President Ranil Wickremesinghe is currently leading efforts to establish the Climate Change University, scheduled to be launched next year. Additionally, the University Grants Commission has recently identified approximately 130 scientists who have gained international recognition for their research on climate change. These scientists are expected to be brought together, along with their respective international affiliations, as part of this initiative.
This was revealed at the briefing on the progress of Climate Change and Green Growth held on Wednesday (31) at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and officials of the Climate Change Secretariat led by President’s Adviser on Climate Change Mr. Ruwan Wijewardene.
The discussions also revolved around inviting a group of international experts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tentatively scheduled for July/August. The purpose of their visit would be to engage in policy conversations, addressing global issues, and exploring potential research projects that could be derived from these policy dialogues.
Furthermore, it was disclosed that negotiations between Sri Lanka and the Korea Exim Bank, led by the External Resource Department, concluded successfully.
President Wickremesinghe expressed his perspective on the International Climate Change University, emphasizing that it is a post-graduate institution solely focused on research and does not offer undergraduate courses. Any country or organization that contributes to the university becomes a stakeholder and gains membership on the Board of Governance. The Korean Exim Bank has expressed interest in partnering with the university. President Wickremesinghe urged that all future research in the field of climate change should be conducted at this institution. President Wickremesinghe stated that prestigious institutions like Harvard and MIT have expressed interest in collaboration. The President also requested the consideration of short-term courses for government officials.
During the briefing, the five thematic areas established in a previous meeting with President Wickremesinghe were extensively discussed. These areas include the Climate Change Office, Green Finance Facilitation, International Climate Change University, Nature Positive Green Growth, and Innovative Management Support. Specific attention was given to regions lagging behind in these areas, such as marine pollution and electric car mobility. President Wickremesinghe instructed the authorities to address these concerns, involve the private sector and international organizations in the efforts.
Using the X-Press Pearl incident as an example, it was recommended that the Central Environment Authority, Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), and Department of Coast Conservation be merged into a single authority. This consolidation would enable more effective handling of matters related to environmental issues, as the Environmental Authority was not involved in or aware of the X-Press Pearl incident due to the fragmented authority structure.
During the discussions aimed at establishing Sri Lanka as a shipping hub in the region, various concerns were raised regarding the lack of a disaster-prevention authority. These concerns were highlighted in the concept paper, along with the willingness of international supporters to provide assistance. The President emphasized the importance of focusing on disaster preparedness within the country rather than solely relying on assistance from India.
Attention was also given to the catastrophe management program of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), with a European delegation expressing their desire to assist. This European team is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on June 12 to guide the development of an internationally recognized regional disaster management program.
Another matter of concern was MEPA’s interest in establishing a separate disaster management unit within their organization, supported by private sector funding. Multiple offers of assistance from external sources were received, as there is significant interest in ocean-related matters that intersect with climate change. The United Nations (UN) agencies expressed interest in marine spatial planning and sought a focal point in Sri Lanka for potential assistance. Additionally, there were discussions regarding an international maritime organization initiative to relocate the marine traffic separation line near Hambantota further away to minimize the impact on whales in the area.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabri, Minister of Environment Naseer Ahamed, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, President’s Senior Economic Adviser Dr. R.H. Samaratunga, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ms Aruni Wijewardane, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment Dr Anil Jasinghe, Director of Presidential International Affairs Dinouk Colombage, Dr. Ananda Mallawathantri and the other officials of the line Ministries attended at this discussion.