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With criticism, Sri Lanka leader strongly pushes for CJF, investment in TB at COP28

ECONOMYNECT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe strongly pushed for a Climate Justice Forum (CJF) and investments in Tropical Belt and criticised the slow action against climate change-led disasters at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) held in Dubai.

This year’s climate summit features a raft of issues for countries working to find common ground in tackling climate change, including whether to phase out fossil fuels and how to finance the energy transition in developing countries.

Wickremesinghe speaking on Friday said Sri Lankans are already feeling the impact.

“Sri Lanka is experiencing a palpable rise in ambient temperature; continuous gray skies; heavy rains that are not seasonal; lightning and thunderstorms; and as a consequence, flooding of riverbanks and earth slips in the mountains,” he told the gathering.

“Let me reiterate, each year, the costs of mitigating these recurring calamities in terms of lives, livelihoods, displacement destruction, rebuilding is an additional burden on our thinly-stretched economies.”

“Remember, the developing countries are both disproportionately vulnerable and disproportionately impacted – due to their lower adaptive capacity when it comes to investments in Finance, Technology and Climate.”

Here is the full text of Sri Lanka President Wickremesinghe’s speech at the COP 28: 

Mr. President

Excellencies

Esteemed Delegates

At the outset let me congratulate the Government of the United Arab Emirates for hosting COP28 and extend to you my gratitude for your warm hospitality.

It was in 1972 the world first focused on the environment -The UN Conference on Human Environment which enunciated the goal of defending and improving the environment for present and future generations.

50 years later, the Stockholm+50 Report concluded that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires rapid and large-scale reduction of carbon emissions.

The UNEP Report of 2023 “Broken Promises” warned that we are facing a 3 degree Celcius increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.

We are already feeling the impact. Sri Lanka is experiencing a palpable rise in ambient temperature; continuous gray skies; heavy rains that are not seasonal; lightning and thunderstorms; and as a consequence, flooding of riverbanks and earth slips in the mountains.

Let me reiterate, each year, the costs of mitigating these recurring calamities in terms of lives, livelihoods, displacement destruction, rebuilding is an additional burden on our thinly-stretched economies.

Remember, the developing countries are both disproportionately vulnerable and disproportionately impacted – due to their lower adaptive capacity when it comes to investments in Finance, Technology and Climate.

The Independent High-Level Expert Group Report on Climate Finance highlighted that at least a US$ Trillion per annum is required to combat climate change.

At the last COP held in Egypt, we agreed to establish the “Loss and Damages Fund”.

However, the Transitional Committee on the Operationalisation of Funding Arrangements in its Report of 4th November 2023 only calls for voluntary contributions.  

The Report makes no mention of the funds needed or who the contributors are. It is silent on the issue of global debt relief.

Nevertheless, four days later, the Technical Dialogue of the First Global Stocktake highlighted the requirements of a minimum of US$ trillion per annum. To arrive at a consensus not to take up a contentious issue is not a solution. Who are we fooling?

We are denied climate justice. In this background, Sri Lanka will propose a resolution for a Climate Justice Forum which was agreed upon at the 5th Forum of the Ministers of Environmental Authorities of Asia Pacific to be moved at the UN Environment Assembly of 6thFebruary 2024.

The Climate Justice Forum will provide us a platform for constructive and proactive engagements.

Since 1972, the Brussels Group has been fighting a rearguard action on climate change mitigation. This forum will give us an opportunity to address their genuine concerns.

To address the issue   of ensuring that the tax payers monies are not wasted.

As the Secretary General of the UN said, “the era of global boiling has arrived”.

The enemy is at the gates. We are still procrastinating. We are still forming our battalions to take the fight to the enemy.

Therefore, this fortnight is critical.

It will determine whether we are capable of providing leadership to mitigate climate crisis or not. Sri Lanka is committed to the 1.5 degree Celcius limit.

We must act immediately to find effective solutions. We must think outside of the box. We must Invest in the Tropical Belt to tackle the Triple Planetary Crisis.

The Tropical Belt constitutes 134 countries covering 44% of earth’s surface, and will by 2030s be home to roughly 50% of world’s population.

Most of the world’s remaining primary forests are tropical, along with its coral reef systems.

The rich biodiversity of the Tropical Belt enhances biological carbon sequestration andcan shield the world from instabilities inweather.

Furthermore, the energy generation potential from solar, wind and biomass are significantly higher in the tropics than that of other areas on the earth.

Yet, anthropogenic activities  

human activities that cause

pollution – in the Tropical Belt can easily lead to an imbalance in the equilibrium of this region.

