International Youth Day 2020: A Webinar for Internal Capacity-Building

August 18, 2020

To commemorate International Youth Day on the 12th of August 2020, SLYCAN Trust organised an internal capacity-building webinar for the youth researchers within the organisation. Dinethra Rodrigo, Nipun Dias, Thimali Dharmakeerthi, Thilini Gunathilake, and Chalani Marasinghe spoke on topics related to climate change and the projects they work on, including education, gender, climate and disaster risk finance and insurance (CDRFI), agricultural insurance, ecosystem conservation, and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.

Education and Gender Responsiveness in Climate Action

Focusing on education and gender responsiveness in climate action, children, youth, and women are highly exposed to climate risks and are the most vulnerable groups in the event of climate-induced disasters. Therefore, education and gender equality should be key focuses for country-specific strategies and mitigation and adaptation measures to build resilience against climate change.

Women play an important role in climate change action, and engaging and facilitating the engagement of women and women’s organisations could contribute to enhancing climate action at national and global level. Further, it is important to integrate gender into climate action, and a first step to this could be the use of sex-disaggregated data and indicators. Supporting capacity development of women, increasing gender responsive climate finance mechanisms through national and global climate funds, and integrating gender equality into climate change policy and planning instruments and processes can help integrate gender into the NDCs and address the adverse impacts of climate change on women worldwide.

National education strategies for formal, non-formal, and informal education at all education levels including primary, secondary, and tertiary education should integrate appropriate goals and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Schooling and learning systems are disrupted by damages to and destruction of schooling facilities, leading to prolonged access limitations to learning opportunities. A nationally significant, participatory approach to climate change education should include training workshops for educators, strategies to raise awareness, guarantee of a protective, child-friendly physical environment, climate change projects and programmes, and resource guides.

Speaker: Dinethra Rodrigo

Dinethra Rodrigo is a policy analyst & knowledge content developer at SLYCAN Trust, and works on thematic areas of climate policy and law, climate and disaster risk finance and insurance, migration, education, coastal ecosystems and corals, and biodiversity. His areas of interest include environmental law, commercial and corporate law, international arbitration, energy, litigation, and data protection law. Dinethra graduated with a first-class degree in his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at the University of Warwick. He has debated in Model United Nations Conferences, participated in the Warwick Death Penalty Project, worked as an intern at John Wilson Partners and as an associate for the University of Warwick Library, and was the campus ambassador for the Global Undergraduate Awards.

Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Risk Transfer Tools

Sri Lanka is vulnerable to the impacts of climate-related disasters such as excessive rainfall and prolonged droughts. The impacts of climate change increasingly undermine the progress towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aims to reduce poverty in vulnerable developing countries whilst promoting measures to build resilience to protect vulnerable groups and communities. A vast number of Sri Lankans earn their livelihood by farming (approximately 2.1 million of the labour force), and over two thirds of households faced one or more natural disasters in five year up until 2017 in the Anuradhapura district. 

In Sri Lanka, a legal framework was established by the Crop Insurance Act in 1961. In 2006, the National Insurance Trust Fund (NITF) was established as the main government-run body for crop insurance schemes in Sri Lanka. Some of the observations and issues identified in Sri Lanka include extended droughts which led to water scarcity over the past few years, lack of effective early warning systems, and the limited availability of well-executed crop insurance mechanisms provided by the government. Recommendations to overcome these issues include long-term resilience mechanisms, short-term actions targeting highly vulnerable people, and improved early warning systems. Further, climate impacts on agriculture can be addressed through risk transfer tools and by focusing on national-level engagement, capacity development, and the establishment of multi-actor partnerships on climate risk finance. 


Speaker : Nipun Dias

Nipun is a research assistant at SLYCAN Trust, and works on thematic areas of climate change, agriculture insurance, disasters, and disaster risk transfer. His areas of interest include environmental engineering, water and water resources, and coastal reservations. Nipun has a second class (upper division) in his Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Civil Engineering from Sri Lanka Technological Campus, Padukka. His undergraduate research focused mainly on urban stormwater management and he has two international conference publications on ‘Permeable and Porous Pavements in Urban Landscape’.

