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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Ensuring Sustainability in Socio-economic Development

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In post-COVID-19 Sarawak, priority will be placed on sustainable development to guarantee long-term economic progress and societal well-being, as long as the Government, the private sector, civil society organisations and communities are committed to making this aspiration a reality.

This is the gist of Sarawak’s Post-COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030), which was unveiled by Chief Minister YAB Datuk Patinggi (Dr) Abang Haji Abdul Rahman Zohari bin Tun Datuk Abang Haji Openg on 22 July 2021.

Environmental sustainability is one of the three pillars of the strategy, and thus a fundamental aspect of the State’s development initiatives, especially in its recovery efforts from the ongoing pandemic and its socio-economic growth towards becoming a developed state by 2030.

Prioritising sustainable development is essential for Sarawak to tackle environmental problems such as pollution. Photo by Pixnio

This is also in line with the global trend of investors putting environmental sustainability high in their criteria of investment decision-making, compelling economic sectors to adopt a more greener approach and play their part in tackling environmental problems, including pollution, environmental degradation, resource depletion and climate change.

“As such, our emphasis on environmental sustainability will pave the way for more investment inflow to Sarawak that will co-create solutions, more green jobs and business opportunities to drive our economy on a sustainable manner,” said the Chief Minister.

Here’s a look at how Sarawak intends to achieve environmental sustainability through PCDS 2030:

Strategic Thrusts

One of the seven strategic thrusts under PCDS 2030 involves balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability, meaning by taking “a responsible approach” towards the use of natural resources and integration of climate adaptation and mitigation plans.

“This approach prioritises the sustainable use of land and ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the land and ocean ecosystem,” described the Chief Minister.

As such, initiatives that Sarawak plans to carry out are in line with sustainable development principles and commitments towards climate adaptation, including:

  • Maintaining over 50 percent of forest and tree cover;
  • Establishing an integrated watershed management policy to conserve and protect water resources;
  • Increasing urban green spaces; and
  • Prioritising green mobility solutions, including developing electric vehicle (EV) based public transport systems and expansion of renewable energy.

 Key Economic Sectors

Aspects of environmental sustainability is particularly relevant in the forestry sector, where Sarawak strives to be internationally recognised for its sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation, at the same time boosting the growth of its timber industry.

“Forest management practices and stewardship will focus on balancing rate of deforestation and growth, increasing product yield and enhancing services obtained from forests.

“In addition, sustainable approaches to monetise Sarawak’s rich resources will be implemented to provide economic opportunities for the rural communities,” explained the Chief Minister.

Forestry initiatives that Sarawak is focusing on are, among others:

  • Replanting of 200,000 ha of degraded forest areas;
  • Implementation of carbon credits programmes;
  • Establishment of bamboo plantation and development of bamboo-based industry; and
  • Certification of 4.5 million ha of long-term forest licence area (natural forest) by 2022, as well as 178,000 ha of forest plantation by 2025 under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme and Forest Stewardship Council.

Key Enablers

Environmental sustainability, like the other pillars of PCDS 2030 (economic prosperity and social inclusivity), influences each key enabler of the Sarawak’s development strategy, be they investments in green transportation systems or innovations that support sustainable initiatives.

Perhaps one key enabler that best illustrates such influence is renewable energy, in which the State aims to take advantage of its “affordable, reliable and renewable energy” in order to become a regional powerhouse, subsequently leading to sustainable progress and prosperity.

One of Sarawak’s electric buses. Sarawak is looking to implement various sustainable initiatives, including investments in green mobility solutions. Photo from https://kuchingmetro.my/

“Aligned to this aspiration, Sarawak will maintain at least 60 percent of its generation capacity mix from renewable sources and generate 15 percent of renewable energy sector income from foreign markets.

“Public-private collaboration towards expanding renewable energy generation as well as in promoting exports of renewable energy and related services will be intensified,” elaborated the Chief Ministers.

Initiatives to promote renewable energy include the Sarawak hydrogen economy, 50MW floating solar, mini hydro projects and EVs.

Impact Under Environmental Sustainability

In the near future, Sarawak will develop its own Sustainable Environment Blueprint, which will encompass the green and blue economy initiatives.

The green economy involves every economic activity that take place on land. In order to draw up green economy initiatives, the State will establish a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory to enable all economic sectors and cities to determine major contributors to GHG emissions.

Meanwhile, for the formulation of initiatives under the blue economy – comprising economic activities conducted in the ocean and at coastal areas – Sarawak will create an index to lay out the necessary input and indicators related to sustainable development of marine environment.

These initiatives will be part of a comprehensive and holistic Sarawak Sustainable Environment Blueprint, which will consist of among others climate action, financing, green cities and mobility, resilient infrastructure, and circular economy.

“The Blueprint, which will map out our strategies to build a sustainable, resource-efficient and climate-resilient State, is to be enforced and implemented by the enforcement agencies through intensified data collection and digitalisation,” said the Chief Minister. Read more on PCDS 2030 at sarawak.gov.my.

An infographic on the interdependency between economic sectors and key enablers in achieving environmental sustainability under PCDS 2030. Extracted from https://sarawak.gov.my/media/attachments/PCDS_Compressed_22_July_2021.pdf
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