Environment and Natural Resources Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka spoke on behalf of Sri Lanka and The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC).
At the outset, he said: "I have the honour to deliver this statement not only on behalf of Sri Lanka but also as the chairman, of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, Saarc, which has eight member states; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka covering one fourth of humanity in the world."
Ranawaka said the member states of Saarc remain concerned about the adverse effects of climate change on human lives, livelihoods, and populations in South Asia.
The island states, low-lying regions and long coastlines of South Asia face serious threats from climatic variations, and adverse effects of climate change including sea level rise.
The Himalayan region and, adjacent mountainous countries and river basins are also particularly vulnerable to catastrophic consequences of accelerated glacial melt, and associated risks.
He said Saarc reiterates that, in view of the historically high levels of GHG – Green House Gas- emissions, to which the South Asia made insignificant contribution, adherence to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is critical in combating climate change in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.
Ranawaka pointed out that given the vulnerabilities, inadequate means and limited capacities, "we are of the firm view that developed countries must commit to ambitious and binding GHG emission reduction targets.
The Long Term Co-operative Action of Parties must include equitable sharing of atmospheric space, provision of adequate financial resources for adaptation, NAMAs, NAPAs, capacity building, and technology development and transfer for combating climate change as per the convention."
While being committed through the Bali Action Plan for the global contributions to address the climate change, the Saarc has identified specific actions in the regional declarations such as 2008 Dhaka Declaration on Climate Change, 2009 Kathmandu Agreed Vision for South Asia for Climate Change and finally 2009 Delhi Statement on Cooperation in Environment. Furthermore, climate change will be the central theme for the forthcoming sixteenth Saarc summit in Bhutan in April 2010, he said.
He said Sri Lanka is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Sri Lanka’s coastal zone is at risk due to sea level rise and unseasonal cyclones, while the central mountains were exposed to severe landslides.
"Climate Change also affects our food and water security. Last year we lost our harvest by 15 per cent due to floods and this year 20 per cent due to droughts. The climate change challenge thus, jeopardizes our sustainable development effort," he added.
Ranawaka said the present energy and resource intensive development strategies cannot be sustained.
He said the concept of preserving the natural environment for all living beings is embedded in Sri Lanka’s ancient civilization that has had an uninterrupted script for over 2,500 years.
That civilization is endangered if the global community fails to care and share the limited resources of mother earth.
He also said that in a contemporary context in order to mitigate adverse impacts, the Sri Lanka launched a new programme named Green (Haritha) Lanka and established a National Council for Sustainable Development under the leadership of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure long-term sustainability of the development process of the country.
"Following the recent liberation of the North and the East we have now initiated a strategic environment impact assessment there," he said.
Technological advancement with the transfer of appropriate technology and substantial and adequate financial resources is paramount to make the country climate resilient and to secure sustainable socio economic growth.
"I sincerely hope that the outcome of the negotiations in Copenhagen will fulfill the long-term objectives of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol by sealing a comprehensive deal in this city," he noted.
Ranawaka also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Korea for Environmental Protection.
He signed the MoU with Republic of Korea Environment Minister Lee Maane, on December 16 in Copenhagen on Co-operation for Environmental Protection.
The MoU reflected the common commitment to the principles set out in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development that co-operation between states in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development would further promote friendly relations between the two countries.
The scope of the MoU includes facilitating cooperation on initiatives that prevent and assist adaptation to climate change.
It encourages joint activities to fulfill the goals of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, and environment protection in several other fields including water, energy and industry sectors.