“Pledges mean nothing. It’s time to take action”

Sri Lanka foreign minister urges the need for tangible action to combat the effects of climate change

by

Abdulla Mohamed Al-Riyami

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Ali Sabry, the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. — Rahul Gajjar/Khaleej Times
Ali Sabry, the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. — Rahul Gajjar/Khaleej Times

Published: Thu 30 Nov 2023, 10:03 PM

Home to a lush, tropical climate and vast rainforests, Sri Lanka is amongst the 30 most vulnerable countries to climate change.

Ali Sabry, the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, has expressed his frustration with political leaders who commit to climate change but fail to implement effective measures. Sabry has emphasised the need for tangible action to combat the effects of climate change and has called on his fellow politicians to prioritise this issue.

“A lot of promises have been made that look great on paper, but so far, nothing tangible has been happening on the ground,” he states.

“The tropical belt, where Sri Lanka is located, contains 40 per cent of the world’s biodiversity and rainforest. Climate challenges, like biodiversity loss and pollution, affect us directly. So, we are saying that enough is enough. It’s time for everyone to walk the talk. Pledges mean nothing.”

However, he is relieved that the UAE’s COP28 marks a turning point in the world’s approach to climate change. “The UAE is energetically and ambitiously leading COP28. I am sure that our positive discussions at COP28 will turn into positive action to make the world a better place for future generations. Sri Lanka is very interested in tackling climate change in partnership with like-minded countries such as the UAE,” he says.

Sri Lanka brings its admirable climate initiatives. It aims to operate on 70 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and the president is pushing forward its net-zero promise from 2050 to 2040. It also offers a degree in climate change, the first of its kind in Asia, and it is working to plant more trees and further uncover its renewable energy potential.

“We are in the process of promoting a revolution in vehicle transmission,” Sabry adds.

“We have ambition and a clear plan in place. We have progressed, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We must continue working to achieve a sustainable future for our country, people and the world.”

Sri Lanka hosts a Climate Justice Forum that addresses the need for the biggest pollution emitters to support the developing countries most severely impacted by climate change. A topic that Sabry is immensely passionate about.

“The countries that emit the most carbon must be responsible for supporting the nations that suffer the most due to their actions,” he declares.

“They need to help them improve their sustainable energy production efforts. These countries should share a part of their profits with the innocent people who are being affected disproportionately.” He adds that it is imperative that aid is provided in the form of knowledge, investment, support, and funds rather than adding to the financial burden of countries with loans.

Having recovered from its financial difficulties, Sri Lanka now welcomes investments from those who are interested in tapping its various potentials, particularly its ability to produce renewable energy.

Sabry says: “Sri Lanka had just undergone a huge economic turmoil, but now we are making a big comeback. Tourism has bounced back, investors are coming in, and inflation is under control. Many countries are looking at opportunities in Sri Lanka, including China, the USA and nations from the Middle East.

Given their shared investment in renewable energy, Sri Lanka is particularly keen to forge close links with businesses in the UAE. Sri Lanka’s president and top ministers are all attending COP28.

“Throughout the conference, we want to engage with the world’s policymakers and look at how we can improve international architecture to help meet climate deadlines,” Sabry concludes.

“Our private sector and regulators are also here to share knowledge and forge new collaborations. Gaining investments in our renewable energy sector remains a big focus for us.”


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