President Ranil Wickramasinghe reveals plans to spearhead the establishment of the Climate Change University, scheduled to be launched next year 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.
This initiative aims to bring together approximately 130 internationally recognized scientists who have made significant contributions to climate change research. The university will specialize in research to provide solutions to global climate issues.
The discussion also highlighted the upcoming visit of a group of international experts from the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, scheduled tentatively for July/August. Their visit aims to engage in policy conversations, tackle global climate challenges, and explore potential research projects derived from these dialogues.
The successful conclusion of negotiations between Sri Lanka and the Korea Exim Bank, led by the External Resource Department, was also revealed during the briefing.
The Korean Exim Bank has expressed a keen interest in partnering with the Climate Change University, showcasing the global recognition and support the initiative has garnered.
President Wickremesinghe emphasized that contributing countries or organizations become stakeholders and gain membership on the Board of Governance of the International Climate Change University. Esteemed institutions such as Harvard and MIT have expressed interest in collaborating with the university. The President also stressed the importance of offering short-term courses for government officials to enhance their knowledge in the field of climate change.
Discussions during the briefing focused on five main areas that were previously established in a meeting with President Wickremesinghe. These areas include the Climate Change Office, Green Finance Facilitation, International Climate Change University, Nature Positive Green Growth, and Innovative Management Support. Special attention was given to regions that are lagging in these areas, such as marine pollution and electric car mobility. The President emphasized the importance of involving the private sector and international organizations in addressing these concerns.
One key issue highlighted during the briefing was the fragmented authority structure. To improve the handling of environmental issues and prevent incidents like the recent X-Press Pearl disaster, it was suggested that the Central Environment Authority, Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), and Department of Coast Conservation be merged into a single authority.
Another concern raised during the briefing was the lack of a dedicated disaster-prevention authority as Sri Lanka aims to become a regional shipping hub. A concept paper emphasized the need to focus on disaster preparedness within the country and encouraged international supporters to assist. In line with this, a delegation from Europe is scheduled to arrive on June 12 to assist in developing an internationally recognized regional disaster management program, particularly related to MEPA’s catastrophe management program.
MEPA also expressed interest in establishing a separate disaster management unit within their organization, with support from the private sector. Several offers of assistance from external sources were received, highlighting the significant interest in ocean-related matters that intersect with climate change. United Nations (UN) agencies have shown interest in supporting marine spatial planning efforts and are seeking a focal point in Sri Lanka for potential assistance. Additionally, discussions were held regarding an initiative by the international maritime organization to relocate the marine traffic separation line near Hambantota, aiming to minimize its 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