The policy agenda of the Government the Mahinda Chinthana seeks to address climate change with increasing non-conventional and renewable energy contribution to the national power grid and importantly implementing a Green Transport System and a Fuel Quality Road Map, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a message to the Integrated Conference on Better Air Quality (2014) and 8th Regional Forum on Environmentally Sustainable Transport, commenced today (19).
We are working on strategies to reduce emissions strengthen climate resilience and have the confidence of the political will to make our effective contribution to combat the rise in global temperature in keeping with findings and recommendations of science, the message read on the President's behalf by Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Environment and Renewable Energy.
“I am glad that today you are discussing our own initiatives as Asians to face up to these challenges in the true spirit of Asian cooperation. In the particular aspects of clean air and transport there is the need to adopt more innovative and smarter solutions keeping in mind the needs of urban development and realities of urban rise – transport expansion and land use factors that are necessary aspects of study. The proper study of these issues will contribute towards achieving the goal of Environmentally Friendly Transport in our cities and countries”, the message further said.
Full text of the message:
I am honoured to bring this message from His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa, welcoming you to this event of much significance on matters of great importance to the Asian Region and the world.
The presence in Colombo today of such a large and distinguished number of persons closely associated with the subjects of Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection brings honour to us, in recognizing our abiding interest in these issues of global concern.
You will be addressing issues having a major impact on the current situation regarding care of the environment with large relevance to the assurance of Clean Air in the future and the need for better policies on transport in the coming years.
Your gathering has great relevance in the context of the rise of Asia in the world to make this the Asian Century Asia should therefore give the lead in new thinking trends and policies on Sustainable Development Climate Change and the Environment that are of increased focus in international affairs and national policies.
I observe the sharp focus in your agenda that deals with Better Air Quality and Environmentally Sustainable Transport. With the rapid development in Asia today these matters deserve the most serious attention when we in Asia are now in a phase of unprecedented urbanization persistent economic growth and a vastly increasing pace of motorization and industrialization.
This is seen by the theme of this conference - “Next Generation Solutions for Clean Air and Sustainable Transport – Towards a Livable Society In Asia” The second part of this theme – Towards a Livable Society in Asia is of the greatest relevance to us today, when Asia is moving ahead at an unprecedented pace Yet this progress should not lead to Asia repeating the wrong patterns of development in the West continuing the growth patterns of colonialism seeking to serve only the best interests of western investors and not focusing on the best interests of our own people and societies.
The present motorization trends and transport practices in Asia remain largely based on fossil fuels. The conventional transport systems we have contribute in large measure to traffic congestion air and noise pollution traffic accidents and fatalities. These are serious concerns for our societies as they involve the health and safety of the people as well as the overall quality of life that we seek to improve through development. These contribute to loss of economic opportunities due to rising delays in transport and wastage of billions of gallons of fuel at great cost to our economies in addition to the harm it does to the air we breathe.
The WHO statistics on consequences of air pollution in the Asia region call for the most urgent actions to curb this challenge to our societies. It says that outdoor air pollution in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific Region causes about 2.6 million premature deaths annually. WHO estimates the value of life lost due to air pollution being equivalent to 2.4 per cent of the GDP of countries. Also we see the truly shocking numbers killed in road traffic accidents which is estimated at 1.4 million worldwide with 90 per cent of traffic fatalities occurring in developing countries. This is only the tip of a very large and dangerous iceberg of increasing concern for all our nations and societies.
You are meeting to discuss Better Air Quality and Environmentally Sustainable Transport at a time when Asia’s emissions from transport have become a significant contributor to global Green House Gas emissions that lead to climate change and global warming. Studies show that if present trends continue by 2035 transport will be the single largest Green House Gas emitter accounting for 46 per cent of global emissions. It is therefore necessary to begin a determined process to ensure better controls on this because of the threats this pose to human health and safety fuel security climate induced natural disasters all of which bring major challenges to the progress of the Asian Region that is now in the cusp of enormous progress.
These are not matters for which solutions can be delayed. We must look more towards the findings of science on the dangers of climate change and the solutions possible to avoid or overcome the dangers that lurk ahead. At the recent World Climate Summit held in New York.I stated that the imperative need for a Clean Development Mechanism to reduce Green House Gas emissions is for the developed countries to implement their commitments to the developing world by providing financial support, technology development and transfer, and capacity building in the developing world to face these issues.
I am glad that today you are discussing our own initiatives as Asians to face up to these challenges in the true spirit of Asian cooperation. In the particular aspects of clean air and transport there is the need to adopt more innovative and smarter solutions keeping in mind the needs of urban development and realities of urban rise – transport expansion and land use factors that are necessary aspects of study. The proper study of these issues will contribute towards achieving the goal of Environmentally Friendly Transport in our cities and countries.
It is our view that the necessary transition to a green economy is one among many tools that could minimize unsustainable consumption and production practices and that it must not generate negative generalities to slow down the growth of social and economic development in a country.
You have a very clear goal in your discussions at this integrated event on Air Quality and Transportation. Yet you are also in the midst of a dilemma of ensuring the growth of the nations of Asia together with the protection of the environment. This is a challenge that will affect your discussions and one that also faces the world today. At a time when many leaders in the developed world are refusing to accept the findings of science on climate change being moved by the goal of profit alone I do not envy the challenge you face in these deliberations. But I share the confidence that your thoughts will move in the correct directions of assured clean air in the Asian region and the necessary even revolutionary changes on methods and policies on transportation.
You have a major advantage today in the findings of the most recent report of the United Nation’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which brings together all aspects of climate change stating for the first time that it is economically affordable and that global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming. This report has come at a critical time for international action on climate change. This should strengthen your resolve to meet the challenges you have decided to address at this clearly historical event concerned with Better Air Quality and Environmentally Sustainable Transport with the major focus on Asia.
I think it would be of interest to know of Sri Lanka’s own policies with regard to Sustainable Development, as you meet in a land of beauty and friendship, with a culture that pays the highest regard and respect to nature. With regard to development the hallmark of the rise of Asia we are glad to have been able to triple our per capita income in the last eight years, with considerable work done on infrastructure development with special emphasis on Transport. Yet our per capita carbon emission is still less than one metric ton and it is our hope to keep it as low as possible.
The policy agenda of the Government the Mahinda Chinthana seeks to address climate change with increasing non-conventional and renewable energy contribution to the national power grid and importantly implementing a Green Transport System and a Fuel Quality Road Map. We are working on strategies to reduce emissions strengthen climate resilience and have the confidence of the political will to make our effective contribution to combat the rise in global temperature in keeping with findings and recommendations of science.
These policies are linked to our cultural traditions drawing inspiration from the teachings of the Buddha and the valued advise of the Arahat Mahinda who brought Buddhism to our land more than 2300 years ago that the rulers of the land are only the temporary trustees of nature who have to protect the environment for future generations.
I am confident you will reach most satisfying and far reaching results in your important deliberations. I thank the Clean Air Association of the Philippines the United Nations Centre for Region Development and the Ministry of Environment of Japan who have co-organized this event with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy of Sri Lanka enabling Sri Lanka to host this event.
I regret very much my inability to be present with you today. I wish this conference and its related activities every success.
May you all be blessed by the Noble Tripe Gem.