Climate change mitigation: Sri Lanka’s perspective

D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe
Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka

Climate Change with the associated increase in global temperature and sea level rise has become the most important global concern in the present day. A land mark event in this regard is the signing of the Climate Change Convention in 1992 in Rio, Brazil which provided targets for especially developed countries to reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by 5% of the 1990 levels by 2012.  Mitigation of global warming involves taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to enhance sinks aimed at reducing the extent of global warming It has been found that almost 5400 million tons (Mt) of CO2 equivalents are emitted annually from various sources linked to human activities. Sri Lanka’s CO2 emission from fossil fuel combustion estimated at 2007 had been about 12,400 Gg CO2 which is only 0.04% of the global emission of 29,300 MtCO2 . The corresponding per capita CO2 emission was 648 kg in 2007 and although this is still much less than the global values, Sri Lanka has taken many policy measures that would result in mitigating GHG emissions.

In keeping with the global concern on sustainable development, the Government of Sri Lanka has taken many policy and program initiatives towards sustainable development which in turn helps to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.

Some of them are National Environmental Action Plan (1998-2001), establishment of National Council for Sustainable Development under the chairmanship of the President of Sri Lanka and the Haritha Lanka Action Plan having targets up to 2013.

Mitigatory measures have been taken in all the sectors including energy (power, transport, industry and household and commercial), land use, land use change and forestry, waste etc. The Energy Policy and Strategies (2006) of the country emphasizes the need to resort to sustainable energy and has a target of having  10% of the energy from renewable sources (Non-Conventional Renewable Sources) by 2015, a target which can be achieved if all the pending initiatives towards this is made operational. Further, the Government is constantly questing for clean energy. Some of the other initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint in the service sector are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED), ‘Greening Sri Lankan Hotels Programme’, setting up of the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority in 2007.

In the arena of industries, location of industries in industrial estates and conducting Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), voluntary standards like ISO 9001, ISO 14,001, Green building concepts, the Green Tax, Cleaner production initiatives, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) benefits have provided incentives to reduce GHG in this sector. Many national initiatives are underway in reducing the GHGs in waste sector too. As a country with a high canopy forest cover of 23.5% and a forest cover of 40% in general the potential to act as a GHG sink in forestry sector is very high. While ensuring the sustainable development efforts this will help the country to obtain benefits from CDM or Reduced emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD and REDD+) programs in the future.

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