04/23/2016, 14.38
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For Sri Lankan environmentalists, the Paris climate agreement is not enough to save the planet

by Melani Manel Perera

The Paris climate agreement was signed yesterday in New York. More than 150 heads of state and government have pledged to keep the increase in global temperature "well below 2 degrees", and limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. Despite this, islands are likely to face rising sea levels. In Sri Lanka, coal plants continue to pollute.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The historic Paris agreement on climate change was signed yesterday in New York. The Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka (CEJ/FoE Sri Lanka) released a statement about the agreement and Sri Lanka’s shortsighted policies on the environment.

“Simply signing the Paris agreement without any substance on implementation and ambition is irresponsibly insufficient,” the CEJ/FoE said. “We cannot count on such an agreement alone to achieve social justice”.

The CEJ/FoE is especially upset at an underlying contradiction in the island nation’s attitude. On the one hand, the Sri Lankan representative signed the UN agreement to contain the rising temperature; on the other, the Sri Lankan government still allows coal-powered plants to continue to pollute.

"In the case of Sri Lanka, pushing ahead with the Sampur Coal Power plant is completely incompatible with trying to stop climate change,” said Hemantha Withanage, CEJ/FoE Sri Lanka executive director.

“We demand a stop to coal power in Sri Lanka,” he added. “We demand the Sri Lankan government do its fair share to fight the climate crisis, in line with equity and historical responsibility”. 

What is more, Sri Lankan authorities should not “allow Chinese and Indian polluting Industries to establish in Sri Lanka in the name of foreign investment”.

Already in December, after 150 heads of state and government agreed to the historic deal, the CEJ/FoE Sri Lanka executive director expressed strong doubts about it.

The agreement that was signed yesterday by world leaders includes a commitment to keep the increase in global temperature "well below 2 degrees", and implement actions to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees.

Yet, developing countries have raised doubts about the non-binding commitments by polluting nations, especially the "voluntary" provision to pay for damage caused earlier.

For islands, like Sri Lanka, a 1.5% ceiling will not be enough to limit rising sea level.

For Sara Shaw, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International, what is needed is to “build peoples' power at the local, national and international levels, to stop dirty energy on the ground.”

The goal is “to focus on good energy solutions, to dismantle the power of polluting corporations and to hold our governments responsible to our citizens instead."

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