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Role Model Bhutan Takes Zen Approach To Climate Change

HughPickens.com writes: Matt McGrath writes at BBC that Bhutan, the strongly Buddhist country where up to three-quarters of the population follow the religion, is the only country in the world considered a role model by the Climate Action Tracking organization. Bhutan has put forward the concept of “Gross National Happiness”, that represents a commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s culture based on Buddhist spiritual values instead of western material development gauged by gross domestic product (GDP). Bhutan’s Constitution mandates its territory to be at least 60% covered by forest – the vast carbon sink a boon for its balancing of humanity and nature. Right now over 70% is under trees, and so great are the forests, that the country absorbs far more carbon than its 750,000 population can produce. As well as inhaling all that CO2, the Bhutanese are pushing out large amounts of electricity to India, generated by hydropower from their fast flowing rivers. The prime minister says that their waters hold the potential to offset 100 million tonnes of Indian emissions every year. That’s around a fifth of Britain’s current annual outpourings.

Bhutan has embraced electric vehicles and the government envisages the capital city Thimpu, as a “clean-electric” city with green taxis for its 100,000 citizens — Bold plans for a city that at present doesn’t have any traffic lights! “We see ourselves on the one hand being able to use electric cars for our own purposes, to protect our environment, to improve our economy, but also to show in a small measure that sustainable transport works and that electric vehicles are a reality,” says Tshering Tobgay. “”In Bhutan the distances are short, electricity is very cheap and because of the mountains you can’t drive exceedingly fast, so all these combined to provide us with the opportunity for the investment.”

According to Dr Marcia Rocha, it’s not just a question of Bhutan being spectacularly endowed with natural advantages. “I think they are a country that culturally are very connected to nature, in every document that they submit it’s there, it’s just a very important focus of their politics.” “We may be small, our impact not huge, but we always try many conservation projects,” says Kinlay Dorjee, mayor of capital Thimphu. However the modest Bhutanese Prime Minister rejects the idea that his country is the leader of the climate pack. “I feel that calling Bhutan a role model is not appropriate, every country has their own sets of challenges and their own sets opportunities.”

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