Dialogues on National Climate Change Adaptation

Following the initial Climate Reality: Threats, Response, Opportunity forum held on the 31st of July 2018, Biodiversity Sri Lanka, the Global Compact Network- Sri Lanka and Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company presented “Dialogues on National Climate Change Adaptation” on the 17th of September 2018. The conversation discussed the emerging trends of environmental legislature and the implications of climate change and adaptation in Sri Lanka


Held on the 17th of September 2018 at the MAS Innovation Centre the panel featured Dr. Nirmalie Palewatta of the University of Colombo who spoke on ecosystem processes, Avanthi Jayatilleke of EML Consultants on food and water security and Dr. Lalanath De Silva, Head of the Independent Redress Mechanism of the Green Climate Fund established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on environmental justice in climate change and adaptation. The discussion revolved around three main points; The need for adequate climate law and legislation, the opportunities for the private sector in terms of insurance and green funding opportunities and the need for better education and knowledge dissemination.

Law and Legislation

Sri Lanka’s legal institutional environment is lacking with regard to the necessary laws and regulations that establish the legal infrastructure to effectively deal with climate change and adaptation. While Sri Lanka has adopted a National Adaptation Plan for 2016-2025, our existing laws, agencies and law enforcement do not allow for the plan to be executed efficiently. This means that the necessary collaboration and cooperation between relevant agencies to act in line with the National Adaptation Plan is weak and real action cannot be taken. The result is isolated projects undertaken in a fragmented, ad-hoc manner.

A study by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment revealed that global trends in climate litigation has increased exponentially in the past decade. Corporations are the single most represented plaintiff, bringing 40% of cases to court. This number is followed by individuals and the government. This global trend will undoubtably be seen in Sri Lanka in the coming years. Sri Lanka’s judiciary will be exposed to climate change arguments, but existing frameworks do not allow for such cases to be resolved efficiently. What is needed is a Green Tribunal for Sri Lanka to quickly settle environmental and climate disputes that will arise more frequently. We need comprehensive climate law that makes mainstreaming climate change considerations into project, programme and policy considerations mandatory. This should be enacted at the highest level with the power to enforce laws free of political interference.

Opportunities in Insurance and Climate Finance

Climate change has resulted in more erratic weather patterns. This affects multiple segments of the population including farmers, whose crop yield becomes increasingly more uncertain as rainfall patterns become increasingly unpredictable. Coastal residents are also likely to feel the effects of coastal erosion. The emerging challenge of reducing risk exposure for those affected by climate change creates new opportunities for firms that can innovate and provide new solutions. Mitigating climate risks and building climate resilience will need the insurance industry to enter the arena of climate insurance, with a focus on Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector. The insurance industry can adapt to profit from climate risk and in doing so will help society adapt as well.

Recent reports from the OECD estimate that the global infrastructure investment required to remain below a rise in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius is approximately USD 7 trillion per year. It is of utmost importance to mobilise funds and to raise awareness within the private sector the opportunities available to them through international climate finance. Many of the Multilateral Development Banks, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as the UNFCCC through the Green Climate Fund have made climate finance available for private sector projects relating to mitigation and adaptation activities at all levels. It is obvious that climate finance is sufficiently available and accessible however the missing link is the unit that communicates and disseminates information on such financing options to the private sector. Local banks and financial institutions also need to consider developing programmes that provide funding for building climate resilience. Sri Lanka needs dedicated staff who are knowledgeable on these funding sources to help the private sector identify those which are most relevant and help them to develop funding proposals and guide them through the decision-making process.

Climate Education

Bringing science to motivate people has proved to be difficult. Oftentimes, this is because knowledge that is disseminated cannot be understood by the general public. What is available in the public domain tends to confuse rather than clarify. It is important to fund climate research, providing the latest technology for weather prediction and mapping vulnerable areas. This information then needs to be disseminated effectively via phones, radio and TV among all vulnerable parties including farmers, business and industry. There needs to be story-telling narratives that people can relate to. Only then can data on climate research be shared with the public effectively and allow interested parties to develop innovative solutions to the climate risks that we face as a country today.

Climate change will create winners and losers, profits and losses and we need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. To do this, as discussed by the esteemed panellists at the event, we need to rethink our existing legal frameworks, improve access to green finance for the private sector and reform the way in which scientific information is disseminated to the public.

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Mr. Lalantha De Silva doing a Speech

Dr. Lalanath De Silva

Attorney at law


Dr. Lalanath De Silva spoke on the need for a legal and regulatory infrastructure, which includes laws, institutions and agencies, to effectively deal with climate change and adaptation. He also stressed the need to better communicate the green financing options made available to the private sector through Multinational Development Banks and the UNFCCC.

Lecturing on a Stage by a Woman

Dr. Nirmalie Palewatta

University of Colombo


Dr. Nirmalie Palewatta shared with the audience the science behind how climate change affects ecosystem processes and future trends of the impact on ecosystems. She highlighted the importance of ecosystem processes to our survival as the two are intricately linked. No ecosystem process is independent of the climate and as long as we all live on this planet, anything that affects ecosystem processes will affect us too.

Photograph of a Man

Mr. Avanthi Jayatilleke

EML Consultants


Mr. Avanthi Jayatilleke highlighted the link between climate change and water systems in Sri Lanka. He described the changes in Sri Lanka’s rainfall patterns and using multiple graphs and maps, explained the risks to potable water due to floods and landslides. He also explored the implications of such risks on planning to increase coping capacity and strengthen adaptation measures.


Photo Summary

  • Dialogues on National Climate Change Adaptation
  • Dr. Lalanth De Silva
  • The Audience and Speakers at the MAS Innovation Centre
  • Panel Members of National Climate Change Adaptation
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