Sustainability in an emerging nation: The Bhutan case study
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© 2018 by the authors. With the onset of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, the world's nations were to create economic development integrating environmental and social improvement. However, there is still much uncertainty in the world of politics and academia as to whether these integrated goals are achievable and how they can fit best with diverse national and local contexts. Thus, there is always a need to find nations that can show how it can be achieved in different settings shaped by local experiences, challenges, and opportunities. Bhutan could be one of these nations as it could be argued that it has, to an extent, simplified the task to fit its values and aspirations. Bhutan has three major goals that need to be integrated: Wealth (GDP) to align with their middle-income aspiration, thus providing opportunities for employment, Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) that are maintained at a carbon neutral level, which is beyond most national commitments, and Bhutan's renowned Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, which covers their socio-economic goals. We show this integration and then synthesize some core findings from a literature review on the theory and practice of sustainable development through the lens of the three integrated goals of Bhutan, thereby placing the case of Bhutan into the wider literature. This paper seeks to show how one emerging nation can model an operational sustainability policy. The paper highlights some plausible synergies between the 17 SDGs and the domains and indicators of GNH that could help nations struggling with how they can create sensible sustainability outcomes from these new global agendas. Bhutan has framed the GNH as its contribution to sustainability. However, this paper suggests that it may be the integration of the GNH with GDP and GHG that is its real contribution. Furthermore, Bhutan's 3G model of fully integrating GNH, GDP, and GHG suggests a way forward for achieving their imperatives of economic growth, whilst enabling the SDGs and achieving the difficult climate change goal. It may also suggest a model for other nations wanting to find a complementary way of framing economic growth, the 17 SDGs, and the Paris Agreement into a coherent set of policies.
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