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This country isn’t just carbon neutral — it’s carbon negative | Tshering Tobgay

This country isn’t just carbon neutral — it’s carbon negative | Tshering Tobgay


In case you are wondering, no, I’m not wearing a dress, and no, I’m not saying
what I’m wearing underneath. (Laughter) This is a gho. This is my national dress. This is how all men dress in Bhutan. That is how our women dress. Like our women, we men get to wear pretty bright colors, but unlike our women, we get to show off our legs. (Laughter) Our national dress is unique, but this is not the only thing
that’s unique about my country. Our promise to remain
carbon neutral is also unique, and this is what I’d like
to speak about today, our promise to remain carbon neutral. But before I proceed,
I should set you the context. I should tell you our story. Bhutan is a small country
in the Himalayas. We’ve been called Shangri-La, even the last Shangri-La. But let me tell you right off the bat,
we are not Shangri-La. My country is not one big monastery populated with happy monks. (Laughter) The reality is that
there are barely 700,000 of us sandwiched between two
of the most populated countries on earth, China and India. The reality is that we are a small,
underdeveloped country doing our best to survive. But we are doing OK. We are surviving. In fact, we are thriving, and the reason we are thriving
is because we’ve been blessed with extraordinary kings. Our enlightened monarchs
have worked tirelessly to develop our country, balancing economic growth carefully with social development,
environmental sustainability and cultural preservation, all within the framework
of good governance. We call this holistic approach
to development “Gross National Happiness,” or GNH. Back in the 1970s, our fourth king famously
pronounced that for Bhutan, Gross National Happiness is more important
than Gross National Product. (Applause) Ever since, all development in Bhutan
is driven by GNH, a pioneering vision
that aims to improve the happiness and well-being of our people. But that’s easier said than done, especially when you are one
of the smallest economies in the world. Our entire GDP is less
than two billion dollars. I know that some of you here
are worth more — (Laughter) individually than the entire economy of my country. So our economy is small, but here is where it gets interesting. Education is completely free. All citizens are guaranteed
free school education, and those that work hard
are given free college education. Healthcare is also completely free. Medical consultation,
medical treatment, medicines: they are all provided by the state. We manage this because we use our limited
resources very carefully, and because we stay faithful
to the core mission of GNH, which is development with values. Our economy is small,
and we must strengthen it. Economic growth is important, but that economic growth must not come
from undermining our unique culture or our pristine environment. Today, our culture is flourishing. We continue to celebrate
our art and architecture, food and festivals, monks and monasteries. And yes, we celebrate
our national dress, too. This is why I can wear my gho with pride. Here’s a fun fact: you’re looking
at the world’s biggest pocket. (Laughter) It starts here, goes around the back, and comes out from inside here. In this pocket we store all manner of personal goods from phones and wallets to iPads, office files and books. (Laughter) (Applause) But sometimes — sometimes even precious cargo. So our culture is flourishing, but so is our environment. 72 percent of my country
is under forest cover. Our constitution demands
that a minimum of 60 percent of Bhutan’s total land
shall remain under forest cover for all time. (Applause) Our constitution, this constitution, imposes forest cover on us. Incidentally, our king
used this constitution to impose democracy on us. You see, we the people
didn’t want democracy. We didn’t ask for it, we didn’t demand it, and we certainly didn’t fight for it. Instead, our king imposed democracy on us by insisting that he include it
in the constitution. But he went further. He included provisions in the constitution that empower the people
to impeach their kings, and included provisions in here
that require all our kings to retire at the age of 65. (Applause) Fact is, we already have
a king in retirement: our previous king, the Great Fourth, retired 10 years ago at the peak of his popularity. He was all of 51 years at that time. So as I was saying, 72 percent of our country
is under forest cover, and all that forest is pristine. That’s why we are one of the few remaining global biodiversity hotspots in the world, and that’s why we are
a carbon neutral country. In a world that is threatened
with climate change, we are a carbon neutral country. Turns out, it’s a big deal. Of the 200-odd countries
in the world today, it looks like we are the only one that’s carbon neutral. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. Bhutan is not carbon neutral. Bhutan is carbon negative. Our entire country generates
2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, but our forests, they sequester
more than three times that amount, so we are a net carbon sink for more than four million tons
of carbon dioxide each year. But that’s not all. (Applause) We export most
of the renewable electricity we generate from our fast-flowing rivers. So today, the clean energy that we export offsets about six million tons
of carbon dioxide in our neighborhood. By 2020, we’ll be exporting
enough electricity to offset 17 million tons
of carbon dioxide. And if we were to harness
even half our hydropower potential, and that’s exactly what we are working at, the clean, green energy that we export would offset something like
50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. That is more CO2 than what the entire city
of New York generates in one year. So inside our country,
we are a net carbon sink. Outside, we are offsetting carbon. And this is important stuff. You see, the world is getting warmer, and climate change is a reality. Climate change is affecting my country. Our glaciers are melting, causing flash floods and landslides, which in turn are causing disaster
