|CLIMATE CHANGE – SRI LANKA’S PERSPECTIVE|
|Thursday, 08 October 2009 17:03|
ICT for Development Conference, United Nations
7th October, 2009
Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
The time for dilly-dallying over the question of climate change is over. Scientists from around the world have agreed that climate change is a reality. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change consisting of 4000 experts, demonstrated in 2007 that human-induced factors are relentlessly driving the increase in the global temperature. The 2006 Stern Review concluded that global worming would damage the global GDP by over 20%. Humans have pursued greater material gain and in the process caused serious damage to our natural environment and contributed to global warming. If we allow this trend to continue, we are likely to cause irreversible damage to the global climate and also progressively make life difficult, if not impossible, for coming generations. Our actions are causing our planet to become unliveable. We are evicting ourselves from our only home. We are already experiencing unusual weather patterns, serious and prolonged droughts, unusual rainfall, frequent and severe cyclones and hurricanes, massive flooding, land slides, reduction of the permafrost, glacier retreat and the progressive melting of the polar ice caps. These developments are likely to combine to tilt the delicate balance of the global environment in such a way that human existence itself might be challenged seriously. In my own country we have begun to note changes in weather patterns that have affected agricultural cycles and a greater incidence of insect populations and insect borne deceases.
In the South Asia region, it is likely that sea-level rise will result in the inundation of vast tracks of coastal areas and river estuaries affecting coastal habitations, the tourism industry and coastal fisheries. The death of coral reefs will affect fisheries, on which millions depend. It is also likely that surface water resources will become contaminated with vast areas becoming uninhabitable. Millions will be affected. A flood of refugees of a different nature, environmental refugees will result from this. These refugees will be forced to seek homes elsewhere.
The threatening developments that worried us in 2002 have continued unabated. As we head for Copenhagen, much doubt remains about our resolve to deal with the threat of climate change adequately. We consume our time on sophisticated arguments and clever formulations as the future of our children becomes threatened on a daily basis.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I note with a degree of satisfaction, the commitments undertaken by the G-8, whereby the need to arrest global warming and to curtail the emission of Greenhouse Gases was recognized. This was a very welcome development, in particular, the commitment to reduce developed country emissions by 80% by the year 2050. The major developed countries have brought challenging proposals to the table. However, given the gravity of the challenge, it is still uncertain as to whether these are adequate. There is no doubt in my mind that the world is in this dangerous predicament today, due to the unsustainable development model adopted by the developed countries since the Industrial Revolution due to ignorance and sheer greed and rapaciousness. They pursued profit and higher living standards to the exclusion of all else. The enlightened man’s enlightenment extended only so far. Developed countries in their rush to development, burned fossil fuels in huge quantities, ravaged their life-giving forests, polluted their rivers and the ocean, and in the process, acquired enviable standards of living. They also occupied the carbon space of other countries without consent and, in the process, ran up a massive carbon debt. Unfortunately, all of us in the developing world, being subject to normal human frailties, also aspire to similar standards of living and creature comforts. But, if developing countries were also to follow the same model of development, there is no doubt that the global environment will be rendered unsustainable. As we strive for a more comfortable life, we will also make our world an unliveable desert. There seems to be only one solution – and that does not involve demanding that the developing world arrest its aspirations to improve the lives of its people. People in the developing world also must be permitted to acquire the comforts of life which are now taken for granted in the developed world but they must do so in a sustainable manner.
Technology exists today which would enable all of us to improve our living standards without causing irreversible damage to the environment. However, this technology is expensive and complicated. For example, power generation, though cheap through the use of fossil fuels, could also be done through more sophisticated and expensive technology using solar power, or the ever-present wind and other renewable resources. In Sri Lanka 40% of the energy is generated from bio-fuels.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
I would like to leave with you a simple thought gleaned from the successful Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention on the Ozone Layer, pursuant to which developed countries undertook to provide funding to enable developing countries to utilize ozone-friendly and sophisticated technologies and substances. These technologies were also obtained from the developed world. The use of technologies harmful to the ozone layer was to be phased out. We all know that this is a very successful environmental convention. At a practical level, a cause of skin cancer and eye cataracts, mostly in developed countries, may have been reduced. The ozone hole in the South is closing. We could use the same model in order to address the threat of global warming and climate change while enabling the developing countries to achieve some of the same comforts of life that are taken for granted in the developed World. . However, this would mean providing necessary funding for developing countries to adopt technologies that are environmental-friendly. So that they could continue to develop without significantly contributing to global warming in the process. We must also not forget the need to adjust our habits. Developed countries will also be required to adopt policies curtailing the wasteful use of energy and the conservation of resources. They must drastically reduce their emission levels.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Measures need to be put in place to help countries to adopt policies to address the immediate consequences of climate change. For some the threat is immediate. The climate adaptation fund must be strengthened considerably. The climate adaptation fund will enable poor developing countries to adopt measures to address the consequences of climate change in the immediate future. The positive tone adopted by the G-8 on adaptation measures is encouraging.
From our own perspective, it is recognized that tropical rain forests are a major carbon absorption mechanism. Deforestation of these forests is responsible for approximately 20% of carbon emissions of the world. If we are to preserve these forests and also avoid 20% of carbon emissions, sufficient incentives must be provided to those countries which host these forests, to maintain them. Though a small island, over 20% of Sri Lanka is still under forest cover. We strongly believe that these forests are a resource for us, but if this resource is not to be utilized for our development, then practical measures must be made available to preserve them. May I suggest that one possibility is to ascribe a carbon value to these forests to enable the carbon value of forests to be traded in the global carbon market.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
The time has come to make a commitment that we will cease to discuss this problem in a theoretical manner at endless conferences and begin to adopt practical measures. It is the future of our children that is at stake. We must leave behind a liveable world for our children and their children.