Youth Forum on Climate Change 2018

SLYCAN Trust in partnership with the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, Climate Change Secretariat, Humane Society International and Meatless Monday Sri Lanka organised the Global Youth Forum on Climate Change, as part of the “Sri Lanka NEXT – a Blue Green Era” Conference 2018. 35 youth leaders were selected from around the country to participate in the forum, with resource persons and experts from different organisations and sectors being present to mentor and provide technical support.

The objectives of the Youth Forum were to create awareness among youth on impacts of climate change and the importance of shifting to sustainable lifestyles in light of its environmental and personal well-being benefits while empowering them through capacity building and skill development, and to encourage the youth to take action through project implementation.

The Youth Forum was honoured by the presence of Mr. Anura Dissanayaka, Secretary to the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, as the Guest of honour. During his speech, Mr. Anura empowered the youth participants to make the best out of this forum to come up with their contributions in addressing a timely topic such as climate change while advocating for sustainable development and lifestyles. He stated that the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment will be happy to provide guidance and support to any feasible project that is it originate from the youth forum.

(Mr. Anura Dissanayaka speaking at the Youth Forum on Climate Change)

Dr. Sunimal Jayathunga, Director of the Climate Change Secretariat of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment of Sri Lanka, opened the forum by delivering the welcome speech. He gave an overview of what is climate change, how it is impacting Sri Lanka, and how the farming and livestock industry is one of the main contributors to climate change.  Dr. Jayathunga noted that the Food and Agriculture Organisation through their research has identified the livestock sector as a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole, and that it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases at the global level.

He noted that youth is a key stakeholder that needs to be actively engaged in developing policies related to climate change and to advocate shifting to more sustainable lifestyles. He added that the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment is ready to provide space for youth to share their knowledge and experience, raise their concerns and assist them in the implementation of projects addressing these topics.

Following Dr. Jayathunga’s speech, the youth forum consisted of four sessions that created awareness on the importance of youth engagement in climate action and sustainable development.

Experts from different sectors that are linked to climate change and sustainable development were invited to the Youth Forum panel to provide expert mentorship to the youth forum participants. The programme of the forum was organized to engage in a discussion and create awareness about current issues in relation to animal welfare and cross cutting aspects of climate change and sustainable development. The line of speakers was drawn from multiple sectors including the government, non- government and private sector representation, to enable cross fertilization of ideas and priorities.

The final session consisted of group discussions that involved the participants on developing project proposals in the areas of marine and coastal, technology, biodiversity and ecosystems, social enterprise development as well as sustainable lifestyles , were conducted under the mentorship of the above experts. With the guidance of these mentors, the participants were able to develop individual project proposals in their preferred areas, with regard to climate action and sustainable development.

During the sessions, the youth forum participants were introduced to the Meatless Monday global campaign that is spearheaded in Sri Lanka by SLYCAN Trust with the guidance and support of Humane Society International. The forum was educated on the adverse impacts of climate change and the imperative and immediate need to cut global emission levels. Speaking on the Meatless Monday campaign. Ms. Vositha Wijenayake, the Country Directory for Humane Society International Sri Lanka said, “the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations have noted that livestock supply chains, the meat production industry in particular, are among the most significant contributors to climate change, representing 14.5 percent of human-induced GHG emissions”.

“Mitigation efforts should therefore take into account the GHG emissions of the livestock industry, and initiatives such as Meatless Monday helps to achieve sizable reduction in terms of daily meat consumption that would contribute immensely towards reductions in emissions. This would not only ensure healthy living but would also help fulfil the individual and collective responsibility in contributing to the reduction of the carbon footprint”, added Ms. Wijenayake.

(Ms. Vositha Wijenayake speaking at the Youth Forum on Climate Change)

To attend the Youth Forum on Climate Change, an international team from the Humane Society International India (HSI), visited Sri Lanka. Officials from the HSI India team contributed as experts to the Youth Forum on their respective fields and provided expertise and insight to the Youth Forum participants to develop their individual projects in various sectors.

To highlight the possibility of adopting to sustainable food consumption, all food and refreshments provided during the forum was vegetarian. A completely vegetarian buffet was arranged by Mount Lavinia Hotel that helped create awareness among the youth participants about the importance of reducing meat consumption in order to mitigate climate change, to promote animal welfare and increase personal health.

(Youth Forum participants enjoying the all vegetarian buffet)

As part of the Youth Forum and to highlight the importance of social enterprises, the participants of the Youth Forum and the international team from HSI, were taken on a field trip to the Saturday Good Market, which allowed them to gain first-hand experience and talk with vendors who are involved in responsible businesses.

Additionally, Meatless Monday Sri Lanka collaborated with Good Market to promote sustainable consumption along with veganism, by helping the Good Market vendors to highlight their vegan dishes and products to the customers.

To further promote the Meatless Monday campaign and to gain a wider outreach, a Meatless Monday pop-up stall was held at the Saturday Good Market on the day of the Youth Forum. The stall featured a home baker named “Fit Sugar” who produces vegan and gluten-free cakes, cupcakes and cookies.