Preparing Sri Lanka’s forest based-strategy of national developmen
Nature plays a prominent role in everyone’s life; the air we breathe, the water we drink, the rivers, lakes and waterfalls, the mountains which are full of greenery, and all of nature’s resources are natural gifts of Mother Nature. We are also a part of nature; in fact, children of Mother Nature . We say we live in a global village where everything is connected and the whole world is one big family. But at the same time we do talk about global warming and nature’s natural resources being decayed, and may never have been aware of what causes these issues!
The Sri Lanka UN-REDD Programme, together with the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and the Forest Department of Sri Lanka, held a press briefing under the guidance of H.E. Maithripala Sirisena, at the BMICH, Colombo, amidst a distinguished audience and media personnel to explain the link between global warming and forest conservation. The panel of guests included Conservator General of Forests and National Programme Director for the UN-REDD Programme Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe, former government officer and advisor to the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment Prof. W. L. Sumathipala, as well as activist, environmentalist and Executive Director for the Centre for Environmental Justice Mr. Hemantha Vithanage, who represented the Sri Lanka Climate Forest Action Network (SLCFAN).
National Programme Manager of the Sri Lanka UN-REDD Programme Mr. Nalin Munasinghe, explained that “an important task of the national REDD+ programme was to contribute to improving sustainable land management that would conserve bio-diversity, maintain economic growth and minimize risks of natural disasters through a structured and focused approach. We are pleased by the encouragement received from the government and wish to provide a platform that will help realize the government’s environmental development agenda.”
Sri Lanka is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since its inception in 1992. The UN-REDD Programme is the United Nations Collaborative initiative on reducing emissions from de forestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Now evolved as REDD+, this forest-based initiative includes five major activities for which results-based payments may be claimed: Reducing emissions from deforestation, reducing emissions from forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. In line with the conclusion of the climate change summit in Paris last December (COP21) , the Sri Lankan Government has reinforced its commitment to develop a national REDD + strategy as an integral part of its contribution to combat climate change.
The Forest Department is moving forward with REDD+ supported by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Climate Change Secretariat to meet the target given by President Maithripala Sirisena of increasing the island’s forest cover from 29.7 % to 32%. The Paris Agreement (COP21) signifies actions as thus: “ Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases , including forests.....parties are encouraged to take action to implement and support, including through results-based payments …policy approaches and positive incentives for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon sinks in developing countries, and alternative policy approaches ...”
Culminating in a four year negotiating round, this new treaty was signed on 12th December 2015, by Sri Lanka and 194 other countries, to submit new remedies and take the necessary actions to reduce temperature rise by 2100 to below 2 Celsius Centigrade, and combat the threat of climate change. This marks a historical milestone in a political process and also as the first-ever truly global international climate change agreement that has given a boost to REDD+ activities. For the UN to take such a risk implies the urgency and importance that was placed by this international organization to preserve the existing global forest cover. However, this risk paid high dividends at COP21 in Paris through the inclusion of REDD+ as a recognized morality for developing nations to claim funds for development, which considers the environment first.
President Maithripala Sirisena launched the National Tree Planting Month in October. He pledged to protect Sri Lanka’s remaining forests and increase forest cover to 32%. Global warming occurs due to an excessive build up of greenhouse gases, such and carbon dioxide, which traps Earth’s heat and creates a thick yet invisible blanket in the upper atmosphere. Forests, in particular help remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by acting as ‘’carbon sinks’’. Plants have the distinction of being the only source of oxygen on our planet, while absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and channelling carbon – which is accelerating global warming – into the ground through the biosphere. However, if trees are cut down, this process turns the other way round, and most of the locked carbon is again emitted to the atmosphere. Therefore, deforestation and forest degradation has been identified as a main cause of global warming.
IMAGE 6 – Secretary Udaya Seneviratne Chairs the Programme Executive Board of the Sri Lanka UN-REDD Programme
Conservator General of Forests Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe said, “At present, we are at the ‘readiness phase’ where we set the ground work for REDD+ implementation by developing the National REDD+ Strategy with the participation of all stakeholders. Sri Lanka’s forests are under threat because of many factors, so the National REDD+ Strategy will facilitate the creation of direct and indirect mechanisms to protect our forests. Many of Sri Lanka’s forests are degraded and soil enrichment is required in many areas, while reforestation should surpass the level of deforestation.’’
Communications Officer of the Sri Lanka UN-REDD Programme Thilal Nanayakkara says, “for decades there has been a debate on whether global warming is caused by natural or human activities. But rather than wasting time debating, the UN initiated action to protect existing forest cover (UN-REDD Programme) more than ten years ago due to the urgency of the situation; for every three seconds, somewhere across the globe, a football field full of trees are destroyed. Developed nations have come to the stark realisation of the global importance of forests, and are now ready to support countries that are willing to conserve or restore forests and natural habitat.