Tackling Climate Change | Daily News

Tackling Climate Change

Tackling Climate Change

We have definitely been experiencing many freak weather events for the last few years, from flash floods to unexpected droughts. Many have attributed this to the effects of Climate Change. Now a new report released at the ongoing COP24 climate summit in Poland has highlighted the urgency of addressing this issue without delay.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2019 Report, Sri Lanka has been ranked second among the countries most affected by extreme weather events since 1998. The Long-Term Climate Risk Index listed Sri Lanka and Puerto Rico as the top two affected countries. Sri Lanka was ranked fourth in the Climate Risk Index (CRI) in 2016. The Global Climate Risk Index 2019 analyses to what extent countries and regions have been affected by the impact of weather-related loss events such as storms, floods and heat waves.

The Report noted that altogether, more than 526,000 people died as a direct result of more than 11,500 extreme weather events; and losses between 1998 and 2017 amounted to around US$ 3.47 trillion. The report was prepared to analyse damages caused by the extreme weather events that took place from 1998 to 2017. The Index said that in May 2017, heavy landslides and floods occurred in Sri Lanka after strong monsoon rains in southwestern regions and more than 200 people died after the worst rains in the island since 2003. The monsoons displaced more than 600,000 people from their homes and 12 districts were affected.

This Report should be thought of as a wake up call for climate-related action in Sri Lanka where Climate Change has clearly wreaked havoc in many areas. A decision has been taken not to permit more coal power plants, which is a step in the right direction. A recent ADB study concluded that Sri Lanka is well poised to generate all its power requirements from renewable energy including solar and wind. By this time, new technologies such as wave and geothermal power could also come into play. Moreover, the authorities have decreed that fossil fuel powered cars will no longer be registered after 2040, but more incentives should be given for electric vehicles to gain a momentum for this target. Deforestation should be stopped forthwith – in fact, new plans call for an increase in forest cover to over 32 percent. The usage of single use plastics should be drastically reduced.

Climate science should be introduced as a subject in the school curriculum, so that the future generation will have a greater understanding on the effects of Climate Change. After all, they will inherit this nation and we must ensure a healthy climate for them to live in, in more ways than one.

Empowering the Passport

The results of the Annual Passport Index are out and the top slot this year goes to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose passport enables visa-free entry to 167 countries. Singapore is in second place, tied with Germany, with free entry to 166.

The UAE has shot up the rankings of The Passport Index in recent times, having held 27th place just two years ago. This is an impressive achievement indeed. The fact that two Asian nations hold the top two positions is also significant. Singapore’s neighbour Malaysia has the eleventh most powerful passport in the world, with visa-free entry to 161 nations.

Neighbouring Maldives is ranked 51, with visa-free entry to 83 nations, while India’s passport is ranked 66th, with free entry to 65 countries. How about Sri Lanka? We are languishing in the 84th spot, shared with Libya and Lebanon with visa-free entry to 45 countries, most recently to Laos.

This is no place for Sri Lanka to be in and indicates a systematic failure by successive Governments to negotiate with other countries for visa-free travel on behalf of Sri Lankans. To add insult to injury, some of the poorest countries in Africa including South Sudan are far ahead of Sri Lanka in the Passport Index, with visa free entry to many more countries. (However, the few Sri Lankans who have a US Visa on their passport can travel to 30 more countries with that visa).

Our foreign ministers and diplomats have successfully negotiated with many countries for visa-free travel using diplomatic passports, which does not serve any purpose for people-to-people contact. Sri Lanka is now a Middle Income country with a considerable percentage of the population having a good disposable income. The rise of Ultra Low Cost Carriers has made travel affordable even for the Middle Class.

It is therefore surprising that the authorities have not negotiated proactively at least with more Asian countries such as Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam as well as African and South American countries, without waiting for countries to give us visa-free travel unilaterally, like Indonesia did. Note that the UAE was 27th on the list just two years ago – they negotiated with at least 30 more countries in the meantime. We cannot go up the passport rankings automatically – we should do a lot more work to make our passport feel more welcome around the world.


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