Statement by Ambassador H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Second Committee of the 65th Session of the General Assembly
Agenda Item 20: Sustainable Development
2nd November, 2010, New York

Madame Chair,

Climate Change:

Climate change is, in our view, a real and an immediate threat. The fourth IPCC Report concluded that climate change poses an unequivocal challenge to human development and, even, existence.  We are talking about the world that our children will inherit.  Scientists agree that no region in the world is immune from climate change. Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that developing countries will be the major victims of climate change. The World Development Report estimates that developing countries will bear 75%-80% of the global climate change costs, though, in the first place, they were not responsible for it. The same report forecasts that South Asia will lose agricultural yields by 18% in 2050 while the population will not decrease appreciably. This region has recently become increasingly vulnerable to a range of natural disasters. The massive floods in Pakistan illustrate the extent of such devastation. Against this backdrop, we urge the early establishment of a climate fund to address calamities of such nature. 
While the threat looms large, solutions are also within reach. The World Investment Report identified transnational corporations (TNCs) as “major carbon emitters and low-carbon investors”, who are “both part of the problem and the solution to climate change”. We endorse the report’s proposal to create a global partnership to synergise investment and climate change mitigation. The ongoing climate negotiations should effectively reflect this view. The private sector can be a major catalyst in addressing the problem through the concept of corporate social responsibility in order to transform our societies, especially production, to low carbon emitters. In Sri Lanka, our garment and apparel sector has embraced cleaner production methods to such an extent that they can now market their products under the slogan “Garments without guilt”.     

The UNFCCC negotiations need to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities should form the backdrop to our efforts. The AWG-KP and the AWG-LCA of the UNFCCC should continue their work with a view to attaining a legally biding outcome at Cancun. The proposed shared vision for long-term cooperative action by the AWG-LCA, including enhanced action on adaptation and its associated means of implementation, mitigation, including the provision of new and additional financial resources, as well as investment and capacity-building require urgent attention. Substantial assistance to developing countries both financial and technical is a must to realize a break in the rush towards disaster. It is unreasonable to expect developing countries to halt their progress for no fault of their own. They must be assisted to adopt a different model of development. Without substantial financial and technical assistance, and associated emission cuts, business as usual or clever mathematical models will only condemn us to a bleak future.  Cancun must not be viewed as a challenge to do a deal, but an opportunity to save our future.

Madame Chair,


The successful Nagoya outcome of the CBD COP 10 adds value to our optimism. The host, Japan, deserves our unreserved complements for their stewardship. Now it is up to us to give effect to the three outcomes. We see merit in the Multi-Year Plan of Action on South-South Cooperation on Biodiversity for Development adopted by the G- 77 and China. Many developing countries are actively engaged in biological diversity conservation. However, as reported in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, the eleven global biodiversity goals for 2010 remain mostly unachieved. Adequate financing and effective implementation would be the key to achieving success. It is important to address the human/biodiversity conflict on an urgent basis.      

In my country, the endeavour to enhance environmental conservation is reflected in the imposition of a complete moratorium on timber felling, placing 13 wet-zone forests under total protection and the Greener Sri Lanka sustainable development programme. Past experience has proved that policies alone cannot yield results, if there is no ownership at community level. Hence, we have been mindful to ensure the widest possible participatory mechanism when designing the National Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan (NBCAP) in the country.

Sri Lankan rainforests are home to nearly all of the country’s endemic plants and about 75% of the endemic animals. The rich array of fauna and flora places Sri Lanka among the world’s top 18 biodiversity hotspots. UNESCO has designated four natural forests in Sri Lanka as UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Sinharaja, Knuckles, the Peak Wildernes and Horton Plains. The Slender Loris, long thought to be extinct, was recently rediscovered after 60 years in the Central Highlands. We have set a target of increasing the country’s forest cover to 33% of the land area by year 2016. We will support REDD-Plus activities, which are country driven and voluntary. These activities must receive adequate predictable and sustainable financing and technological support. Indigenous people and local communities are also involved in the implementation of REDD plus process.

Madame Chair,

Sustainable development:

The Rio Principles which we adopted in 1992, remain valid. We look forward to engaging in a comprehensive stocktaking in the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference in Rio in 2012. The balancing of the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social development and environment sustainability will be fundamental. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Marrakech Process are integral parts of the progress achieved, though our commitments and responsibilities differ. The concept of a green economy must not lead to new and unchartered directions in intergovernmental endeavours but should complement the globally agreed sustainable development principles. Any positive transformation in developing countries however requires technological transfers, knowledge sharing and capacity building. To seek commitments from developing countries while ignoring these elements will be fruitless.  On the other hand, the major consumers and waste producers must link their production and consumption patterns to the obligation to be environmentally sustainable.

Sri Lanka, as a developing country, has made every effort to work within the agreed parameters, despite multiple challenges. Our policy follows the vision that, “Sustainable development is achieving sustained economic growth that is socially, equitable and ecologically sound, with peace and stability”. In this context, the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) has been established under the Haritha Lanka (Green Lanka) Programme in collaboration with all line Ministries. In order to ensure environmental sustainability in our development efforts, government Ministries have been re-oriented with the major emphasis being placed on addressing energy,  climate change and other environmental aspects. NCSD encompasses the themes of Clean Air Everywhere, Saving the Fauna, Flora and Ecosystems, Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change, Wise Use of the Coastal Belt and the Sea Around, Responsible Use of the Land Resources, Doing Away with Dumps, Water for All and Always, Green Cities for Health and Prosperity, Greening the Industries and Knowledge for Right Choices. We have incorporated cleaner production principles in to our national development activities. Sri Lanka’s National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC) was established with the support of UNIDO to serve the needs of the industrial sector. 

Madame Chair,

Disaster Management

Sri Lanka’s National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) is ready for implementation. The main aim of this Plan is to translate policy into action by formulating specific activities. It aims to establish mechanisms and systems for Disaster Risk Management (DRM). These function as multi-sectoral, inter-ministerial, and inter-agency activities. Among actions taken, are an early warning network to alert citizens on anticipated disasters through mobile phones and constructing multi-hazard warning towers in coastal areas. The programme provides training facilities and facilitates public awareness. Disaster Management has also been integrated into the school curriculum.

I thank you, Madame Chair.

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