Minister Daya Gamage urges the world for immediate investment and worldwide use of renewable energy sources such as solar, hydroelectric, wind power.
“At the same time, we have to reverse the damage through recycling every gram of plastic and metal used,” he says.
The minister was delivering a speech at the standing committee meeting of ICAPP in Korea on July 9th
Text of the speech:
Your excellencies, colleagues representing political parties across Asia, guests and friends,
It with great pleasure I stand before you here today, honoured to have been a part of the Asia Europe Political Forum. These past few days proved that ICAPP is a true regional platform of dialogue and cooperation and can be instrumental in moving Asia towards economic and social prosperity. I would like to start by thanking my Prime Minister, the Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, for selecting me as a representative of the United National Party of Sri Lanka as well as my fellow ICAPP members for their elections of me as one of the 3 Asian representatives for the Asia-Europe conference. I am grateful for the confidence placed in me and will strive to represent both my party and Asia in these diplomatic talks to the best of my ability.
One topic that has been intensely discussed is climate change and it is on that I wish to speak to you about. This is an important issue – I truly believe that ICAPP is an organisation in which we can affect climate change in a real way – so we have to use the influence and power we wield to implement change.
Every week, we’re seeing new and undeniable climate events, evidence that accelerated climate change is here now. We know that droughts are intensifying and our oceans are warming. We are seeing extreme weather events, increased temperatures, and ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates, decades ahead of scientific projections.
Just 6 weeks ago, Sri Lanka witnessed its heaviest day of rain in 10 years. Up to 500mm of rain fell in one day in some districts. That’s around 1/3 of the rain most of Western Europe receives in a year. To date, there have been 224 deaths, 72 life changing injuries, 78 remain missing, and over 13,000 households remain displaced.
This is not just a coincidence. Significant evidence is indicating that the severity of monsoons and droughts is worsening due to the increase in global air temperature. This is a problem that every country in the world is facing and being forced to wake up to.
But even if Sri Lanka recognizes this, even if every country that is represented in this room recognises the startling evidence that sits before us, it may not be enough.
We need a concentrated effort from every country in the world, every manufacturer, every CEO, every politician, every person to reduce CO2 output, reduce wastage, reuse materials.
This is no longer just about changing light bulbs from halogens to LEDs, or recycling at home. What is needed is a systematic change of behaviour. This means immediate investment and worldwide use of renewable energy sources such as solar, hydroelectric, wind power. At the same time, we have to reverse the damage through recycling every gram of plastic and metal used. I must stress that although the developed countries may have been the initial contributors of global warming and climate change but as Asia develops, we must not make the same mistakes they did. Instead, we must develop to be more energy-efficient and reduce our impact – especially as Asia is home to almost 2/3 of the world’ population, it is critical that we get our house in order before looking over to see what our neighbours are doing.
And the behaviours that we see portrayed before us in causing and worsening climate change are also apparent in other areas. The floods were worsened by a disregard for the lackluster planning laws that the previous government left us with. People built alongside river’s floodplains, meaning the water had nowhere else to go but encroach on developed lands, destroying homes, businesses, lives.
And this is why I disagree that the biggest threat to our existence on earth is climate change, or water, or food shortages. It is us. It is the human beings that take so much from this planet, but do not look after it.
Finally, let me end with words of recognition and gratitude. Since I have been an honoured participant of these discussions, I have witnessed the ICAPP growing bigger and bigger each year. With over 350 political parties now being members, this is one of the world’s largest gatherings of political representatives from all over the world. I must take this opportunity to mention our founding chairman and co-chairman Chung Yi-Eun. To bring ICAPP to this level, the contribution made by him cannot be expressed in words, such is his dedication and commitment.
Furthermore, I know how much initiative Mr. Chung has taken to organise this session of ICAPP in Korea this week – he was not here the last two days to see the results of his efforts. But we are honoured today to have him amongst us, especially as he is now one of the most influential people in Korea right now and at the forefront of this country’s future. His new appointment by the Korean President, His Excellency Moon Jae-In, means that the whole country will now reap the benefits of his leadership, drive and diplomatic skills that we, as members of the ICAPP have witnessed for many years. I would like to express also my gratitude to the speaker and other members of Korea’s National Assembly, especially Mrs. Park, who have helped make this event a great success.