Highlighting the importance of tackling climate change and its impact on Sri Lanka, UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer said living standards in Sri Lanka can drop by five to seven per cent because of climate-related vulnerabilities.
Speaking at the 2019 AIESEC YouthSpeak Forum – “Transforming Youth, Transforming Sri Lanka”, Ms. Singer said about 19 million people in Sri Lanka live in locations that will become moderate or severe climate hotspots by 2050.
“The country has faced continuous cycles of floods and drought, making it one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The future is dependent on taking action on these issues now because living standards in Sri Lanka can drop by five to seven per cent because of climate-related vulnerabilities,” she said.
She said she was pleased to recognise that Sri Lanka has taken great strides in allowing private and domestic sector investments in renewable energy and tapping, the last vestiges of hydropower available to the country.
“As young Sri Lankans, you need to take your place in the conversation on climate change, it is absolutely vital. You must advocate for an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity and at the same time significantly reduce environmental risks and ecological scarcities. This is what we call the green economy and it is the future! The green economy fosters prosperity, creates decent work, and protects the planet for our generation and the generations to come,” she said.
She said the UN in Sri Lanka is working with the government to explore the potential of renewable energy, looking at ways that energy and other resources are used more efficiently in production and consumption and supporting the modernisation of the environmental management systems.
“At the same time, we are working with Sri Lankans to protect the biodiversity that this country has been blessed with. An important part of our work and the work for Sri Lankans is fostering climate resilient livelihoods, to ensure that future opportunities are safeguarded. In tackling climate change, it is important to keep in mind that investments in development and climate resilience go hand in hand. More governments, cities and businesses than ever understand that climate solutions strengthen our economies and protect our environment at the same time. As we call on governments and businesses to make the large-scale changes needed to mitigate the risks of climate change, we must also be aware of the impact our everyday actions have on our environment,” Ms. Singer said.
She said an ongoing conversation was the use of single-use plastics and said that plastic pollution in the ocean is detrimental to marine wildlife, to the planet and to humans.
“Our everyday consumption and the demand we create by using plastics contributes to this harm and degradation. Again, I know that Sri Lankans are making strides towards more responsible production and consumption, for example in the apparel industry. Last month when I attended Colombo Fashion Week, I was glad to see the number of ethically produced and sustainable brands that were being showcased. As one of Sri Lanka’s highest export revenue earners, it was encouraging to see that the garment industry was doing its part,” she said.