Civil Society activist Chandra Jayarathna has requested the President Maithreepala Sirisena to expand the mandate and accountability of the Climate Change Commission of Sri Lanka beyond meeting climate change linked challenges.
In a letter to the President he has requested to establish new authority led by capable professionals with integrity, independence, and a proven track record of achievement to look in to the climate issues.
Following is the full text of the letter.
The civil society applauds the decision of the Cabinet, approving a recommendation made by You, to set up a mechanism titled “Climate Change Commission of Sri Lanka”, which is to be charged with the accountability to minimize the emission of greenhouse gasses and formulate policies, plans and laws relating to the control of the adverse impacts of climate change.
You were amongst the global leaders who endorsed the Paris Declaration – The Global Agreement on reduction of climate Change-; and civil society notes with recognition the steps you have taken, before the Earth Day 2016, to have the expressed cabinet commitment to the Paris Declaration to be secured. Civil Society waits in anticipation of the formal legal systems being put in place before the target date of 21st April 2017, for Sri Lanka to be compliant with its international commitments.
The civil society remains fully committed to support the proposed establishment of 10,000 environmentally friendly villages throughout the country, in collaboration with community organizations. The plans to implement a green environmental policy and ensure such policy compliant “Green Villages”, will hopefully address the current public awareness needs and develop a collectively participative citizenship societal culture, committed to broader environmental and ecological protection.
Civil Society urges that this proposed initiative be expanded beyond addressing climate change linked challenges and be made a spring board for establishing in Sri Lanka a culture which will assure collective commitment to environmental protection and sustainability in the longer term. It is important that your leadership initiatives marshal the collective committed support of the government, state institutions, INGO’s, institutional investors, civil service, non state parties, media and citizens.
In the above connection it is noted that;
- In addressing the 9thAnnual Summit of the Institute of Environmental Professionals, You articulated the Vision of making Sri Lanka to be ahead of other South Asian Countries in protecting the environment standards, with a committed goal of taking Sri Lanka to the 25th position in the global league tables from the present position of being 69th.
- You have noted that previous governments only paid lip service to environmental protection and that out of many gazette notices only a few remain implemented
- You have instructed officers of the Central Environmental Authority to enforce environmental protection regulations and assured them protection in impartially enforcing such regulations.
You are kindly urged to widen the mandate, scope and accountability of the Climate Change Commission of Sri Lanka from the present -” formulate policies, plans, action strategies, and laws relating to the control of the adverse impacts of climate change”, to include in addition, the accountability to “ensure longer term Environmental Sustainability and Disaster Resistance Capability” and in respect of the expanded scope, include an expanded mandate and accountability for
- assurance of environmental health and safety of citizens and other living beings,
- preventing the contamination of food items by chemicals, fertilizer and pesticides
- protection of drinking and other water resources,
- assuring pollution free air, sea, rivers, tanks, soil and land,
- assuring effective litter and waste management,
- Assuring coastal conservation and prevention of sea erosion
- Protection from excessive mining /quarrying of rock stones, minerals, gems etc
- Protecting the eco systems structure and functions from future degradation including
- Protecting the Bio Diversity, marine life and marine plants, fauna, flora and other endangered species etc
- Protecting sea, air and land resources,
- Forest Conservation,
- Preventing Noise pollution
It is recommended that the terms of reference of the Climate Change Commission of Sri Lanka include provisions requiring it to determine by scientific, economic and other analyses ( including 80:20 analysis and environmental impact assessments), the key negative contributors towards climate change and environmental degradation in Sri Lanka, who by their actions and activities are the most significant contributors in the production of green house gasses and environmental and ecological degradation.
