By Senashia Ekanayake
Sri Lanka was selected to be the first country in South Asia to host Asia Pacific Adaptation Network’s prestigious 5th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum (APAN 2016) from October 17-19, 2016 that was hosted by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment as a side event of their own Sri Lanka NEXT Conference and Exhibition. For 2016, the theme “Adapting and Living below 2°C: Bridging the Gaps in Policy and Practice” explored platforms and concrete pathways for even greater partnerships by governments, civil society and business. With the growing interest and with the recognition of adaptation not only as a development imperative but as an existential one as well, the Forum had over 1000 registrations and 600 international delegates from 60 countries, over 170 NGOs and 25 governmental delegates.
Climate Action Network South Asia was one of the key partners of the Forum and was involved in organising and being a part of a few panels including:
One of the key concerns that was discussed during the panel on policy initiatives included the lack of access to information for subsidy policies and renewable energy. A representative from Nepal who was quick to point out the issue also went on to explain the importance of capacitating local communities and educating them on what the government has in store for them in the discussion of renewable energy.
Throwing more light on adaptation and its mechanism was India National Disaster Management Authority Founder Member Prof Vinod Menon who explained on how adaptation should be incentivised.
“It is important to bring in an incentive so that this will become a participatory process for the community. There has to be policy coherence in disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and sustainable development goals related mechanisms. Communities need to lead adaptation practices and the climate smart village must be inclusive in order for them to succeed,” said Prof Menon.
The official opening ceremony of both APAN 2016 and the Sri Lanka NEXT Conference and Exhibition was held on the second day, October 18 and was attended by the Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment in Sri Lanka, the President himself, HE Maithripala Sirisena.
“Our country is a fortunate one. We are blessed with ample resources, natural wonders and picturesque beauty. Last December we signed the Paris Agreement on climate change and for Sri Lanka, ‘sustainable development’ are two keywords that should constantly be in our vocabulary. We need to protect our environment and our country has stringent laws on environmental protection. As Minister of Environment, I am willing to take measures that will ensure its safety,” said President Sirisena. He went on to say that Sri Lanka has declared “2017 as the year of eradicating poverty and that Sri Lanka is prepared to take on responsibilities entrusted to them as a member country of the United Nations.”
CANSA also hosted “A Himalayan Odyssey” a photography exhibition curated by CANSA adviser and photojournalist Shailendra Yashwant.
The official closing ceremony that took place on the eve of October 19 was attended by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment Deputy Minister and the Speaker of Parliament.
“We are fortunate to have a President who has taken personal interest in the environment. As Minister of Environment, not only has he initiated Sri Lanka NEXT, but has also set out the ‘Blue-Green’ economic pathways available. As the Government, we are pleased with the outcome of this Conference. We are now waiting to see the ground level implementation of the recommendations of the Conference and the Forum. As the Government, we are also willing to extend the maximum assistance needed in implementing these recommendations,” said Speaker of Parliament, Sri Lanka HE Karu Jayasuriya.
Also attending the closing ceremony was SWITCH-Asia Network Facility Team Leader Uwe Weber who stated the importance of ensuring all mitigation and adaptation actions to be taken at local level.
“It is important that we (as the development world) talk to all stakeholders involved in the process. These include local authorities, small and medium enterprises and the private sector,” he said.
The Forum and Conference also had 600 farmers present from all over the world and a dedicated session to discuss soil as the smallholder sector is the most vulnerable to climate change. This was an important session wherein a discussion was initiated on the need for countries to shift towards low carbon development based economies as there is a huge change in structure and mindset.