Ambassador Julie J Chung’s Remarks at the Sri Lanka Green Hydrogen Symposium 2023

November 21, 2023

His Excellency President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara, Chairman Surath Ovitigama of the Petroleum Development Authority, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Bagley, UK High Commissioner Andrew Patrick, colleagues from Greenstat Hydrogen and the Sri Lankan and global energy sector –

At a time when leaders from around the world will soon gather at COP28 in Dubai to tackle the shared threat of climate change, this symposium on green hydrogen and renewable energy highlights how partnership and initiative can bring transformative change.  And how it has the potential to do so in a way that is both sustainable and economically profitable.

The world is already experiencing adverse impacts on vulnerable people, infrastructure, and nature from increasingly frequent and extreme weather events from climate change, like wildfires, drought, and flooding.  Here in Sri Lanka, we’ve experienced unprecedented flooding across many districts in recent weeks bringing distress to communities.

To limit warming to 1.5°C and mitigate against these growing threats, the next decade will be vital.  This is what we are calling, “the decisive decade.”    But it will require ambitious action from global leaders, governments, and businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to adapt to climate impacts, and find innovative solutions to our energy needs. And that’s why we are all here.  That’s why so many parts of the United States government, including USAID, the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of State have all come together to support this conference and your efforts.  We welcomed Sri Lanka joining the Global Methane Pledge last year. We commend the President’s focus on climate impact as a top priority and  Minister Wijesekera’s efforts to actively implement reforms to the energy sector.  These steps will put Sri Lanka on a stronger footing in the decades to come.

The United States is taking our responsibility seriously in addressing the global climate crisis, both at home and abroad.  Domestically, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was the largest climate investment ever and a key steppingstone toward fulfilling President Biden’s ambitious Paris Agreement target to cut U.S. emissions by 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  It has shown how big change can come when government policy and private sector ideas converge around a common goal.

Overseas, through the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, we are bolstering adaptation efforts to increase global resilience to the impacts of climate change. Globally, we have provided $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund and announced plans to provide $25 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund and $100 million to the Adaptation Fund.

Here in Sri Lanka, USAID’s Energy Program invests in renewable energy technologies in partnership with the government and local entrepreneurs.  Through our grants, a Sri Lankan company is developing battery swapping stations for electric three-wheelers, and we are working with our government counterparts at the Sri Lanka Standards Institute and the Public Utilities Commission to develop robust regulations on safety and standardization for electric vehicles and charging stations.  USAID’s Climate Change Adaptation project is supporting innovative solutions to manage climate-related risks through market-driven private sector and community engagement.  The work has been instrumental in conducting Climate Risk Assessments of priority economic sectors in Sri Lanka – such as agriculture, fisheries, and tourism – to propose adaptation pathways to complement the government’s Climate Prosperity Plan.

Accelerating the global transition to a low-carbon future is a key part of our efforts.  According to the International Energy Agency, clean energy investments in emerging economies must reach $1 trillion annually by 2030 for the world to hit net zero by 2050.  Governments need to develop policies and put in place incentives that help create the demand for investing in a clean energy future.  For that reason, the U.S. government is currently providing technical support to the Petroleum Development Authority to enable offshore wind deployment and green hydrogen production.

The transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 represents the greatest economic opportunity since the Industrial Revolution to create millions of good-paying jobs.  Over the next decade, scaling up the development of a global green energy economy will fuel an investment boom reaching an estimated $4 trillion each year.  This symposium on green hydrogen shows that Sri Lanka has both the potential and ambition to be a vital component of the global solution to climate change and to be a part of the opportunities for economic growth.

The United States is here to partner with Sri Lanka as we adapt to the impacts of climate change, protect at-risk ecosystems and economies, and pioneer the new technologies that will create a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable world for all.  New technologies and innovations like the one put into practice by an American company called Constellation Energy, which is on its way to implement a record-setting 38 percent hydrogen blend at the Hillabee Generating Station, a 735-MW natural gas plant in Alabama – this project, alongside 25 other utility-led hydrogen pilot programs in the U.S., are actively exploring ways to produce the same amount of energy with less carbon footprint. This is the type of technology we want to see in Sri Lanka.  Financing will be an important component of these efforts.  We were happy to recently support half a billion dollars in financing through the U.S. Development Finance Corporation to the Western Container Terminal – and the DFC is open to providing more financing in Sri Lanka, especially in renewables.  As Sri Lanka moves forward with its energy reforms, I am confident that the U.S. government and U.S. investors will be here to inject the financing and know-how to unlock the potential of Sri Lanka’s private sector for energy security and economic growth.  To quote the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry: “[The green energy transition] is not a transition to be feared.  It’s a transformation to be seized.  It is the world that we can have, the jobs, the investments, the opportunity, and future are all in solving the climate crisis, not in prolonging it.”  Thank you.