So much so that some scientists predict that the  Tropical Rain Belt could shift away from the Equator by the 22nd Century.

Large scale investments in Renewable Energy, Pollution Control and Nature-based Solutions. Eg. Protection, restoration and improved management of forests, wetlands, grasslands etc. will lead to significant transformative changes in the entire world by enhancing carbon sequestration.

Therefore, Sri Lanka and other concerned parties will convene a panel to report on the Tropical Belt Initiative.

A multi sector plan distributed not only among the whole tropical region but the whole world.

As the current Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Sri Lanka is focusing on the interdependence between the Indian Ocean and climate change.

A healthy ocean generates oxygen and absorbs the carbon and heat produced from global warming. Mangroves and seagrasses sink more carbon than land forests. However, rapid climate change is altering the marine environment with rising sea levels and temperatures, Ocean acidification, coral bleaching, habitat destruction and extreme weather patterns.

These phenomenon have a direct impact on human lives by disrupting ocean biodiversity, Ocean dependent food patterns, and coastal livelihoods.

Member states and partners of IORA will work towards ensuring a sustainable, inclusive and people-centered Blue Economy to secure the Indian Ocean for future generations.

The Tropical Belt and the Indian Ocean combined will form the largest global sink for carbon sequestration.

Addressing the climate change need, up to date scientific knowledge, and the effective use of these findings

Therefore, at COP27, I proposed to establish an International Climate Change University (ICCU) to  

concentrate on post graduate studies – The ICCU objectives are capacity building and advancing research – necessary to contribute to the crucial efforts to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The ICCU will also serve as a futuristic “Centre for Excellence” in policy dialogue and advocacy on climate change.

The ICCU is critical for generating knowledge on the trans-disciplinary issues that is crucial for Climate Change Mitigation. i.e. for the survival of our planet. (Colombo/Dec 1/2023)

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UNESCO DG to discuss archaeological endeavours in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s president has said that he will discuss initiatives for long-term archaeological endeavours in the Anuradhapura city with visiting UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.

Azoulay will visit Sri Lanka from July 16-19 and take part at the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s membership of UNESCO at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre in Colombo.

She will also travel to UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the island, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“I have invited the Director General of UNESCO to visit Sri Lanka and discuss initiatives for long-term archaeological endeavours in the Anuradhapura city. Several universities overseas have shown interest in supporting us for these activities, and we are moving forward with their collaboration,” Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“Anuradhapura boasts a rich history spanning over a millennium, once renowned as a hub of trade and economics. Preserving and exploring this ancient city’s archaeological treasures remains a significant endeavour.”

“New archaeological efforts in the Anuradhapura district are now imperative,” Wickremesinghe said during a ceremony to inaugurate a 150-kilowatt solar power system installed by the LTL Group at the Sri Maha Bodhiya premises in Anuradhapura on Saturday (13).

Wickremesinghe pointed out that UNESCO has undertaken extensive archaeological projects in Angkor Thom in Cambodia, and Luang Prabang in Laos.

“However, we have not taken the necessary steps to implement these activities in Anuradhapura city. Therefore, I have advised both the Department of Archaeology and the Cultural Triangle to undertake these initiatives.”

These efforts are part of a comprehensive program aimed at establishing Anuradhapura as a globally renowned city, Wickremesinghe said.

While Sigiriya has gained international fame, Sri Lanka has not adequately highlighted Anuradhapura’s historical significance as a major trade and economic center in the past, the president pointed out.

“Cities like Tanjore (Thanjavur), Madurai, and Sanchipuram are often discussed, yet Anuradhapura, the fourth city, has been overlooked. Therefore, it is crucial to develop Anuradhapura city.”

As part of these initiatives, preparations are underway to establish new hotels in Anuradhapura, which will contribute significantly to its development, Wickremesinghe said. (Colombo/Jul13/2024)

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Government committed to improving living conditions in Jaffna: Sri Lanka PM

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s prime minister, who is in Jaffna “to monitor the progress” and “get a little feedback” has said the government is committed to improving living conditions of the people in the northern peninsula.

“This government is dedicated to improving the living conditions of the Jaffna Peninsula,” Dinesh Gunawardena told a Jaffna District Coordinating Committee meeting on Friday, according to a statement by his media division.

“In order to increase the living conditions, we have embarked on an increase in most of the expenditure needed by the departments, and also special allocations for rural and urban development in the local government area.”

Nationalist Gunawardena met with Tamil politicians at the Jaffna Divisional Secretariat Office and participated in the distribution of rice and egg incubators for low income families.

