August 14, 2023
Welcome to our distinguished guests: Presidential Advisor on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene, Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy Admiral Priyantha Perera, and the Director for Logistics and Engineering for the US Indo Pacific Command Brigadier General Gavin Gardner, friends and colleagues.
Thank you to the co-hosts of the event: Sri Lanka Navy; the Australian Defense Force; and Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.
I am so encouraged that Sri Lanka took the opportunity to co-host this event with us this year for the first time ever. It emphasizes how Sri Lanka is on the path to recovery from its challenges last year and renew its role as a hub for international and regional cooperation. It is especially fitting that Sri Lanka is co-hosting this year, as 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of its independence and also the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations. I cannot think of a better event to showcase this milestone.
This forum is a space where countries around the region collaboratively seek solutions to global concerns. The U.S. supports environmental security projects regionally and within Sri Lanka. For example, we fund the Climate Action Champions Network, an initiative with 100 emerging voice participants from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan, who are working together to drive climate change policy and programs in South Asia, focusing on green technology, climate change mitigation and adaptation. In May of this year, Senior Advisor Wijewardene and I spoke at the regional conference for CACN in Negombo where young people from around the region came up with fresh ideas and solutions to climate challenges, and had the opportunity to visit local mangroves to see for themselves the importance of mangroves to the ecosystem. Sri Lanka has committed to strong steps towards environmental security in many ways, from committing to the Global Methane Pledge to more focus on renewable energy and conservation. Our USAID programs on Oceans Plastics Reduction and Clean Cities Blue Oceans aim to do our part on plastics pollution and waste management. We’re proud to collaborate with the Sri Lankan Navy, and especially the Sri Lankan Coast Guard on maritime environmental cooperation, and it’s great to see Coast Guard Admiral Vithana here today.
Our vision of the world is one where all countries, big and small, have opportunities for success and stability. Whether you’re sitting in Fiji or Australia or Mongolia or Sri Lanka, we are all vulnerable. We are seeing this year record-setting weather extremes hitting countries around the world, where everyone is feeling that impact. Droughts here in Sri Lanka now are impacting food security. It is imperative that we come together to share ideas and find creative ways to address these common challenges. The IPESF will support our governments and defense forces in planning and operating in an environmentally sustainable manner, build regional cooperation, and develop resilient communities and practices.
The topics will include vital and practical issues such as climate insecurity’s impacts on supply chains, how to attain climate finance, enhancing water storage, , and plastic pollution in the Indian Ocean, not to mention site visits to wetlands.
You won’t just hear from American and Sri Lankan experts, but also those from India, Japan, Vietnam, Palau, and others. Environmental security means we not only share the best information we have across countries, but across sectors like government, defense, civil society, and business. Thank you all for your commitment to be here this week, and to listen, learn, and take action. We look forward to hearing your innovative and forward thinking, sustainable solutions to the complex problems related to environmental security and ensure that we have the kind of planet we want to hand down to the next generation of leaders.