On 31st July, representatives from the government, business and private sector convened for the inaugural Climate Reality forum organized by Dilmah Conservation, United Nations Global Compact Network Sri Lanka and Biodiversity Sri Lanka to set forth a cohesive discussion on the opportunities available in response to threats and impacts posed by climate change.

Dilhan C. Fernando, Chair- Global Compact Network Sri Lanka set the tone of the event with key insights from the Stern Review, opening the forum to well-known figures in Sri Lankan academic circle, Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda, Dr. B.V. R. Punyawardena and Dr. Sunimal Jayathunga to elaborate on the impact and assessment of climate change in the Sri Lankan scenario. Keynote speaker from World Resources Institute, India Dr. A. Nambi Appadurai, shared his insight on climate risk management and the role of private sector in climate change adaptation. Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe, Conservator General- Forest Department joined the speakers for a panel discussion.

Dilhan C. Fernando, explaining the significance of the event said, “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 practices, 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.”

Sri Lanka’s private sector has a tremendous potential to contribute to the climate change adaptation and mitigation objectives outlined in the National Adaptation Plan 2016/25 and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 13. The country’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, India in his keynote address mentioned that Sri Lanka could lose about 1.2 percent 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 like urban development, industrial parks, PPPs (public-private partnerships) for large-scale project implementation, such as waste management, agriculture and the like.

Climate change could have a negative impact on nearly every sector affecting the supply chain, customers’ businesses and the communities that one deals with. Thus the longevity of a business is dependent on its readiness to adopt sustainable practices and contribute towards climate change adaptation. Dr. B.V. R. Punyawardena, Principal agro-climatologist from the Department of Agriculture- Peradeniya says, “businesses should look for simple-smart solutions and implement inexpensive, low-tech methods readily available in the market as a first step towards adapting to climate change such as using green energy and decreasing carbon footprints.” “Multipurpose projects can be a great way to jointly address mitigation and adaptation whilst also increasing the wellbeing of communities,” added Dr. Sunimal Jayathunga, Director- Climate Change Secretariat. Climate change adaptation and resilience strategies can be economic-centred as outlined by the UNFCCC or development driven which focus on improving the living standards for local communities.

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

Dr. Pethiyagoda emphasized on the exigency for the corporate sector to look beyond immediate profits and deliverables; instead, they should ensure that business interests are aligned more towards the demands of the future, both economically and environmentally. He also mentioned the need for businesses to readily adapt to new-emerging technologies.

Significant adaptation potential in economic development can be achieved through the integration of climate resilience aspects into the day-to-day decisions of private enterprises around the world. Understanding how these decisions are made and are ultimately financed is critical for establishing the policy frameworks capable to scale-up private sector investment to the required transformational scale.

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