These analyses should be capable of identifying the following environmental negative contributor linked information;
- The Sector (Agriculture, Industry, Services) and sub sector ( Plantation, Small holder Agriculture , Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries, Mining/Quarrying, Manufacture, Construction, Transport, Energy, Trade, Tourism, IT, Financial services, etc) compositions
- The twenty largest sources/ causes
- The ten largest contributors of the State, Private Sector, (Institutions or Individuals )
- The ten Imported Items and Export Commodities/Manufactured Items which are the largest contributors
- The ten public consumption based largest contributors
- The ten most negatively contributing professions, vocations and livelihoods
- The ten most damaging citizen actions and household activities
- The ten most endangered bio diversity including fauna, flora, plants, insects, birds, reptiles and fish etc
- The ten acts/sources that endanger the health and safety of citizens
- The five most endangered districts
- The five most endangered natural resources
- The five most endangered physical spaces under Sri Lankan control ( air, land, water, sea)
- The five most endangered economic hot spots in Sri Lanka
- The five most endangered cultural and heritage hotspots in Sri Lanka
- The five most damaging external action of the international community and regional nations
which are the most significant contributors in the production of green house gasses and environmental and ecological degradation.
It is further recommended that the terms of reference of the Climate Change Commission of Sri Lanka should include provisions requiring it to
- Update regulations and laws to control climate change and environmental degradation in Sri Lanka based on the assessments referred to above
- Develop and update annually a strategic national action plan setting out respective stakeholder commitments and accountabilities
- Annually publish a report setting out the state of affairs, a league table of comparative environmental protection standards with achievements vs. targeted, sustainability assessment, an assessment of the enforcement effectiveness and risks of the environment and ecology
- Publish details of enforcement action and penal actions taken against those responsible for significant production of green house gasses and environmental and ecological degradation.
- Develop a set of specific recommendations dealing with
- planned future actions in the control of the environmental degradation
- planned penal actions, prohibitions and negative lists of imports/exports/ usage/consumption/ etc
- taxation and other incentives and disincentives to be imposed as a control measure
- Develop and implement public awareness programmes, promotional events and communications campaigns
- Establish close network links and strategic alliances with other related state institutions in pushing the boundaries of controlling green house gasses and environmental and ecological degradation, including Central Environmental Authority, Customs, Import Control, Health Ministry, Food & Drug Administration, Consumer Affairs Authority, etc
- Establish close network links and strategic alliances with the National Procurement Commission to adopt guidelines that positively discriminate through evaluation criteria and set specific restrictions in countering negative effects of public procurement on the environment and ecology
The compliance accountability for the Paris Declaration led international commitments and the local visions led commitments, require not only supportive legal systems and structures; but more importantly an effective and committed to leadership within a living and operating culture with fiduciary accountability by all stakeholders.
It is important that all stakeholders recognize that establishing such a culture and effectively and impartially implementing the strategically positioned environmental policy, to advances Sri Lanka future sustainability in alignment with global and local commitments, will be one of the greatest social challenges in change management facing the government, the statutory agencies, non state actors and civil society.
Since such a culture is not yet a part of the collective societal ethos and many in civil society are yet unaware of the longer term negative impacts, public awareness building, demonstrating how continuing environmental degradation will impact on their health, welfare, livelihoods, economy and sustainability of future generations, must be priority task of the leadership, government, media and civil society.
In addition, appropriate regulations, effective and impartial enforcements, naming and shaming negative contributors, penal actions against offenders without exception, and a taxation policy with significant disincentives imposed on the negative contributors, alongside transparent public information, education of citizens (especially the young) and media supported compellingly targeted communications must be all a part of the strategic initiatives to which you now give leadership.
It is essential that you and the government take early steps to assure that
- the new authority to be established is led by capable professionals with integrity, independence, and a proven track record of achievement
- The operations and the management of the authority are in the hands of capable professionals
- There will be no political or other influences exerted on the authority and its leadership
- The authority is empowered to effectively manage the environment and have power to execise independent judgment and enforcement ( powers similar to that enjoyed by the Securities Exchange Commission)
- The authority has adequate resources ( both human and financial to function effectively
- The strategic and operational plans and regulatory framework and enforcement plans are developed following public consultations and dialogue with stakeholders
Whilst applauding the first steps taken by you and the Cabinet, civil society wishes you all success with this essential step in governance.