India has already extended critical help to debit-ridden Sri Lanka as an expression of support to brotherly people. The economic situation in the island nation is still very dire, but the wheels have started rolling again. In the future, Indian companies have a major role to play investing in renewables with Adani already announcing important wind energy investments.
These were the assertions of Erik Solheim, who has been appointed President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s International Climate Adviser along with former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed.
In an exclusive virtual interview, Solheim told IANS on Friday that India has already extended critical help to Sri Lanka as an expression of support to brotherly people.
“The economic situation is still very dire in Sri Lanka, but the wheels have started rolling again, not least thanks to the Indian support. In the future Indian companies have a major role to play investing in solar, wind, electric transport and a lot more. Adani has already announced important wind energy investments,” he said.
On August 16, Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera announced to grant provisional approval to Adani Green Energy for an investment of over $500 million in two wind projects in the island nation.
Solheim, who described his meeting with Wickremesinghe on October 12 as “good”, said the President has a great vision for green economic recovery and for Sri Lankan climate leadership.
“It is hard to think of any politician with a better grasp of economic realities than President Wickremesinghe,” remarked Solheim, who worked as the UN Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director.
“Wickremesinghe will provide the leadership needed to take Sri Lanka out of the crisis. But his job is thankless because the only way out of the crisis is hard work. There will be higher taxes and probably cuts in unnecessary public expenditure. There will be pain in the short run, but in the long term the opportunities for Sri Lanka are very positive,” an optimistic Solheim, who acted as the main facilitator of the peace process in Sri Lanka from 1998 to 2005, told IANS.
With India being Sri Lanka’s third-largest trading partner after the US and the UK, it plays a crucial partner by extending unprecedented bilateral assistance amounting close to $4 billion this year for ameliorating the difficulties faced by the people of the island nation.
India has also advocated to other bilateral and multilateral partners supporting Sri Lanka expeditiously in its current economic difficulties, said the Indian embassy in Colombo on September 20.
“We continue to be supportive of Sri Lanka in all possible ways, in particular by promoting long-term investments from India in key economic sectors in Sri Lanka for its early economic recovery and growth.
“In addition our bilateral development cooperation projects in Sri Lanka, which cumulatively total about $3.5 billion, are ongoing,” it adds.
According to Solheim, green development is a very important pathway out of the crisis for the island nation.
“Renewable energies as solar, wind and hydro, electric mobility, tree planting, green agriculture and environment-friendly tourism all provide massive opportunities for jobs and prosperity. These are win-win policies, good for environment and economy at the same time.”
As his role as President’s International Climate Advisor, he remarked, “I will help him and his staff formulate the right policies to attract green investment from domestic and international business, not least Indian. I will try to help making international connections and help Sri Lanka learning from best environment practices in China, India, Europe and other places.”
“Yes, exactly,” remarked the former UN Environment chief when asked for remarks on climate change literally an existential threat to the nation.
“The dry north of Sri Lanka may be dryer, the wet south wetter. We may see more extreme weather and more landslides. But taking climate action is also a major opportunity for Sri Lanka to create jobs and prosperity, to make cities greener and improve health by reducing pollution,” added Solheim.
During his tenure at UNEP, he played a crucial role in 2018 in convincing India to phase out single-use plastics from July 1, 2022, a major achievement in his crusade against plastic pollution.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)