and widespread destruction in our country. I was at that lake recently. It’s stunning. That’s how it looked 10 years ago, and that’s how it looked 20 years ago. Just 20 years ago, that lake didn’t exist. It was a solid glacier. A few years ago, a similar lake breached its dams and wreaked havoc in the valleys below. That destruction
was caused by one glacier lake. We have 2,700 of them to contend with. The point is this: my country and my people have done nothing to contribute to global warming, but we are already bearing the brunt
of its consequences. And for a small, poor country,
one that is landlocked and mountainous, it is very difficult. But we are not going to sit
on our hands doing nothing. We will fight climate change. That’s why we have promised
to remain carbon neutral. We first made this promise in 2009 during COP 15 in Copenhagen, but nobody noticed. Governments were so busy
arguing with one another and blaming each other
for causing climate change, that when a small country
raised our hands and announced, “We promise to remain
carbon neutral for all time,” nobody heard us. Nobody cared. Last December in Paris, at COP 21, we reiterated our promise to remain carbon neutral
for all time to come. This time, we were heard. We were noticed, and everybody cared. What was different in Paris
was that governments came round together to accept the realities of climate change, and were willing to come together
and act together and work together. All countries, from the very small
to the very large, committed to reduce
the greenhouse gas emissions. The UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change says that if these so-called
intended commitments are kept, we’d be closer
to containing global warming by two degrees Celsius. By the way, I’ve requested the TED organizers here to turn up the heat in here
by two degrees, so if some of you
are feeling warmer than usual, you know who to blame. It’s crucial that all of us
keep our commitments. As far as Bhutan is concerned, we will keep our promise
to remain carbon neutral. Here are some of the ways we are doing it. We are providing free electricity
to our rural farmers. The idea is that, with free electricity,
they will no longer have to use firewood to cook their food. We are investing in sustainable transport and subsidizing the purchase
of electric vehicles. Similarly, we are subsidizing
the cost of LED lights, and our entire government
is trying to go paperless. We are cleaning up our entire country
through Clean Bhutan, a national program, and we are planting trees
throughout our country through Green Bhutan, another national program. But it is our protected areas that are at the core
of our carbon neutral strategy. Our protected areas are our carbon sink. They are our lungs. Today, more than half
our country is protected, as national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. But the beauty is that we’ve connected
them all with one another through a network of biological corridors. Now, what this means is that our animals are free
to roam throughout our country. Take this tiger, for example. It was spotted
at 250 meters above sea level in the hot, subtropical jungles. Two years later, that same tiger was spotted near 4,000 meters in our cold alpine mountains. Isn’t that awesome? (Applause) We must keep it that way. We must keep our parks awesome. So every year, we set aside resources
to prevent poaching, hunting, mining and pollution in our parks, and resources to help communities
who live in those parks manage their forests, adapt to climate change, and lead better lives while continuing
to live in harmony with Mother Nature. But that is expensive. Over the next few years,
our small economy won’t have the resources to cover all the costs that are required
to protect our environment. In fact, when we run the numbers, it looks like it’ll take us
at least 15 years before we can fully finance
all our conservation efforts. But neither Bhutan, nor the world can afford to spend 15 years
going backwards. This is why His Majesty the King started Bhutan For Life. Bhutan For Life gives us the time we need. It gives us breathing room. It is essentially a funding mechanism to look after our parks, to protect our parks, until our government
can take over on our own fully. The idea is to raise a transition fund from individual donors,
corporations and institutions, but the deal is closed only
after predetermined conditions are met and all funds committed. So multiparty, single closing: an idea we borrowed from Wall Street. This means that individual donors
can commit without having to worry that they’ll be left
supporting an underfunded plan. It’s something like a Kickstarter project, only with a 15-year time horizon and millions of tons
of carbon dioxide at stake. Once the deal is closed, we use the transition fund
to protect our parks, giving our government time
to increase our own funding gradually until the end of the 15-year period. After that, our government
guarantees full funding forever. We are almost there. We expect to close later this year. Naturally, I’m pretty excited. (Applause) The World Wildlife Fund
is our principle partner in this journey, and I want to give them a big shoutout for the excellent work
they are doing in Bhutan and across the world. (Applause) Whew, it is getting warm in here. I thank you for listening to our story, a story of how we are keeping
our promise to remain carbon neutral, a story of how we are keeping
our country pristine, for ourselves, our children, for your children and for the world. But we are not here
to tell stories, are we? We are here to dream together. So in closing, I’d like to share
one more dream that I have. What if we could mobilize
our leadership and our resources, our influence and our passion, to replicate the Bhutan For Life idea
to other countries so that they too can conserve their
protected areas for all time. After all, there are many other countries
who face the same issues that we face. They too have natural resources that can help win the world’s fight
for sustainability, only they may not have the ability
to invest in them now. So what if we set up Earth For Life, a global fund, to kickstart
the Bhutan For Life throughout the world? 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,
to protect our planet together. Because the reality is we are in it together. Some of us might dress differently, but we are in it together. Thank you very much, and kadrin chhe la. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you, thank you, thank you.

