Championing the fight against climate change

By Malaka Rodrigo

The British Council has always been a place to encounter energetic youth. Last week it was time to meet another talented and determined group- the 12 new Climate Champions.

Anoka Abeyratne, Arshath Zameek, Sulakshana Senanayake, Chathurangi de Silva, Indika Dharmapriya Fernando, Mohamed Husni, Joanne Kotelawela, Shehan Amaratunga, Fathima Rusna Kalenthar, M.S.M. Sikander, Savindi Caldera and Shamanthi Rajasingham’s aim is to fight climate change and protect the environment through some innovative, yet practical activities. Each one has an ambitious project aimed at reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions or to set up ways to clean the already emitted GHG from the atmosphere -the main contributor to human-induced Global Warming.

Sulakshana Senanayake’s plan is to promote the use of CFL bulbs throughout Sri Lanka. “CFL bulbs will save electricity. Electricity on its generation emits green house gases like carbon dioxide, so using the energy efficient bulb is a step taken to fight climate change,” Sulakshana said addressing a small ceremony to launch Climate Champions 2010 on October 6.

Green crusaders: The ICCs in India last month

There are some ongoing CFL bulb projects, but Sulakshana has developed a Carbon Calculator calibrated with the Sri Lanka Energy Authority values which is aimed at stimulating the public by showing the kind of energy waste and savings they can get by going in for CFL. He calls this the first calculator in the region giving values in rupees and cents that will make sense to Sri Lankans; see

The projects undertaken by these 12 Climate Champions are broadly categorized under the following areas namely Energy & Transport, Reforestation & Tree Planting, Recycling & Waste Management, Awareness & Positive Lifestyle Change in School/Communities.

“The International Climate Champion programme aims at creating a platform for talented young people to raise awareness and stimulate community action on Global Warming. The British Council also aims at fostering a global network of young people who work toward a common goal and bring forward a meaningful dialogue through ICC,” Country Director of the British Council Charlie Walker explained.

The programme began in Sri Lanka in 2009. The British Council provides the framework in which ideas can grow and flourish but the ICC initiative is driven first and foremost by the Champions themselves. International Climate Champions are encouraged to work with private and public sector organisations, educational institutes, local NGO’s and INGO’s to seek implementing, resource and funding partners to implement their projects. “We are encouraged by the enthusiasm of these young Climate Champions and are confident of a positive outcome,” the Country Director added.

Five young Sri Lankans were chosen in 2009 to be ICCs, and the success and the results of the first batch persuaded the British Council to increase the number of champions this year to 12. The ICC 2010/2011 was launched in Sri Lanka in April 2010 with the National Science Foundation coming on board as the National Partner. The British Council called for applications from young people between 18 and 23 and received over 200 applications. The best 35 were short-listed and applicants were interviewed by a panel of eminent environment and climate change consultants, academics and representatives of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The participation of youths from the north and east is testimony to a changed climate in the country. Fathima Rustha Kalenther living in Kalmunai is doing her Advanced Level in the physical science stream and is thrilled to be selected as an International Climate Champion. “This is really a good opportunity for all of us. Being an International Climate Champion will help me to get recognition in my community to pass the message on the need to act now in our own capacity to fight climate change,” Fathima says.

All 12 champions were sent for a workshop in India to sharpen their communication and leadership skills. Two of the Sri Lankan ICCs also participated in the International Youth Forum on Climate Finance held in Shanghai, China last month.

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