“A special privilege to be with you all, in order to monitor the progress made by all of you, as well as to get a little feedback where we stand today in relation to the reports given.”

Gunawardena joins a string of leading political figures who have visited the north ahead of upcoming polls.

The government was, he said, “committed to improve the services and living conditions, therefore, to provide the necessary infrastructure for developments, which means much to your area.”

The prime minister said he appreciated the efforts of farmers because “farmers are all private sector, I would say. Let us not forget, farmers are all in the private sector, either in the ownership or in the tenancy. They are private contributors to the national development of the economy.”

The poverty numbers are “fairly managed” in the country. Gunawardena said, pointing out that poverty was a key problems in any economy. “Any country, you would agree with me, the richest country, in the United States even, food stamps have been given. So all economies the world are going through difficult situations in relation to the poor.

“We have to look after the poor especially in these remote villages of the Northern Province…”

Minister Douglas Devanada, MPs M A Sumanthiran, Angajan Ramanathan, C Vigneshwaran, Dharmalingam Siddharthan, and other officials participated in the meeting. (Colombo/Jul13/2024)

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Sri Lanka leader’s presidential campaign faces dilemma over coalition: sources

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s presidential election campaign is facing a dilemma over coalition due to rivalry parties with different political ideologies, sources said.

President Wickremesinghe is yet to announce his candidacy for the presidential poll which is expected to be declared by the island nation’s Election Commission after July 17.

However, his close allies and some ministers in the current coalition government have already started a campaign to promote him assuming that President Wickremesinghe will declare his candidacy.

Three sources who spoke to EconomyNext said legislators from the main opposition center-right Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) are ready to join, but they do not want to be in coalition with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujna Peramuna (SLPP).

“SJB members who want to join Wickremesinghe are bit nervous because people wanted to oust SLPP in 2022 for their past sins including corruption and wrong economic policies,” on source who is in a member in the core campaign strategy group told EconomyNext.

Another source said majority of nationalist party SLPP are with the president, but a few key SLPP leaders do not want to back Wickremesinghe because of his market-led economic policies.

“SLPP does not want to be seen as backing Wickremesinghe’s privatization moves. So a few leaders are worried to join the campaign and have different idea of fielding their own campaign,” the second source who is indirectly involved with facilitating meeting between Wickremesinghe and legislators said.

The SJB is leaned towards somewhat liberal economic policies and has ensured to treat all ethnic people equally, while SLPP has backed a state-controlled economy and has given priority for ethnic majority Sinhala Buddhists.

UNDECIDED VOTERS

There is no formal and transparent survey to assess the popularity of possible presidential candidates.

However, an informal survey shows Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa is leading followed by Marxists Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka.

The same survey has shown a gradual gain for Wickremesinghe in the last three months.

“He is confident of winning, but he has to win most of the undecided voters for that,” a third source, who is in the campaign planning team, said.

“Still things are very fluid. Majority of the people still don’t understand the benefits of economic recovery and the country getting out of the debt default under the current president. We will have a clear picture by end of next month.”

Wickremesinghe was elected as the president in July 2022 by the parliament after his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country in fear of his life amid mass protests and outside the presidential palace.

Wickremesinghe has implemented some tough economic reforms including raising taxes, imposing new taxes, freezing recruitments to state-owned companies, and privatizing loss making government-owned entities in line with commitments agreed with the IMF.

UNPOPULOUR REFORMS

Those reforms have made him unpopulour mainly among government employees and lower income groups.

He has raised the salaries of government employees from April this year while has introduced a new transfer payment called Aswesuma for lower income and vulnerable groups.

Sri Lanka faced an unprecedented economic crisis with a sovereign debt default in 2022. But it has recovered faster than expected under Wickremesinghe administration with difficult and unpopulour reforms.

People protested against the SLPP-led government in 2022 and ousted then leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa and all his relatives from the key ministerial positions for their alleged involvement in corruption and wrong economic policies.

The SLPP which had more than two-third majority in the parliament after 2020 general election, is worried about its perception and electoral performance after the economic crisis.

Analysts say Wickremesinghe has a greater chance to win if he join with SJB than SLPP because of the SLPP’s negative perception.

Sources, however, said they are in discussions with both SLPP and SJB legislators to agree on a common programme for Wickremesinghe’s presidency.

Presidential election is likely to be held either in October first week or second week, Election Commission officials say.

Wickremesinghe lost the parliamentary election in 2020, but entered the parliament in 2021 using the solo seat his party won through the national list.  (Colombo/July 13/2024)

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