Despite the global sustainable development report 2019 (GSDR) pointing towards unsustainable model of development and implementation of SDGs 2030 in the world, Bhutan is well on the way to achieving the goals.
The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development is the first quadrennial report prepared by 15 independent groups of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary General.
The report concluded that the world is at the risk of irreversibly degrading the natural systems and is off-track in achieving the SDGs.
However, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the implementation of SDGs in Bhutan was synonymous to Bhutan’s development principle of Gross National Happiness (GNH).
“We are on track. This year, the United Nations General Assembly’s theme is localising SDGs. No country in the world has localised the goals like Bhutan has,” Lyonchhen said.
According to the 17 SDGs, the country has identified 17 National Key Result Areas. Secretary of Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), Thinley Namgyel, said that there were different committees at different levels to provide dedicated executive guidance and administrative support to SDG implementation.
The 15-member GNH Commission, chaired by the Prime Minister, assumes the responsibility of overseeing SDG-related matters.
Prime Minister said the GNHC was entrusted with the responsibility to coordinate, advise, monitor, evaluate and report progress on the implementation of the SDGs in Bhutan.
Last year, the Voluntary National Review of Bhutan to UN found that except for networking and economic vulnerability, the country was on track in implementing the SDGs.
“If we are heard throughout the world, we would be an example on the implementation of SDG 2030. Preparing a voluntary national review is hard, but to know how far we have come and how we can go forward, we will produce the report annually,” Lyonchhen said.
The report emphasised four key areas at tipping point — inequalities, climate change, biodiversity loss, and increasing amounts of waste from human activity, which would cause irreversible impact on the planet if changes were not made urgently.
An official from GNHC said that besides constitutional mandate of minimum 60 per cent forest cover, the country had prepared and implemented National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and was now working on National Adaptation Plan (NAP) which focused on climate and water impact.
The Government has also developed National Action Programme to combat land degradation and the National Biodiversity Action Programme. To provide better sectoral focus in terms of adaptation actions, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest developed Sectoral Adaptation Plan of Action (SAPA) to guide its project, programme and activity alignment.
“Keeping the commitment of carbon neutral development, Bhutan developed sectoral strategies on waste, transport, industry and the elaboration of GHG mitigation measures in three sectors of human settlement, industry and energy efficiency,” the official said.
Resident Coordinator of UN Bhutan, Gerald Daly, said that the UN was contributing in Bhutan’s effort to adapt to and build resilience to the impacts of climate change through the Green Climate Fund.
“Bhutan’s carbon-negative feature is highlighted in this global report which shows that Bhutan is indeed a valued environmental role-model to the rest of the international community,” Gerald Daly said.
The report projected that the global use of materials is set to almost double between 2017 and 2060, from 89 gigatons to 167 gigatons with increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions and other toxic effects such as those from mining and other pollution sources.
In the country, reports have shown that the import of fuel-based vehicles is on the rise due to inadequate public transport in urban areas. To minimise long-term impacts in the country, GNHC official said that RGoB had plans to encourage electric vehicles and enabling environment such as installation of quick charging stations, subsidies, and tax exemption.
To increase the zero emission vehicles in the country, there are initiatives to replace fuel-based taxis by electric taxis through introduction of Bhutan Rapid Transport (BRT) in the capital city to ensure fast, comfortable and cost-effective services.
“By 2023, Bhutan aims to reduce the frequency of urban transport services from 15 to 10 minutes. We are also exploring possibilities of replacing fuel-based bus by the electric buses,” the official said.
Gerald Daly said that 300 electric vehicles and 12 fast-charging stations are coming to Bhutan, which is in line with the GSDR report. “This project is catalytic as this project will help to test and prove the viability of new technology, reduce pollution, strengthen our private sector and perhaps most importantly reduce our reliance on expensive fuel imports.”
In the country, due to increased rural-urban migration, there were reports of fallow agricultural lands in rural areas although agriculture was identified as one of the five jewels to provide livelihood. People abandoned their fields mainly due to rising human-wildlife conflict in the east and the south. GSDR zoomed in on the need to develop food, energy systems, consumption and production, and cities for human health and well-being.
In the 12th Plan, strategies to minimise human-wildlife conflict was identified. Giving incentives, strengthening irrigation system, farm mechanisation, enhancement of farm labour, price support system for agriculture produce and creating a network of post-production and marketing were some of the key areas.
Thinley Namgyel said that in rural communities, farmers were provided subsidy in the form of training, agriculture tools and seedlings to make sense of the fallow land and to promote food security. “To tackle human-wildlife conflict, electric fencing is provided free of cost and ministry of agriculture is exploring innovative ideas to solve the issue with the advent of frontier technology.”
Community-led ideas like insurance scheme to cover the losses, he said, were supported and looked after by the ministry. “There is also revised Human-Wildlife Conflict Management Strategy (2018-28) which is in the final stages of formulation to tackle the issue.”
In 2015, countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The goals are interconnected.