100 comments on “This country isn’t just carbon neutral — it’s carbon negative | Tshering Tobgay

  1. Only a Buddhist can give such a great vision of 'Gross National Happiness' in today's world of matrerialistic competition….Long Live Frndship of India & Bhutan 🇮🇳🇧🇹

  2. The sharp contrast in values between the physical necessity for sustainability and the continual growth mindset on display. Bravo Bhutan!

  3. Bhutan is an absolutely wonderful place! It's the BEST place on earth — unless, of course, you happen to be a member of the Lhotshampa ethnic minority, in which case you may be ethnically cleansed and have your property confiscated by the enlightened government.

  4. Guys… look that's great but we have cities with 10 million people. If the population wasn't 380 million we could do this. Now if you have a plan to take us down to 50 million or so we a Gucci. But people bring pollution.

  5. We should learn from bhutan , how to be Carbon NEGATIVE country but also how a country should run. (the facts of how they run their democracy and also laws like keeping Bhutan biodiversity more than 60% , this law must pass on most of country )…
    A small step can help to achieve a great goal..

  6. Awesome presentation… one tiny country, that is virtually putting the rest of the World to shame. I can only hope, for our children's sake, we follow their lead.

  7. Just now finished watching, the chinas deadly weapons parade, felt who will save the earth. But felt very happy. The sadest part is China wants to take Bhutan also.

  8. This was the most beautiful thing I've seen in a while and it definitely motivates me to take action on a local scale.

  9. Bhutanese public are cool in nature for their environment, we need too for our country. Well done bhutan. I hope some day we will join u for the environment revolution …

  10. Is there not a risk of the country not meeting the 15 year target and having lots of corporations looking for something for their investment? Finance isnt my strong point. Just wondering is this funding model solid, or could it go bad?

  11. What nobody is saying look at this hypocrite? Having a cellphone, glasses, bran new book and using a computer to show his power point? He is just guilty has the peoples he said that are responsible of his meltdown.

  12. It’s a tiny country that uses goods and services from India and China. So they rely on the two biggest polluters to keep there county alive

  13. Bhutan has a per capita income that pretty much everyone in the comments section would find unacceptable. They have almost no industry and most of their economy is based on agriculture. Their energy production comes almost completely from damming rivers and they earn wealth from selling excess electricity to India. In fact hydroelectric power is their largest export. In short, Bhutan is a poor country with insignificant industry and most of their successes are accidents of geograpghy that cannot be copied by other countries, because that would somehow require the creation of mountain rivers.

  14. I am sorry but I really think it will help climate change if every on earth throws 4 ice cubes in the ocean…..

  15. I bet the king doesn't live in stone-age conditions and dirt poverty like everybody else, but he does know that his people are …happy. And if the King says it, it must be true….
    25 euros per month for unskilled workers
    and 100 euros per month for a master craftsman.
    His Highness emissary and PM won't tell you that of course, or how he got to Vancouver…

  16. Mr.Prime Minister, you are not only a good talker but also a thoughtful leader . And Bhutan is lucky to have a leader like you.

  17. Coming from a country where $1 is 70 Rupees yeah sure let them give us a lesson in the least technically advanced country. Also funny the country charges you $200 per day just to see their country and thats without all other expenses. When stupid people in the comment section dont do their homework. Co2 is what plants breathe. Meanwhile his country is a third world country. Most of you commentors are idiots and have no idea what kind of country this is. You Genzies need to learn real science. The country doesn't even compare to US. Some of you idiots also need to learn economics as well.

  18. "Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Be it for jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes, access to energy for all is essential. Working towards this goal is especially important as it interlinks with other Sustainable Development Goals. Focusing on universal access to energy, increased energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy through new economic and job opportunities is crucial to creating more sustainable and inclusive communities and resilience to environmental issues like climate change."
    https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/energy/

  19. "The phrase ‘gross national happiness’ was first coined by the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972 when he declared, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing.

    Since then the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) has influenced Bhutan’s economic and social policy, and also captured the imagination of others far beyond its borders. In creating the Gross National Happiness Index, Bhutan sought to create a measurement tool that would be useful for policymaking and create policy incentives for the government, NGOs and businesses of Bhutan to increase GNH.

