Category Archives: Climate – Environment

Sri Lanka’s Youth Plan for Sustainable Development

The Rio+20 Summit is in full swing and the Sri Lankan arm has taken its first initiative, in which a statement has been presented to the Minister of Environment. Post-war Sri Lanka certainly is in need of a system of sustainable development and at this stage the country has a fresh start in which adopting such a system is relatively trouble free; or so it should be.

The statement that encapsulates several vital areas in sustainable development was drafted by over 30 youth-led and youth-focus local organizations that are involved in environmental conservation, management, climate change, sustainable development and advocacy for environmental issues. Bringing these organizations together and orchestrating Sri Lanka’s participation in the Rio Summit, is the Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka (YGSL) that was established earlier this year (March 2012). The statement is a position paper on which future projects will be based. The paper was presented to the Ministry of Environment, as the ministry had arranged for the involvement of youth groups in the process. Nashen Gunesekera, the drafting committee chair, says it shows the enthusiasm of the government as other governments had not involved environmental conscious volunteer groups, apart from the ministry’s own.

Attaining sustainable development

A large team of local environmentally conscious youths has formulated a multipronged action plan, addressing several key areas that are intrinsic in the development of a nation. Top of the list and under the umbrella of youth policy positions, the statement mentions society’s role in sustainable development. The activists believe that equality is essential, they explained “our aspiration is equality for all, and not the luxury of the 20 per cent of the world’s people who enjoy the exploitation of 80 per cent of its resources.”

Well-being and happiness as well as right mindfulness were also highlighted as the cornerstone to sustainable development. Society being at the heart of development, even with an extraordinary physical plan, it cannot fruition sans the right mindset of the people.

The economy is another key area that needs to be addressed, and therefore, the team included environmental sustainability and poverty reduction, and a Green Economy in the statement. YGSL explains, “A Green Economy should replace the current economic order of inequity, destruction and greed. A Green Economy should be an economic system that ensures social equity, protects the ecological balance and creates economic sufficiency. The core idea of a Green Economy should be to enforce sustainability, specifically the wellbeing of all people and respecting and preserving the biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems.

A green economy manages consumption and production in an environmentally conscious manner. The document indicated, Agenda 21 (Chapter 4.3), which is an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992) states that; “The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances.” According to the team enabling the SCP should be the focus of any emerging international outcome. SCP is a systemic process of lifestyle and livelihood behaviours that ensures the wellbeing of all people in an equitable manner while conserving the ecology for current and future generations.

Political solutions are on the cards as well as sustainable development governance, which they said, “We understand Sustainable Development Governance should necessarily create platforms at every level for the voice of youth to be heard and to be considered within the decision making processes, for it is on the shoulders of youth the responsibility rests.”

On that note they believe it is necessary to establish an office for the ombudsperson — high commission for future generations. “We the youth representatives of Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka understand that there is a lacuna in current decision making processes and institutions of the world, especially as all of them fail to consider the long term effects of decisions made today. The proposal stated at paragraph 57 of the Zero Outcome document calling for the establishment of an Ombudsperson/High Commissioner for Future Generations is thus an opportunity to meet this short coming and by establishing such an office, we believe that both the aspirations of youth and future generations will be protected.”

How Sustainable Development Can be Achieved

The team also presented a set of recommendation that can be adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka as well as the governments in the international arena. They laid emphasis on the inclusion of the youth at all levels of decision making so the future can be shaped to suit the next generation better. The team expressed, “We wish to state by participation, youth are empowered and are given the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential hence enabling them to harness their skills required to move the world toward the paradigm shift which is necessary to achieve economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.”

Employment for the youth is also mandatory for a better greener future, according to the local Rio+20 Summit members. “At present there is a lack of green job initiatives and access to green skills training programmes for young people. We believe bridging the skills gap among young people through improved education and training will be a key to achieving environmental objectives and a transition to a green economy.”

Education and training  —  skills development opportunities, the opportunity for youth to volunteer to achieve sustainable development.

The President will present the paper as part of the country report at the summit. Neshan Gunesekara said, “The international community will analyze, scrutinize and criticize the paper. The point of presenting the paper at an international forum is so that other countries can take stock of what Sri Lanka has achieved over the years and adopt some of these strategies that will help them.

He added that, he personally believes that the youth of Sri Lanka is very environmentally conscious, and they have shown an initiative but what they lack, is the support of the government and other authorities, in implementing plans and taking their concerns into consideration.

Well, that’s good news for BB too. Having particular goals will help us channel our efforts in these areas and those connected to contribute to sustainable development in Sri Lanka. It should also make devising project plans easier. So three cheers to our Rio paper!

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Show us the (Green) Money

Talk about carbon trading and carbon emissions in Sri Lanka and the business savvy mind will immediately think of a company like MAS which became part of the world’s first ever fully ‘green’ supply chain together with Marks and Spencer. It may also think about various reforestation and sustainable energy projects that are implemented as carbon credit sources for trade with companies in developing countries.

The ‘green’ craze has taken over the world, if not politically, at least in the sphere of marketing. Increasingly firms are looking to go ‘green’ to attract eco-conscious customers. This may be a whole new wave of consumerist political activism where people use the choices in what they buy to influence policy. How can this influence policy? One might ask. They are only buying goods from firms, not from politicians they might say. But the truth is that all political systems are inherently tied to where the money is. Democracy is mainly conformed to the capitalists needs. Power needs money and who has money? The businessmen. The people influence businesses, the businesses influence the government, and the governments make the changes in policy.

