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Sri Lanka: Combating Climate Change with Robust Policy and Planning Actions


As a small island in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is susceptible to adverse climate change impacts. The 2004 tsunami confirms that low-lying plains in the coastal zone are vulnerable to any future rise in sea level.  

The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) evaluation entitled Analysis of Targets Established by Parties and Progress Towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets”, highlights that Sri Lanka is progressing to achieve its national target on climate resilience.

This best practice highlights the effective policy, planning and institutional measures undertaken by Sri Lanka for climate change adaptation and mitigation through ecosystem restoration.

This best practice has been repurposed from Sri Lanka’s Fifth National Report (5NR) to CBD and its latest National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2022 (NBSAP).

**Please note, this best practice has not been reviewed by the Government of Sri Lanka.

Problem, challenge or context: 

According to Sri Lanka’s latest NBSAP 2016-2022, the nation is extremely vulnerable to the predicted climate change related impacts such as sea level rise, increased salinization of low-lying areas, rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidity, changes in rainfall patterns, increased frequency of storms and other natural hazards such as floods and landslides, and decline in ecosystem services and poor agricultural produce.

These changes will have a significant effect on Sri Lanka’s biodiversity and economy, especially on species distribution, flowering, fruiting, reproduction and migration of species. Climate Change disruptions will also threaten the livelihoods, food security, and health of human populations.

Specific elements of components: 

According to Sri Lanka’s 5NR, climate change will no doubt be a threat to Sri Lanka’s biodiversity. Conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecosystem structure and function may be one of the most practical climate change adaptation strategies that Sri Lanka can adopt to conserve its natural heritage.

Climate Change mitigation and adaptation, is also addressed under U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, which seeks to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Sri Lanka’s 5NR and its latest NBSAP 2016-2022, collectively highlight key national-level actions that have been undertaken or envisaged towards climate change mitigation and adaptation, in order to meet the nation’s international commitments under CBD, and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets (ABT).

Strengthening climate resilience and carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration has been addressed by ABT 15, which states, “By 2020, ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.”

Additionally, several climate change adaptation and mitigation plans developed under Sri Lanka’s commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), take into account the severe impacts of climate change on key natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

Creating synergies between UNFCCC and CBD, avoids duplication of efforts, strengthens joint implementation efforts, and enables more efficient use of available resources.

The action taken: 

Some of the key actions undertaken by Sri Lanka for strengthening climate resilience include:

  1. Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Sri Lanka submitted its INDCs to UNFCCC in 2015. Among other sectors, the report proposes actions for climate resilience in Sri Lanka’s forestry sector, agricultural sector, fisheries sector. Read more
  2. Policy. Several national policies, strategies and actions have been developed to address climate change induced impacts. These include:
  1. Institutional mechanism. The following institutions and departments have been established for national response to climate change mitigation and adaptation:
  • Climate Change Secretariat (CCS) (, is the nodal agency to implement UNFCCC decisions, and to formulate and implement national level projects and programmes on climate change.
  • Designated National Authority (,  approves and authorizes participation in Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) project in Sri Lanka.
  • Centre for Climate Change Studies (, investigates the impact of climate change on marine organisms.
  • Two CDM Centers in the University of Moratuwa and University of Peradeniya promote CDM related activities in Sri Lanka.
  1. Forest Restoration Program (FRP). The government has been allocating USD 4 million annually (since 2014), towards FRP. The Program aims to achieve the national target of 35 percent forest cover, as outlined in the Development Policy Framework of the Government of Sri Lanka 2010 (Mahinda Chintana Vision for the Future). The government aims to restore large extent of degraded forest areas (especially located in the Dry Zone) primarily using Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR).
  2. Sri Lanka’s latest NBSAP 2016-2022, integrates climate change considerations into various national targets and actions. These include:
  • National Biodiversity Target 2, which by 2022, seeks to significantly reduce habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.
    • Action 2 seeks to develop a national ecosystem conservation plan, with reference to ecosystem-based climate change adaptation.
    • Action 14 seeks to carry out a national assessment of the impact of climate change on identified vulnerable species and ecosystems, and to develop potential mitigation and adaptation strategies and ensure that this assessment feeds into the climate change national adaptation planning for Sri Lanka.
  • National Biodiversity Target 3, Action 1 seeks to develop and implement a strategy to protect the critical habitats outside the protected area network, with reference to ecosystem-based climate change adaptation.
  • National Biodiversity Target 11, Action 1 seeks to initiate research and monitoring programmes, among others, on the impacts of climate change.
Key lessons learned: 
  • National assessments on the ecological, social and economic impacts of climate change is vital for analyzing, planning, and implementing a range of priority actions to combat climate change risks.
  • Climate resilience is closely intertwined with development choices and actions that cover a variety of sectors, such as energy, agriculture, health, water, and infrastructure. Therefore, to be effective, climate change adaptation should be mainstreamed across multiple sectors with greater policy coherence.
  • National and sub-national legislation, policies and plans should be reviewed/revised/designed to take into account climate change risks and opportunities.
  • Strong coordinating mechanisms at the national and sub-national levels are required for an effective response to climate change.
  • Synergies and cooperation between UNFCCC and CBD is vital for adapting and mitigating climate change, by strengthening joint implementation efforts, and enabling more efficient use of available resources.
Impacts and outcomes: 

According to CBD’s latest evaluation entitled Analysis of Targets Established by Parties and Progress Towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets”, Sri Lanka is progressing to achieve its national target on climate resilience. The CBD analysis provides a synthesis of each Parties’ national progress towards ABTs, based on information presented in the 5NRs.

Contact details: 
Heena Ahmed | Contact through NBSAP Forum profile here
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