President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the potential for Sri Lanka to establish a green economy, particularly through renewable energy, at a high-level event focused on strategies to accelerate the country’s transition to a green growth pathway. The event, hosted by the Ministry of Environment and the Global Green Growth Institute, was held on the morning of February 6th at the Grand Ballroom in Hilton Colombo.
During his address, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the efforts of the Sri Lankan government to ensure a green economy and a better world by 2050, through the creation of a Natural Adaption Plan and National Environment Action Plan. He announced plans to draft a new Climate Change Act and a new Environment Act, which will replace the old act and cover reforestation, forest cover, and tree cover.
Furthermore, President Wickremesinghe stated that Sri Lanka is set to be the first country in the region to recognize some of its assets as living entities. This recognition will be granted to the Knuckles Range, Horton Plains, Peak Wilderness, Sinharaja Forest, Mahaweli River, and Adams Bridge.
The event was attended by prominent individuals and organizations working towards a greener future for Sri Lanka.
The statement made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe is as follows.
The signing of the Host Country Agreement with the Global Green Growth Initiative tomorrow, will be the first steps that we will be taking to establish a green economy and meet climate change goals.
I welcome the eighth Secretary General of the United Nations and the President of the Assembly and Chair of the Council of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Ban Ki-moon for the signing of the Host Country Agreement with the Global Green Growth Initiative. Hence, Ban Ki-Moon will be associated with two historic agreements signed in Sri Lanka in which the first paved the way for reconciliation.
We are seriously concerned of the situation on climate change and the actions taken. What has happened so far is insufficient and the last conference of parties did not achieve the results that we desired.
The low income countries and the middle income countries are striving for economic development while protecting living standards with insufficient funding. So these countries are committed to a call for action by the developed countries to deliver their funding pledges by doubling their funding which is essential.
I realize that some developed countries are experiencing a recession this year, but nevertheless the targets had not been met earlier. So there has to be a full commitment of how we are going to meet the targets and what assistance is required. The other issue is the need for compensation for the developing countries where the emissions so far were not the responsibility of our countries.
The third issue is how to address the loss and damages. This is not the issue of asking the developed countries to spend a lot of money for further development of the developing countries. Let us work out a sort of list, combine the money that is needed and then see how we are going to raise it. There has to be a contribution by them, as well as a contribution by us. But let’s agree on what we have to do.
The fact is that the achievements of the last COP26 meeting had not been fulfilled so far, worries us. Glasgow was a good turning point. The initiative taken by former Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson was important, but it was not followed up.
We must ensure that those targets are met. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Environment to sound out other developing countries with whom they spoke last time on how a joint action plan could be made. Perhaps, a meeting of the heads of government, of the concerned countries could be convened in the UAE, prior to the next conference.
That is the only way that we can achieve results and we must go hard on it as there is no halfway house. We have to insist that these are goals and these are our minimal demands. It’s either the minimum demands or it is far better to call it a day if we are not going to achieve this result.
Sri Lanka is in the process to decrease carbon emissions by 14.5 percent by 2030 and more thereafter. We are creating the Climate Change Office operating under the Presidential Secretariat to coordinate all actions in regard to climate change. Then we have prepared our natural adaption plan and their national environment Action Plan.
All of this is being taken as the initiative by our government so that we ensure a green economy and a better world by 2050. We are developing the net zero 2050 plan that aims for carbon neutrality. We will not increase further energy capacity via coal power.
We will phase out the fossil fuel subsidies. We are already doing that and we have come under attack from the Opposition for phasing it out. And we will aim for 70 per cent of renewable energy for power generation by 2030.
There are many initiatives that we will be taking for this period. Firstly, a new Climate Change Act, which will incorporate the Climate Change Office, will be formulated. Then a new Environment Act will be formulated to replace the old one, which was enacted in the early 1980s, and one which will cover reforestation forest cover and tree cover.
The last one is to recognize some of our assets as living entities. The Knuckles Range, Horton plains, peak wilderness, the Sinharaja Forest, the Mahaweli river and Adams Bridge will be identified as living entities and that will be the first in the region to do so.
Final is the setting up of the International Climate Change University. We want to start it as a Postgraduate University and a university for training officials in all regions in the Indian Ocean, and in Africa to prepare the world for meeting the climate change goals and a new climate change and new green economy.
Now we are grappling with the issue of a green economy. That’s where we want to go. We find that we have the potential, especially on renewable energy, with the help of the Asian Development Bank we are assessing what our capacity for renewable energy and green hydrogen would be. Some say we will have an excess capacity of about 30 Giga-watts, but, some say 40, some say 50.
But we want to have the assessment made by the Asian Development Bank. So, we have already called for investment in this region. This is one area that we can prosper.
With regard to our economic base, we are looking at the new technologies, which certainly will not be involved with fossil fuel and to have new manufacturing and service industries based on industry for technology to modernize agriculture. Accordingly, we will be moving towards the green economy. But we are going to face difficulties. One is the lack of capacity.
And we also need great access to international financing. We will also be able to financially engineer the debt. By using the green financial instrument we could reduce the present debt load. Our domestic policy will be geared to our climate prosperity plan. So this is the path that Sri Lanka wishes to follow, and I have no doubt that the GGGI will help us to achieve this. The agreement we will sign tomorrow will be the first in the steps that we will take.
Former Secretary General of the UN and the President of the Assembly and Chair of the Council of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Ban Ki-moon addressing the gathering said that he learnt about those changes that took place during the last six and a half years since his last visit and added that he was confident that democracy and sustainable economic development in the country could be achieved under the wise leadership of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed addressing the occasion explained in detail the steps that the government is planning to take in regard to a green economy and meeting the climate change targets for 2050.
Secretary to the Ministry of Environment Dr Anil Jasinghe and Asia Regional Director and Head of Programs, GGGI Dr Achala Abeysinghe also addressed the event.
The Panel Discussion included panelists Director (Climate Change) Ministry of Environment Ms. Kumudini Vidyalankara, Chief Executive Officer Dilmah Tea and chair of Biodiversity Sri Lanka Dilhan Fernando, Chief Executive Officer of the National Development Bank Dimantha Seneviratne, Senior Research Professional of the Center for Poverty Analysis Ms. Karin Fernando and Senior Professor of the University of Peradeniya Prof. Buddhi Marambe.
Ambassador of Korea to Sri Lanka Santhush W. Jeong, Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry, Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Rathnayake and, Senior Advisor to the President on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardena also participated in this event.