Which Country Has the Smallest Carbon Footprint?

The rest of the world owes a debt to Bhutan and Suriname. Those two little nations, located in South Asia and South America, respectively, are carbon-negative, which means they absorb more greenhouse gases than they produce. In other words, they are not only removing their own carbon emissions, but they are also absorbing some produced by surrounding countries. Bhutan and Suriname are both heavily forested, which allows them to serve as natural carbon sinks.

Along with the South American nation of Suriname, heavily forested Bhutan is carbon negative: it absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits.
Along with the South American nation of Suriname, heavily forested Bhutan is carbon negative: it absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits.

According to an analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), several other nations are taking their cue from Bhutan and Suriname and working toward lessening their carbon footprint. Leading the list are Norway and Sweden, which have enacted laws making it mandatory that they reach a zero carbon footprint -- absorbing as much as they produce -- by the years 2030 and 2045, respectively.

ECIU Director Richard Black explained that many nations are working to be in compliance with the Paris Agreement, a 2015 commitment to slow global warming. "Of course, a target means little without a process to meet it," he said. "But science shows unequivocally that halting climate change means reducing emissions to net zero; so if a government isn’t planning to bring its own emissions to net zero, it can’t really claim to be planning to do its share of stopping climate change."

Although most major nations have ratified the Paris Agreement, the United States withdrew under the direction of President Donald Trump. President-elect Joe Biden has said the United States will rejoin as soon as possible after he takes office in 2021.

The Paris Agreement:

  • Compliance with the agreement is essentially based on international "peer pressure," as there are no legal repercussions for failing to follow through on goals.

  • It takes four years to withdraw from the agreement; the United States began the process under President Donald Trump in 2017.

  • The accord sets a goal of preventing the Earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 °F) beyond preindustrial levels; the figure is considered a danger point, threatening flooding and other natural disasters.


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