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Sri Lanka’s urgent call to action for biodiversity conservation amidst climate challenges

May 21, Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka exemplifies a nation at the intersection of climate change and biodiversity loss, activists claim.

Ranked among the top ten most climate-vulnerable countries, Sri Lanka incurs an average of US$313 million in annual disaster losses due to acute climate vulnerability.

The country’s unique biodiversity is also in decline, with 27 per cent of bird species, 66 per cent of amphibians, 56 per cent of mammals, 49 per cent of freshwater fish, and 59 per cent of reptiles under threat.

The iconic elephant population is decreasing, and among flowering plants, 1,385 of 3,154 species are classified as threatened, with 594 endemic to Sri Lanka.

From 2001 to 2023, the country lost 222,000 hectares of tree cover, a 5.6 per cent decrease since 2000.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), wildlife populations have declined by almost 70 per cent since 1970, with wild mammals representing just 4 per cent of the global mammal biomass by 2015.

Despite 60 per cent of global GDP being dependent on natural resources, resource extraction and processing are responsible for over 90 per cent of global biodiversity loss.

The world faces the dual crises of catastrophic nature loss and climate change, severely impacting key planetary boundaries.

In the face of shrinking resources and the economic crisis, a 2018 Finance Needs Assessment by the Biodiversity Financing Initiative (BIOFIN) indicated that Sri Lanka would need approximately Rs. 31 billion (US$ 190 million) between 2018 and 2024, assuming current investment levels are maintained.

The Climate Prosperity Plan, submitted as the country’s long-term low GHG emission strategy, requires US$ 26 billion or US$ 6.5 billion per year for successful climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Against this backdrop, the 2024 International Day for Biological Diversity calls for urgent action with the theme “Be Part of the Plan.”

The current state of affairs demands bold, imaginative, and ambitious solutions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and to mobilise resources for countries like Sri Lanka to meet their biodiversity targets.

Initiatives such as BIOFIN, a UNDP-managed global collaborative partnership, aim to bridge the financing gap by mobilising innovative financing for biodiversity investments.

The National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme, one of BIOFIN’s 16 financial solutions for Sri Lanka, has successfully mobilised over Rs. 500 million for sustainable tourism.

Additionally, UNDP’s Nature Pledge commits to accelerated and upscaled support for over 140 countries to achieve their targets under the Global Biodiversity Framework.

BIOFIN also supported the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) in initiating the Sustainable Finance Roadmap to promote sustainable financing among commercial banks.

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