Climate Smart Decision Making And Upholding Inter-generational Equity

It is something we hear one too many times a day, but young people are the future. In our fast ageing, overworked and exhausted world where more and more people are taking on multiple roles that exceed their capacity due to the shortage of skilled labour and financial deficits, we often fail to remember that we wouldn’t be able to do everything, forever. Hence, there is a great need to train a younger, more abled force that would successfully carry on the legacy of work that has already been started. Having this vision in mind and also with the intention of incorporating the opinions and perspectives of the youth, SLYCAN Trust organised the “Global Youth Forum on Climate Change” on October 18 as a side event at the Sri Lanka NEXT Conference and Exhibition organised by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, held from October 17-19 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall.

The day long conference was an amalgamation of a range of climate change related subjects including low carbon development, mitigation, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), adaptation, agriculture, loss and damage, social justice among others.

Attending the opening ceremony of the Forum was Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment Secretary Udaya R Senevirathne who emphasised on the role of youth in the growing debate of climate change.

“Climate change threatens the existence of all beings. One of the main challenges faced by the world today is global warming that has a direct link with the activities of humans, especially with the world population claiming to increase by another 2 billion by 2050. It is absolutely essential to control activities that contribute towards global warming. Hence, it is the responsibility of the younger generation to utilise limited natural resources of the world with sustainable and consumption patterns,” he said.

The Forum had a dedicated session on loss and damage that was the main vehicle under the Warsaw International Mechanism. The discussion generated much discussion that it was also recognised in the Paris Agreement drafted at COP21.

“When we talk about loss and damage associated with climate change impact, we talk about losses and damages that can be monetised and traded in the market: agriculture produce, houses, things that you can actually value in monetary terms. But this is also a huge category of non-monetary items that can also be lost or damaged through climate change or extreme weather events. For example, a human life is the most precious thing but we don’t put a value,” said Xianfu Lu from the UNFCCC Secretariat when providing an understanding of the loss and damage framework under the UNFCCC process.

She also went on to speak on the loss to human health, culture and heritage of a country and the environment and ecosystem.

The Forum was designed to provide a space for youth speakers and presenters.  Programme Co-ordinator of SLYCAN Trust Kavindu Ediriweera spoke on the ongoing work in Trincomalee concerning livelihood development of small-scale farmers and climate friendly solutions.

“We were keen on getting involved with the farmers in Morawewa and Padavi Sri Pura in Trincomalee and introducing the concept of organic farming and organic agriculture to them. We began by conducting awareness creation workshops and skills training in order to both motivate them and prepare them to take on a new form of farming. We are pleased to note that 3.5 months later we have been able to amass a plentiful peanut harvest, probably one of the highest that the villages have collected to date,” said Ediriweera.

Speaking on low carbon development were two experts, Arvid Solheim and Janathakshan CEO Ranga Pallawala. Both experts spoke on the importance of shifting to renewables given the increasingly falling cost renewables. Pallawala went on to emphasise that for countries like Sri Lanka and other South Asian nations that the story of 100% renewable was not an option.

“For developing countries like ours, which have more urgent development concerns such as bustling traffic or farmer suicides, we need to identify the root of the problem and then curate a solution around it. For instance, if we are to look into the value chain of food production, if we start by attempting to reduce the number of intermediary participants in the value chain. Organic agriculture, is a really good example of this,” said Pallawala.

The Forum also had an equal number of youth participants and attempted at maintaining gender equality during the sessions.

Speaking on social justice was Centre for Environmental Justice CEO Hemantha Withanage who revealed startling statistics on Sri Lanka’s socio-economic indicators.

“Sri Lanka’s malnutrition is about 22% and of this 6.7% live in poverty, i.e. - 1.2 million people in this country live under LKR 3600 a month. Of the 7.4 billion people in this world, we have a poverty rate of 8.7 million. At the current rate of development and climate change, the world will soon have around 200 million climate migrants,” said Withanage.

The Global Youth Forum on Climate Change saw the participation of over 200 national and international youth and experts, and provided a space for lively interaction of topics related to climate change.

SLYCAN Trust is driven by the vision of collective local and global efforts to address impacts of climate change, animal welfare, social and gender empowerment and agriculture. 

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