Sri Lanka’s Future – Strategies & Actions for a transition to a Green Growth Pathway

by Dilhan

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka’s Environment Ministry and the Global Green Growth Institute invited stakeholder to consider Strategies and Actions to Accelerate Sri Lanka’s Transition to a Green Growth Pathway. President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Former Secretary General of the UN and President of the Assembly and Chair of the Council of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Ban Ki-Moon entered into a host country agreement initiating collaboration amongst Sri Lanka and GGGI. Dr. Achala Abeysinghe, Asia regional Director for GGGI posed the question, how can the private sector in Sri Lanka play a leading role in climate action and green growth? What would be your priority recommendations? What are the concrete actions that can be taken on the ground? This was our response.

There is only one priority – action, but to be impactful it must be preceded by awareness, assessment and collaboration. Nature is assumed by too many in both private and state sectors, to be constant and self regenerating. It is clearly not, although understanding that and the fact that our activity is fatally undermining Nature’s ability to continue to deliver clean air, water, productive soils, & sustain the provisioning and regulating functions that directly support half of global GDP is critical.

Our knowledge of climate change is imperfect but since Nicholas Stern’s advice in 2006 that acting to mitigate the effects of climate change would cost a fraction of facing them, we have known what needs to be done. Understanding that reality is essential for a sincere review & recast of our activity within an ESG framework. I don’t mean actions aligned with marketing priorities but genuinely impactful interventions for climate adaptation. That knowledge could be the catalyst amongst any right thinking business leader, to commit the funds and effort required to  build net zero plans and work towards Nature Positive businesses with innovation in products and processes.

As for concrete actions, as a business with an enduring connection to Nature, Dilmah has undertaken several. One example is the establishment of a Nature Corridor on Endane Estate, uprooting 25 ha of tea to reconnect two forests 100 years after they were isolated. The initiative is designed to promote biodiversity and climate resilience. The Dilmah Conservation funded effort is a collaboration amongst scientists, government and INGOs. It sustainability is underscored by a livelihood component for the community including beekeeping and organic gardening.

Similarly our One Earth Centre for Climate Change Research on Queensberry Estate, which collaborates with scientists in Sri Lanka, the UK amongst others in understanding climate impacts and mitigation measures.

Amongst nearly 150 projects each year is also an interesting blue carbon initiative that is engaging fishermen and their families in growing seaweed. One tonne of dry seaweed biomass can absorb nearly 960 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Working with local and international partners in linking seaweed cultivation with markets has produced applications ranging from fertilizer to food ingredients.

Transport is expected to produce nearly 30% of global GHGs. As part of an overarching commitment to zero emissions by 2030, we are working with GGGI to shift to e-mobility. The technology has advanced rapidly and while yet imperfect, we need to act to encourage others and make progress.

Collaboration is key to the success of climate action. To scale up our impact, we formed Biodiversity Sri Lanka in 2012, together with IUCN and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

In 2020 BSL launched the Life portal to compile information on what businesses are doing for biodiversity and climate action in Sri Lanka. This gives us all a more holistic picture of what Sri Lanka is doing to fulfill its environmental commitments, and helps share best practice to encourage other businesses.

5 years ago, BSL initiated collaboration amongst fifteen private companies in restore an extent of degraded forest land in the Kanneliya Forest Reserve, with guidance from the Forest Department, and technical support of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The project allows us to adapt locally relevant principles of restoration ecology to restore biodiversity and ecosystem services while also developing a biodiversity credit accrual system for Sri Lanka.

BSL has since initiated a similar collaboration for the restoration of degraded mangrove ecosystems.

We need to all understand the terrifying consequences of our actions as individuals, businesses and governments in undermining Nature. With proper comprehension of the value of Nature we must review every point at which our operations affect Nature and then collaborate in forming science based plans to make that interface sustainable, then act.

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