Carbon Negativity

Directly or indirectly, whether we like it or not, every aspect of human life has an impact on our planet. While it’s essential that we all take steps to reduce our emissions, how do we neutralise those that are out of our control, or greenhouse gasses that are already in the atmosphere?

Carbon offsetting plays a vital role in compensating for emissions by funding carbon dioxide reducing measures elsewhere. This can range from funding renewable energy projects in developing countries, social impact programmes and clean water initiatives that benefit local communities. A holistic approach has multiple benefits, not only reducing emissions but also supporting countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change, like the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Bhutan is the only country in the world that can claim to be not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative, and has pledged to remain so since 2009. This is a country that has ‘done nothing to contribute to global warming and yet has been adversely affected by it’. Situated in the Himalayas, it is vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and largely dependent on agriculture – around 70% of the population are smallholder farmers. Melting glaciers threaten flooding, and unpredictable weather leads to poor harvests.

“This 5 million acre network not only protects the enormous biodiversity of the country, but also sequesters far more than the 1.1 million tonnes of carbon generated by Bhutan each year.”

Bhutan is still taking measures to offset

51% of the country’s land is protected, and as part of the mandate in their constitution to conserve the environment, at least 60% of the kingdom must remain under forest cover. This 5 million acre network not only protects the enormous biodiversity of the country, but also sequesters far more than the 1.1 million tonnes of carbon generated by Bhutan each year. The net carbon sink from the forests combined with exported hydroelectricity to neighbouring countries has driven the country to the impressive feat of carbon negativity, or perhaps more optimistically – climate positivity.

Tackling our emissions is no simple task, and as Bhutan shows, we are all affected regardless of how climate neutral our individual lifestyle may be. Less than 50% of an individual’s carbon footprint are direct emissions, such as driving a car or turning on the heating. The rest is caused by maintaining public infrastructure; the creation, use and subsequent disposal of our goods and the food we eat; or powering our workplaces. 

So how do we approach these indirect emissions?

At One Tree at a Time we want to encourage community led action to bring about change, and help people make sustainable choices in order to reduce emissions by showcasing businesses leading the charge. We have teamed up with independent organisations that offset their carbon, have sustainable operating models or use renewable energy sources, and we’ve set up our tree planting initiatives in both France and Africa through MyTree and Trees for the Future in Africa. Recent research from Swiss University ETH Zurich stated that ‘restoration of trees remains among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation’, so our planting efforts have only just begun. You can support us by visiting ‘Plant a Tree’, or our TeeMill page to get a tee for some trees!

As Ban Ki-moon wrote, “we are all part of the solution. Whether you are an individual, a business, an organization or a government, there are many steps you can take to reduce your climate footprint. It is a message we must all take to heart.”

Sources:

Kick the Habit: A UN Guide to Climate Neutrality – https://www.grida.no/publications/225

The global tree restoration potential – https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6448/76

Ted – https://www.ted.com/talks/tshering_tobgay_this_country_isn_t_just_carbon_neutral_it_s_carbon_negative

The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/01/bhutan-wealth-happiness-counts

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