:08
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    @user1721135 sounds like a great Politics.SE question! – Andrew Grimm Mar 11 at 20:23
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Is Bhutan carbon neutral?

According to "Sustainability in an Emerging Nation: The Bhutan Case Study" published in Sustainability, Bhutan is indeed carbon neutral. The paper makes the following statement "it is interesting to note that only one country, Bhutan, has successfully achieved [carbon neutrality]."

Another paper, "Carbon Neutral Policy in Action: the Case of Bhutan" , agrees that Bhutan is indeed carbon neutral.

Yes, Bhutan is carbon neutral.

Is [Bhutan] the only country to be carbon neutral?

Research suggests that all Amazon countries are carbon neutral due to the Amazon rainforest's ability to act as a carbon sink (by sequestering carbon within the Amazon flora). These Amazon countries are Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname.

"For most nations (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname) the sink has probably additionally mitigated all anthropogenic carbon emissions due to Amazon deforestation and other land use change. While the sink has weakened in some regions since 2000, our analysis suggests that Amazon nations which are able to conserve large areas of natural and semi-natural landscape still contribute globally-significant carbon sequestration."

No, Bhutan is not the only carbon neutral nation.

Interesting note: Suriname, alluded to in the question, is indeed carbon neutral.

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    Does carbon neutrality take into account imports? As in products imported also bring with them their carbon foot print? I ask because a metric which does not account for this is highly misleading. It means nations like china which produce a lot of physical goods for the world look like a larger emitter then they really are, as those emissions are a direct result of the demands of other nations. It's essentially letting some export their carbon foot print. – Stephen DiMarco Mar 18 at 17:36
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    @StephenDiMarco Great question! I will look into this and address this in the comments accordingly. – Barry Harrison Mar 19 at 5:42
  • @StephenDiMarco For the third research article, imports are taken into account. The carbon emissions were obtained from CDIAC data (cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/emis/overview) which includes work that "tabulates solid and liquid fuel imports and exports by nation and year." For Bhutan, unfortunately, I could not find convincing methodology that shows imports are or are not taken into consideration. In fact, papers I can find are sparse and mostly question Bhutan's ability to maintain carbon neutrality. I would assume they are, but will continue to look into this. – Barry Harrison Mar 19 at 22:28
  • Apparently, trade statistics for oil and the like are not reported by Bhutan's official Trade Statistics (mof.gov.bt/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/BTS2016.pdf). The category is simply nonexistent in a very extensive and exhaustive document (scroll from page 179 of the pdf). Does this mean imports for these items are non-existent or negligible? The Prime Minister of Bhutan has stated that Bhutan is carbon negative in a 2016 TED talk. Not sure if there is or is not any credibility in TED talks. – Barry Harrison Mar 19 at 22:45

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