International and national experts initiated a dialogue on ‘Climate Reality – Threats, Responses and Opportunities in a Changing World,’ in an inaugural forum initiated by Dilmah Conservation together with Global Compact Network Sri Lanka, Biodiversity Sri Lanka and Citra Innovations Lab at BMICH, Colombo.

The forum brought in like-minded individuals from the government, private and academic sector for an open discussion on the alarming aspects presented by climate change and finding new solutions by merging the collective capacities of entrepreneurial and start-up networks engaged in climate change adaptation and innovation, the organisers said in a media release.

Dilhan C. Fernando, Chair – Global Compact Network Sri Lanka introduced the event with the words, “Human existence is intricately and irrevocably linked to our natural environment- we are all environmentalists by necessity. Our focus today is on the future because there are grounds for guarded optimism. The increase in development and adoption of sustainable technologies, of climate-smart agriculture, of knowledge of how we might adapt to the new reality in our world, has been unprecedented in the past decade. It is evident today that there is far greater potential and opportunity in climate-smart agriculture, production and lifestyles than in holding on to the past.”

Dr. A. Nambi Appadurai, India Adaptation Strategy Head, World Resources Institute- India, Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda (Conservation Scientist and Fellow at Australian Museum), Dr. B.V. R. Punyawardena (Principal Agro-climatology Scientist, Department of Agriculture – Peradeniya) and Dr. Sunimal Jayathunga (Director, Climate Change Division- Climate Change Secretariat), the key speakers of the event along with panelists, Anura Sathurusinghe (Conservator General – Forest Department) and Dilhan C. Fernando (Chair – Global Compact Network Sri Lanka) revealed some telling facts on climate change – the visible threats, impacts, opportunities and the economic potential available for private sector in active engagement in climate response.

Comparing the atmospheric carbon dioxide level to ‘the pulse of planet’, Dr. Pethiyagoda pointed at the catastrophic impact it could have on marine and terrestrial ecosystems- ocean acidification, disrupted food chains, canopy diebacks, species displacement and migration is predicted to increase at the current rate of rise in greenhouse gases and global warming.

Identifying the ability of trees in arresting atmospheric carbon dioxide he said, “Forest restoration is central to climate resilience. Long term restoration projects are needed to re-establish native plant species as they can take generations to grow.”

Dr. Punyawardena, citing evidence on existing climate projections said that computer simulations predict an increase in temperature by over 3 degrees centigrade in the Central Highlands and the Northern province at the turn of the century.

Although the annual rainfalls remain unaffected, the change in rainfall pattern combined with the night-time increase in temperature can negatively impact the agricultural sector, resulting in reduced yields and food shortage, he added.

It was noted that providing financial assistance to tea growers, a sector which is of tremendous socio-economic importance for Sri Lanka, offers a greater potential to increase the rate of adoption of good climate resilient practices which could consequently minimize the adverse effects of climate change on the tea industry.

It was also noted that Sri Lanka’s estimated climate-smart investment potential in key sectors is more than billion between 2018 to 2030.

Dr. A. N. Appadurai, India Adaptation Strategy Head from World Resources Institute in his keynote address, mentioned that Sri Lanka could lose up to 1.2 per cent of annual GDP growth per year by 2050 because of climate change if appropriate interventions and investments are not made. The private sector thus has an important role in meeting the investment needs in key areas such as urban development, industrial parks, PPPs (public-private partnerships) and in large-scale project implementation, such as waste management and agriculture.

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