26 September, 2018

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COP21: Coping With Climate Change

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Our civilization is fuelled 85% by fossil fuels, releasing 110 million tons of pollution into the thin atmospheric layer every 24 hours. As carbon dioxide levels increase temperatures, the effect of this energy is the cumulative equivalent of detonating 400,000 atomic bombs per day, 365 days per year” – Al Gore (Davos WEF, 2015)

The city of Paris, soon after the Friday the 13th attacks, will be hosting one of the largest global conferences titled the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in Le Bourget. This conference aims to show the world that leaders believing in liberal democratic values aim at creating a better environment for the future standing united, despite obstacles.

In support of the Paris climate conference, top global CEO’s from 150 countries from 78 companies who generate $2.1 trillion of revenue have signed a declaration. They pledge to support public private partnership to secure a more prosperous world tacking the biggest global challenge – climate change. The aims of the conference include delivering a new climate change agreement that will put the world on track to a low-carbon and ensure a sustainable future while keeping the rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees.

Negotiators from 195 countries will attempt to finalise a new treaty and political leaders from 147 countries will address this conference. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has united with global leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21). Sirisena has been a supporter of a better environment and efforts toward minimizing the carbon foot print from the days he was the Minister of Environment. The Sri Lankan President made a statement in New York while addressing the UN Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. He states “Sri Lanka will be fully committed to dealing with the 13th Sustainable Development Goal relating to climate change, we will strive to minimize risks of possible environmental hazards.”

Unfortunately, his new government’s budget has increased the price of electric cars significantly discouraging electric vehicles. This needs to be revised if we are supporting a carbon free world as the entire world has moved towards this path- we need to support and encourage electric vehicles toward sustainable energy. Over the previous regime, the coal power plant implemented stood as a threat to our environment and future generations. It is important that the President initiates a strategic environment committee to overlook new initiatives and projects and identify sustainable environment friendly projects from ones that may lead to creating further environmental destruction.

The rise of global temperature and its threat to our world was clearly stated at this year’s Davos World Economic Forum conference where I was fortunate to attend to listen to Al Gore and also interact at a Young Global Leaders private session. The COP21 will be the platform to initiate new partnerships within our society public private partnerships PPP and between countries to create a carbon free world. Sri Lanka could look at implementing electric vehicle to certain sectors of the public transport and government administration. We could try to implement 100% electric vehicles to all Government servants and politicians who will bring new vehicles for their official use. The electric charging stations could be expanded island wide and incentives could be given to the private companies who would support. Electric bicycles used in many places are another positive step towards a better environment. The foreign investors should be encouraged for sustainable practices when investing in the island nation.

Ida Auken, Parliament Member from Denmark who is also one of the speakers at COP21 is an example of an individual who as the Minister of the Environment started the development of thinking waste as a resource instead of ‘waste’. She made a resource strategy instead of a waste strategy starting the recycling agenda in Denmark. It’s impressive that she used her push-cycle to parliament everyday a small step for a carbon free environment, a transition which will take South Asian politicians a long time to adopt.

South Asia with its rising natural disasters should focus investment on protecting its environment a priority for all Governments. The SAARC regional meteorological research center in Dhaka which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh some years ago is not functioning nor has contributed to the regional countries as expected by SAARC. Few weeks ago the first annual international disaster convention was held in Sri Lanka. It was a commendable initiative by MDF Asia and all other stakeholders that was engaged in a rich discussion. It was Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who established the Ministry of Disaster Management, as he understood the importance of the subject back then. Sri Lanka with its geo-strategic location could be the perfect location for the future regional disaster management center.

The nation should focus to invest and work toward developing its capacity in this area and moving towards supporting the COP21 fully. All ministries, government officials, private sector and school children should be educated on this important subject and encouraged pursue efforts of every scale toward a sustainable future for Sri Lanka, her neighbours and the world.

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    Excellent article. Thank you for sharing and this sort of articles we don’t see all the time. I hope our Parliamentarians will use cycles as an example. Electric cars for Gov sector a brilliant idea.

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