Perhaps I have stretched that train of thought too far into a dark tunnel, let me pull it out and re-examine it. People want green goods because people feel guilty about the environment. This is mostly true of the Western consumer, only this efficacious creature has the time, money or the inclination to worry about the environment and incorporate room for it in his or her wallet. Green brands are popping up all over the place, all of them struggling to stamp out their ‘carbon footprint’ from the great beach of the atmosphere.

On the contrary most Sri Lankan consumers, when caring about the environment, will resort to refusing fresh plastic bags with their groceries. The typical Sri Lankan is worried about pollution, not global warming. The Kyoto protocol is something the average Sri Lankan is only dimly aware of.

The Kyoto protocol tried to bring in emission regulations for the countries of the world to follow. Attempts to apply uniform emission targets failed miserably. China, one of the biggest emitters of Carbon dioxide refused to reduce emission rates at the same level as developed countries claiming that all the ‘development’ enjoyed by these countries came out of large scale industrialization that couldn’t have given two hoots of a steam engine about global warming. Feeble excuses that none of these countries had ever heard of the phenomenon at the time were scornfully discarded.

The US has also notoriously been unwilling to conform. Barrack Obama’s lackluster performance at Copenhagen 2010 nailed the lid on the coffin of the much hyped sequel to Kyoto. As far as the big nations were concerned, global warming was a distant possibility that they were too busy getting richer to bother about.

But that is not to say a large number of countries did not ratify it. And from the Kyoto protocol was born the carbon emission trading market. Companies were given emission targets as part of a ‘triple bottom line’ financial model that was to take in the cost incurred to the environment by their operations. If they could not cut down their emission levels to what was required by the target, they were allowed to purchase extra emission credits from firms and entities that were well below their own targets. A lot of these provides for emission credits are green projects in the developing world. Sri Lanka itself has a number of waterfall centered sustainable energy projects that make a lot of money for their owners.

A system like this may have failed because the companies adopting the regulations would have been at a serious disadvantage in comparison to those that did not. And in fact, many of them did and still do depend on government subsidies.

The system would have collapsed were it not so appealing to the hippie inside every consumer. Large scale demand for products that had no ‘carbon footprint’ started to impact industries as diverse as supermarkets, financial services, internet services, couriering, transport, tourism you get the drift. Wherever there was an environmentally savvy consumer, brands could differentiate to appeal more to him or her.

Happily for the hippie in me, the phenomenon has also seeped into the unregulated sector. Companies that are not legally bound to follow the protocol are adapting its requirements to appeal more to customers. A whole new industry has emerged that services the needs of these companies. There are firms that will measure, set targets for and monitor your company’s carbon emissions and provide you with a globally recognized certificate for it. They will also help you market it to your customers.

As more and more consumers demand green products more and more companies will start to provide them more and more governments are being bypassed. This is how a democracy works; Money makes it move faster.

Sri Lankan firms should start looking for opportunities to go green as well. A new certification firm is in town and if the demand doesn’t exist, it wouldn’t be too hard to create it. Most industries that target Western markets will be inclined to tag along with the wave, tea, coconut, garments and IT services being a few. As for the domestic market, it will still be a while until Mrs. Perera inquires as to what exactly the carbon footprint of a kilo of that samba rice is at the supermarket.

By Halik Azeez

Halik is a core group member of Beyond Borders and is an erstwhile corporate desk jockey turned journalist and student. He also blogs here sometimes. His opinions are his own.

THE 1ST YOUTH ENVIRONMENTAL SUMMIT – SRI LANKA

Beyond Borders Sri Lanka is a voluntary youth organization focused on development.It is a platform which enables for young people to network, develop skills and workon issues they are passionate about. The Beyond Borders Environmental Programmewas launched in 2009 by involving youth in the International Day of Climate Action.The event was part of the more than 5000 events held globally on the 24th of October2009 calling on positive climate action.

Beyond Borders together with of a group of active and concerned youth areorganizing the 1st Youth Environmental Summit in Sri Lanka with the objectiveof bringing all Sri Lankan youth working for the benefit of the environment bothas individuals and in organizations, to a common platform. The aim is to form acommunicable network for the exchange of commonly beneficial information andopportunities for the benefit of everyone.

As such, the organizing team is pleased to host the inaugural event which will beheld on the 21st of August 2010 from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm at the Subodhi, Centre forIntegral Studies.

Goals of Network:

To establish a platform through which beneficial information and opportunities canbe publicized uniformly and equally

• To promote interaction between individuals and organizations for possible jointactivities and project implementation

• To provide awareness and training on issues and management systems that impactthe environment

• To build the capacity of Sri Lankan youth to interact, negotiate and formpartnerships with their global counterparts for the benefit of the commonenvironment and organizational growth

Date: 21st August 2010

Venue: Subodhi, Centre for Integral Studies, Piliyandala, Sri Lanka

Time: 9.00am to 4.00pm

Registrations:Forms could be obtained by sending a request mail to shehan@beyondborders.lk

Beyond Borders is registered as a nonprofit organization in Sri Lanka.This initiative is funded by the United States Department of State in Sri Lanka.

Climate Sustainability: A discussion with Mr. Uchitha De Zoysa