17 January, 2021

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COP 21: Lame New Labels; Same Old Questions – Sri Lankan Solutions

By Asoka Abeygunawardana

Asoka Abeygunawardhana

Asoka Abeygunawardhana

This Paris conference is the last change for the UNFCCC to limit the rise of global temperature to 20C. If the global leadership collective do not have the commitment and the will to break through the various deadlocks and resistive forces arrayed against this, the world must resign itself to the rapid degeneration of our planet and its creatures via convenient ignorance, past concern, past alarm, past inaction… to doom. We all know that if we continue the way we have conveniently done then the planet’s temperature will rise to 30C over the temperature that existed 150 years ago. We are clearly cognizant of the results of such an escalation in the temperature of our planet. Loss of agricultural land and damage to the photosynthetic action that feeds us all will bring about a situation that is impossible to respond to with massive loss of life among the poor due to thirst and starvation.

The world first talked about mitigating carbon emissions. While it was discussing this, the temperature of the plant rose by 10C. Then it changed tack and started talking about adaptation. Despite hundreds of discussions, it was unable to adapt to any degree that was worth talking about. It had to resign ourselves to simply responding to the mandatory disasters that visited many parts of our planet. So, now, it is reduced to speaking about how to save the lives of vulnerable peoples and communities. Yet, realizing that even this was impossible, it is now simply talking on an emerging label, namely, “minimizing loss and damage”. When the environment is damaged to the point where it cannot support human life anymore, they must migrate, whether they like it or not. Thus, it is now talking about a new set of rules based on yet another label. This time, “Migration”.

If the temperature of the world increases anymore not only mankind but most other creatures who call this planet home will wiped off its face. The world will no longer be a place for life to happen, be, and prosper whether that life is human or plant or animal. We, the world, must take responsibility for this doom which is no longer in the realm of conjecture but stark, real, and proximate.

Those who are primarily responsible for this turn of events are those nations the developed nations that burned massive amounts of fossil fuels in their rush to develop themselves. If one considers it a basic right of all human life to be able to release carbon into the atmosphere, then America will only be able to emit 30 Giga Tons of carbon up to the year 2050. Yet, by now, that nation has already released 95 Giga Tons of carbon into the atmosphere or three times the amount they should be allowed to emit. Europe can only release 50 Giga Tons in the same period but they have already emitted 85 Giga Tons. Therefore, it is imperative that the issue of “Historic Responsibility” is brought to the table. Accordingly, America and Europe must stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere completely right now.

However, neither region can do so. This is because of the fossil fuel based infrastructure that those nations have created for themselves. Therefore, it is imperative that new infrastructure is developed is carbon sensitized from the very inception of its planning. This will take a little time. The rest of the world can give these nations a reasonable amount of time to restructure their infrastructure development plans for the future. However, it is crucial that those developing nations that are being subject to frequent destruction through so-called “natural disasters” in the form of floods, droughts, destruction of agricultural land, storms, shoreline erosion, inflow of salinated water inland, insect attacks, epidemics etc. are fairly and adequately recompensed by the developing countries whose actions have unleashed these phenomena. They must provide unstinted support to developing nations in their efforts to counter climate change.

We in Sri Lanka can be proud of our efforts in sustainable development. We have a recorded history spanning at least 2500 years. During those 25 centuries are ancestors taught us the meaning of sustainable development. We never did anything that would damage or destroy the water we drink, the air we breathe or the land we till. We protected the plants and animals that lived in coexistence with us. However, over the past 50 years, we have been forced to tread the destructive development path practiced over the last 200 years by so-called “developed nations”.

Until 1995, 100% of our electricity needs were fulfilled by hydropower. We didn’t emit carbon into the atmosphere and we know this to be true sustainable development. However, after 1995, we were forced to revert to fossil fuels to supply the rising demand for electricity. Despite this, at a time when developed countries were talking about generating 20% of their electricity needs through renewables, we in Sri Lanka were still generating 40%-50% of our electricity through them. However, if we are going to attempt to respond to continued rises in demand through fossil fuels, we will need three times the current coal power plants in Sri Lanka by the year 2030 and our carbon emissions will be a full 1000% higher than 1990 levels.

We hope to win over the world not by talk but rather, by action. Towards this, the mandate of the new regime has clearly and unequivocally stated that almost all of our energy requirements will be supplied by renewable sources. All that is left to do is to create the strategies and plans to realize the goals.

This strategy will be formulated based on demand management and harnessing renewable energy sources. The first step in the plan to manage our demand is to curb and subsequently stop subscribing to the idea of attempting to procure the material outcomes of unlimited, insatiable material desire. It is because of the disciple that has been inculcated by the Buddha over the last 2500 years that we are strengthened to move towards achieving what seems a miracle on the surface. The Buddha’s dhamma is one of a middle path that eschews excess in either pleasure or pain, compassion for all things living and removing greed by rejecting the idea of self. Founding our strategies on this dharma, we have the best solution for the world to respond to – and solve – its social and environmental problems.

We are resolved already to be the first nation in the world to generate our energy requirements without the emission of carbon by optimizing every water resource for energy generation and subsequently tapping every other renewable source through innovative, locally appropriate policy, strategy and technology. None of this comes cheap and the world, if it is genuinely concerned about a sustainably developed future world must resolve to support us in our efforts. If COP21 can commit to that, we in Sri Lanka will have a winner for ourselves and our world in the very near future.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    Hey dreamer, come back to earth. Let the Buddha rest in peace. Talk about the Colombo Port City Project Ra-Siri version. Talk about every (successful) politician stashing away US$ 18 billion in Banks in Seychelles, preparing for a permanent holiday home in more salubrious climes for themselves and products of their pricks for ever, free from the suffocating toxic fumes.

    That is going to be the catalyst for the departure of all that is good including the Buddha statues and much venerated trees – when Colombo’s suburbs will be dug up to provide the raw materials to build for the super elite, when rivers will run dry or be poisoned and Coca Cola Kentucky Fried Chicken and bottled drinking water will be imported from Europe, when chirping birds on trees will be seen or heard no more.

  • 1
    1

    ”over the past 50 years, we have been forced to tread the destructive development path”?

    Over the last 67yrs of independence SriLankans have been having the freedom to do what they choose to do. They were also believed to have the potential to lead South and Southeast Asian countries. But alas they chose to oppress their own ethnic minorities and slided down into Unsustainable ”Development”. Countries that were far behind Sri Lanka 67yrs ago are now far ahead of it.
    Oppression (= Unsustainable Development) is still going on.

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