    The GNH Index includes both traditional areas of socio-economic concern such as living standards, health and education and less traditional aspects of culture and psychological wellbeing. It is a holistic reflection of the general wellbeing of the Bhutanese population rather than a subjective psychological ranking of ‘happiness’alone."
    https://ophi.org.uk/policy/national-policy/gross-national-happiness-index/

  20. Honor to you and your people. I am in awe for your detication and I will do so as well. Your resolve has been heard und it will make a change. Thank you!

  21. A bit strange but isn't carbon…carbon dioxide? If the country is truly carbon (dioxide) negative, no plants there would thrive. Yes, I'm interpreting the heading as a hyperbole, in the sense that Bhutan is very committed in environmental preservation. But still…

  22. ''The eunuch should not boast about his celibacy''.   Bhutan is too small to make the slightest bit of difference to anything about the world economy, ecology or environment.  It doesn't get to lecture the world about what other countries need to do or should do.   It's a mouse in a forest… irrelevant.

  23. Inspiring. Makes me want to tap in to networks that genuinely have solutions to our current state of disarray.
    I will put my future degree in marine biology to good use with encouraging stories like this to inspire me.

  24. The irony is that climate change is allowing them to be even more carbon negative. They're going to be an energy juggernaut.

  25. Thank you, Bhutan. Thank you for having our mess that we are producing every single day. I have never seen that kind of speech before, I wish All countries learn them, after all as he said "we are in it together"

  26. I’m a Genuine Bhutanese since my Birth but I was evicted when I was one or two years. Had to leave a life of a refugee in eastern part of Nepal for more than two decades. I’m very fortunate of being Bhutanese refugee because where in the world many people even don’t know about it. I had hard time to survive as refugee but in next I had free school in English medium. At present I’m living in USA and Bhutan’s prime minister Tshering Tobgay came to my yard and sending messages to the world where I’m from.

    Time flies and memories becomes stories.

  27. Ok … bhutan is the best and bhutnese culture religion and people are the kind hearted and peace loving people….just a question to ministers of bhutan and the government and to the contitution ….we as a lhotsampa…what is my part and which class bhutnese am i…? 3rd?….do i have to accept the national religion and be or addapted DRUKPA to be a 1st class bhutnese national and be able to get help and recognised by government…no matter how much nice kind and peace loving beautiful or modern bhutan is…but please dont try to just erase a history of lhotsampa….!!! These people are just two faced …could you please ask to these bhutnese diplomats about lhotsampa….??? Do these so called DRUKPA got a strong heart to tell the tales of Lhotsampa…sss????

  28. This is the best ted i have ever listened 😍 , may the context is of being mother nature , thanks it is a motivation . After listening this i wish i could be a citizen of bhutan , well done bhutan ,👍

  29. We have the science to make Neutral C02 fuel now. Bill Gates just invested 70 Mil in the technology. (See Co called Carbon Engineering). Bill says he is optimistic about the future. Science has the ability to save our Energy and Environmental issues. Bill Gates said this, and I think he is right. See Also Ted Talk Bjorn Lomberg. Very logical guy. The U.N has a plan called agenda 21. It is scary, look it up yourself. Science already exists to change things around. The real concern is the Elites of the world that just want us scared, poor and in chaos. God Bless!

  30. 1: It's easy to be green when you have so much hydroelectic resources that you can make it your number 1 export. Geological lottery. Live in a place without it, well sod off and suffer I guess.
    2: Happiness is important, just don't be gay, that's a prison term.
    3: Also don't hold on to your own culture or you can GTFO like 100 000 Lhotshampa [in a country of 800K
    4: But feel free to protest, I hope torture makes you happy.

    This speech is full of garbage and the positive commentators and people of the audience are woefully misinformed. Half way through the video I was curious, I found this out in a matter of moments.

  31. Methane is 300 times more potent green house gas than CO2. Why zero in on C02 which is a good gas? Should the whole world mothball coal and use electric vehicles whose battery market has been monopolised by a certain group? Who is the benefactor?
    Why are the world leaders being fooled again and again through COP2X summits and UNFCCC using technical jargons?

    Measure methane released through Fracking, Fertilisers and Beef. Punish the perpetrators of Operation Starfish Prime.

  32. Machiavelli would have been proud of the bhutan monarchs❤️have visited this beautiful country myself…. they are very friendly people

  33. TED talks are like
    "TED INTRO WILL DESTROY YOUR EARS!!!!!!!!!!!"
    "content barely audible"
    "TED OUTRO WILL DESTROY YOUR EARS!!!!!!!!!!!"

  34. Bhutan – a country that is broke, with no prospects and unfreindly neighbors all around. Making a virtue of poverty.
    Carbon neutrality is a hoax. The globe may be ´warming, but .01% increase in atmospheric CO2 is not causing that warming.
    Carbon neutrality is a way of monetizing the ATMOSPHERE.
    Friday for future my butt

  35. this line "My country and my people have done nothing to contribute to global warming. But we already bearing the brunt of its consequences"

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