Sri Lankan proposal to be presented at COP 15 :
Fighting environmental injustice at Copenhagen
Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka
When global warming was first detected in the 1980s, scientists came
up with many theories ranging from natural fluctuations in temperature
to sun spots.
But by the end of the decade with such scientific publication as “Our
Common Future”, it became clear that the major contributing factor to
global warming was burning of fossil fuel.
The maximum permissible increase in temperature under prevailing
conditions is 2 C. And at the current intensity of global warming this
is likely to expire in 2030. This doesn’t leave much margin for error.
And exceeding this limit could result in catastrophic climatic
repercussions that are the stuff of movies like, ‘Day after Tomorrow’.
According to UNDP Carbon budget, the maximum permissible amount of
Carbon emission per person is 2170 kg. An average person emits only 600
kg, whereas a US citizen on average emits 24,000 kg of Carbon.
Technically Sri Lanka should be able to further emit Carbon, but we have
no choice but to limit emission levels because so-called developed
countries have already burnt out our share of Carbon.
This form of environmental injustice has persisted in spite the many
Conventions held over the decades. The targets introduced by the Kyoto
Protocol in order to reduce global warming by cutting down emission
levels of GHG (Green House Gases) “for US (7% reduction from 1990 level
of emission), Europe (6% reduction from 1990 level of emission) and
Japan (8% reduction from 1990 level of emission) were never met during
the voluntary period between 1997 and 2007.
“US and Canada has still not agreed to cut its emission levels by 40%
from that of the 1990 emission level, the now required percentage to
prevent a major climatic catastrophe,” pointed out Patali Champika
Ranawaka, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. Kyoto Protocol
has been rendered inactive, with no plans as to what should happen after
the compulsory period of emission reduction from 2008 to 2010.
History has rarely acted in the favour of developing nations,
especially regarding environmental issues. But Sri Lankan authorities
and environmentalists alike hope for the best at the Copenhagen Summit
to be held from December 8 to 18. The concept paper presented by Sri
Lanka deals with issues that have been blatantly disregarded by
developing nations of annex 1 countries of the Convention, such as
emission reduction targets, funding for the adaptation to the adverse
effects of climate change, technology transfer, capacity building, etc.
Sri Lanka’s proposal for emission reduction targets for Annex 1
countries has been formulated taking their ‘historical responsibility’
into consideration. According to the proposal realistic changes in
emission patterns are urgently required to prevent dangerous
interference with the climate system. Moreover, funds under the Kyoto
Protocol have been insufficient in order for developing nations to cope
with the adverse effects of climate change. Therefore, the proposal
suggests an Adaptation Fund, to be sustained by a contribution of at
least 1% of the GDP by developing nations.
Dr. W. L. Sumathipala,
Director National Ozone Unit
The 16 $ million left in the Adaptation Fund is not merely enough for
developed nations to cope with the needs of 2.5 billion people who are
affected by climate change phenomena and 160 $ billion worth of annual
damage, the Minister stressed.
According to the Bali Action Plan all developed nations, although not
parties to the Kyoto Protocol, have to take emission reduction
commitments. The proposal suggests that all developing nations
contribute to global efforts by significantly reducing their emission
levels. It also proposes that developing nations adopt Nationally
Appropriate Mitigation Actions, which depend on sufficient financial
provisions, technology and capacity building support by developing
Speaking of technology, the proposal also focuses on technology
transfer between Annex 1 and Annex 3 countries in terms of mitigation
and adaptation techniques to climate change. But a major problem
encountered in encouraging technology transfer is the problem of
intellectual property rights, as stated by the Minister. Moreover, we
fall into a technology trap if we attempt to integrate foreign
technology in its raw state. He emphasized the need to localize
technology before integrating it into the Sri Lankan setting. The
proposal also recommends that capacity building support be made
available to developing nations in terms of mitigation and adaptation to
The proposal also dwells on REDD-Plus activities, country driven and
voluntary, where developing nations could obtain funds to reduce
emission. Sri Lanka has also presented a concept paper to become an
observer of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Obtaining funds have
proven difficult in the past since we are in an isolated position the
Minister said. Most countries who are parties to global conventions meet
in groups to resolve their respective regional issues. The G77 and China
the only regional group that Sri Lanka belongs to have different
priorities as a larger group. During the SAARC Environmental Ministers
Conference in Deli, it was proposed that SAARC countries should be
considered as one unit. The Minister said we, as one unit, hope to
formulate a comprehensive Climate Change Plan. A SAARC regional research
centre has already been proposed.
Dr. W. L. Sumathipala, Director National Ozone Unit, who has played a
major role in obtaining the Montreal Protocol Implementers Award and
securing the Presidency of the Montreal Protocol later, the Bureau of
Vienna Convention itself for Patali Champika Ranawaka, Minister of
Environment and Natural Resources, is playing a major role taking this
proposal the Convention.
“No tendency has been shown by Annex 1 countries so far to reduce
emission below necessary levels,” said Dr. Sumathipala. Annex 1
countries still stand by their decision that all countries should reduce
their emission levels alike. This is environmental injustice. There is a
lot of political tug-of-war involved. He pointed out that there is a
huge gap between Annex 1 and Annex 3 countries in terms of technology
In order to deal with technology-related issues Sri Lanka has already
taken the initiative by establishing a Climate Change Research Centre
and is currently collaborating with India to obtain meteorological data.
The National Carbon Trading Fund has turned to be a national attempt to
overcome the problem of funding.
* History has rarely acted in favour of
developing nations, especially regarding environmental issues. But both
Sri Lankan authorities and environmentalists alike hope for the best at
the Climate Change Conference - Copenhagen 2009, to be held from
December 8 to 18.
* “No tendency has been shown by Annex 1
countries so far to reduce emission below the necessary levels. This is
environmental injustice. There is a lot of political tug-of-war
involved” - Dr. W. L. Sumathipala.