Speaker : Thilini Gunathilake

Thilini works as a research assistant at SLYCAN Trust, and works on thematic areas of climate change, mangroves, and agricultural insurance. Her areas of interest include coastal ecosystems and climate change. Thilini has a BSc in Fisheries and Marine Sciences from the Ocean University of Sri Lanka. She has a diploma in Information Technology and E-Commerce from the Esoft Metro Campus. She also completed an 8-week internship in the Marine Biological Resources Division at the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA). Her experience in fisheries, coastal sciences, ocean sciences, and seafood technology led her to publish her first research paper at the Ocean University of Sri Lanka. 

Importance of Ecosystems in Climate Resilience

Ecosystems play an important role in climate resilience. Mangrove forests are one of the most productive ecosystems globally since they have high levels of biodiversity and unique structures that are made of salt tolerant species. Two types of mangroves exist, true mangroves and mangrove associates. At present, there are twenty-two species of mangroves in Sri Lanka. The majority of mangrove ecosystems are located in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Valaichchenai, Batticaloa, Puttalam, and Negombo. Mangroves have an ecological, economical, and a social importance but are threatened by natural disasters and anthropogenic activities. 

Mangrove ecosystems serve as globally significant carbon sinks. Almost 15% of the total carbon deposited in coastal sediments in tropical and sub-tropical coastal areas is accounted for by the sequestration of organic carbon in the standing biomass of mangroves, its root biomass, and mangrove soils. Therefore, they can be used to enhance climate change mitigation strategies and offer opportunities for countries to achieve their emissions reduction targets and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.

Restoration is usually recommended when a system has been altered to such extent that it cannot be self-corrected or self-renewed, and community-based restoration approaches have been widely used in Sri Lanka. Some restoration processes include conserving existing mangroves, mangrove planting, reforestation, rehabilitation and restoration, effective management of mangroves, and mangrove monitoring.

Speakers: Thimali Dharmakeerthi

Thimali is a research assistant at SLYCAN Trust, and works on thematic areas of mangroves, climate change, and waste management. Her areas of interest include mangroves, waste management, and livelihood and economic development. Thimali specialised in BSc. Aquatic Resources Technology at the Uva Wellassa University of Sri Lanka and has partially completed a professional qualification at CIMA-UK. She is currently doing a masters in Applied Microbiology at the University of Kelaniya. Thimali conducted undergraduate research on ‘Elasmobranch Fisheries’ and received the ‘Best Oral Presenter’ award in the technical session on aquaculture and fisheries in the second International Research Symposium held at the Uva Wellassa University of Sri Lanka. She has experience working as a temporary demonstrator in the Department of Animal Science in the Uva Wellassa University of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka and the Nationally Determined Contributions

The Paris Agreement aims to strengthen global responses to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels and engage in efforts to further limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees celsius. It focuses on 14 thematic areas, and Parties to the Agreement agreed to long-term goals for adaptation against climate change in the hope of increasing their ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development. The NDCs are at the heart of the Paris agreement and facilitate the achievement of these long-term goals. 

The scope and coverage of Sri Lanka’s NDCs extends to four priority areas: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and means of implementation. Key sectors of interest in Sri Lanka’s NDCs include agriculture, livestock, fisheries, health, forestry, water, industries, waste, food security, energy, irrigation, coastal and marine, biodiversity, human settlement, tourism, and transport. 

The agriculture sector is a major economic force in Sri Lanka, contributing significantly to the national economy, food security, and employment. Some strategic policies in the agriculture sector that contribute toward the country’s efforts to achieve its NDCs include the enhancement of crop resilience for pests through Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, development and introduction of resistant/tolerant crop varieties for climate induced damages, and the enhancement of land and water management practices in the central highlands and other marginal areas.

Similarly, livestock is heavily integrated with farming in Sri Lanka and contributes to the rural economy and food security. Strategic policies in the livestock sector include the enhancement of feeding practices with consideration of the agro climatic zone in Sri Lanka and the reduction of greenhouse gas generation through efficient and effective waste management practices.

Speakers: Chalani Marasinghe

Chalani is a research assistant at SLYCAN Trust, and works on thematic areas of climate change, agriculture-related livelihood development, sustainable consumption, and nationally determined contributions. Her areas of interest include environmental management, green supply chain management, climate change, organic agriculture, and sustainable development. She has a BSc in Eco Business Management from the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka. Chalani is currently studying for an MSc in Environment Science at the Open University of Sri Lanka. She worked as a project officer in several sustainable investment projects and a visiting lecturer at the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka. She published a research article on green supply chain management adoption and performance at the Interdisciplinary Conference of Management Researchers 2018 of SUSL and was a member of the 2016 Global Young Leaders’ Peace Camp.

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