The race is on - which country will be the first to become carbon neutral?

by Chris Blaxland. Published Fri 11 Jul 2014 14:29

What does it mean to be ‘smart’? When it comes to energy, the 21st century has introduced a number of ways to address human needs while minding the conservation and maintenance of Earth’s resources. For example, smart homes help target efficiency by self-adjusting internal lights, room temperatures, and allotted energy powering products.

However, while a number of nations and individual cities target methods of energy efficiency, some are opting for complete conservation, becoming carbon neutral.

What is Carbon Neutrality?

Having a ‘net zero carbon footprint’ means to offset the amount of carbons released into the air. Seeking neutrality means lessening and altogether avoiding carbon footprints. An entity may ‘balance’ a carbon footprint by countering emissions with the production of energy that does not take away an equal amount from the earth.

Carbon offsetting is the practice of removing or sequestering the complete amount of previously released emissions - planting trees for example.

Energy Efficient versus Conservation

The sentiment of achieving carbon neutrality stems from striving toward creating a better planet, or reversing some of the waged damage already done in the least. Energy efficiency is about doing more with what’s given; for example, a fluorescent light bulb uses less energy to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb. The fluorescent’s endeavor is more efficient when it comes to energy conservation. Homeowners interested in energy consumption and looking for low tariffs may seek information online.

Therefore, the act of replacing all bulbs in one’s home with bulbs that exercise efficiency is conservative; it saves energy overall. So, particular nations do not just want to lessen the amount of traffic emissions and wattage use of transportation grids, etc. Some municipalities seek to use no more than is needed and in the least countering what’s used with alternative production, achieving carbon neutrality.


Sweden hopes to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the nation inspired by its industrialized city, Kalmar. The city has a population of 60,000, replaces its reliance on fossil fuels, and obtains energy for lighting and heating from renewable power sources.

Vehicles on Swedish roads run on Biogas, composed of waste wood and chicken manure. When supplies are running low, natives lean on supplies of ethanol from Brazil. Sweden has high aspirations but the fact that it hosts one of the highest rates of power consumption per person (in Europe) poses an obstacle. Though Swedes are conservative-minded, the cold weather highly dictates the need for heating power.


The Maldives are composed of more than 1,000 unique islands, most uninhibited. Maldives, with little to invest in conservation, counters lack of fiscal stimulus with little need for a lot of resources. The chain of islands will be observed by places around the globe hosting similar circumstances regarding waged investments. Maldives leaders plan to invest what little monies the nation has in wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy sources.

The Maldives, though modest in size as compared to most nations, could be one of the first to suffer if the sea should rise. Therefore, the nation’s participation in green efforts is both understood and a necessity for survival.


Norway seeks to achieve carbon neutrality in the near future. Though criticized by associates of Greenpeace, carbon offsetting is a planned implementation of Norwegian government. However, to date, there is no news of exact plans as to how Norway plans to implement efficiency on homeland soil. Initially, the Norwegian plan is centered upon buying carbon offsets from other lands. While minor acts of efficiency exacted by installing insulation in Norwegian homes for example, Norway seeks to incorporate outside nations.


99% of Iceland’s electricity production, along with nearly 80% of total energy production, is a result of hydropower and geothermal sources. Aside from respective at-home plights, Iceland is a member of the Climate Neutral Network, an initiative led by UNEP to expedite action regarding inspiring low-carbon economies and societies of peoples.

Vatican City

Following nod from the Pope to eliminate global warming, the Vatican seeks to be the very first to achieve carbon neutrality. The Vatican Climate Forest in Hungary would be an integral component of the enterprise, sized to offset the area’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Supply and Demand

The nations that demand to go carbon neutral are those supplying opportunities for associated jobs and positions. USA, Japan, Brazil, China and Germany are leading in opportunities for those interested in fields related to renewable energy, etc, with China alone expected to create about 40 million new jobs by the year 2020.

Even in areas that don’t aspire to become the first carbon neutral nation, expect to fulfill promises of new job opportunities and methods of improving native energy consumption; Nigeria seeks to create a quarter-million new jobs through its implementation of hydroelectric power generation.

Who will be the first to achieve complete neutrality? It’s hard to predict from this stage, but each nation’s step toward a greener world is better for all.

Chris Blaxland is an energy researcher with a passion for domestic energy concerns. After years of research, he often blogs about his insights and the emerging solutions and ideas in the energy sector.

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