JANUARY 23, 2024 | Nature, Climate, and the Economy
Towards a Nature-Positive Economic Recovery in Sri Lanka: An Interview Series

Amid Sri Lanka’s unprecedented macroeconomic and sovereign debt crisis, the urgency for transformative action has never been more evident. The nation stands at a critical juncture. Traditional policy approaches have brought about instability and social unrest, threatening the hard-won socio-economic and democratic progress achieved since independence. A departure from past approaches is urgently needed and calls for all stakeholders to re-imagine our economic growth path ahead.

As the crisis jeopardizes sustainable development, the looming threat to environmental conservation and natural resource management is becoming apparent. The government’s shrinking fiscal space intensifies the limiting of budgets for crucial initiatives. Meanwhile, much of the private sector is yet to fully integrate nature into their business and investment decisions – beyond corporate philanthropy. To add new ideas to the debate and push the conversation further, Centre for a Smart Future (CSF) and Echelon are collaborating on an interview series featuring carefully selected panelists and topics. This series, comprised of five distinct discussions, delves into strategies ranging from addressing Sri Lanka’s debt crisis by harnessing sustainable finance, to integrating nature-positive business practices within the private sector. By bridging the gap in understanding among diverse stakeholders, from economists and finance professionals to ecologists and environmental experts, these discussions aim to spur new ideas for action.

The themes for the five-part series are:

  1. Putting nature at the heart of our economic recovery: integrating environmental nature into Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and addressing the concept of ‘natural capital’.
  2. Financing a nature-positive recovery: Exploring the current state of green finance and possible instruments in Sri Lanka.
  3. Changing how we fund environmental conservation: Means of integrating nature-linked solutions for debt restructuring, public finance, and private sector initiatives.
  4. Transforming tourism with a stronger focus on nature and biodiversity: Unpacking Sri Lanka’s prospects as a green destination and barriers and opportunities to chart a nature-positive tourism recovery.
  5. Business Models for a nature positive recovery: Strategies and challenges of prioritizing nature in business models with examples from Sri Lanka.

While the aim of net zero has clarified efforts to combat climate change, until recently, no comparable target existed for biodiversity loss or nature. Being ‘nature-positive’ is gaining traction as a separate but complimentary aim to net-zero, with a goal to halt and reverse the destruction of nature. A nature-positive approach puts nature and biodiversity gain at the heart of decision-making and design. It goes beyond reducing and mitigating negative impacts on nature as it is a proactive and restorative approach focused on conservation, regeneration, and growth. While the evolving concept has a range of meanings (for definitions and terminology, refer our background note here), the central thrust is the call for moving beyond limitation of damage to an economic and business model embedding recovery and regeneration of nature and people within it. For businesses, it is also a process-based change – A new way for businesses to operate, based on a better understanding of their exposure to risks and dependencies, involving conservation, avoidance, regeneration, and recovery of nature.

At CSF, we believe that discussing how Sri Lanka can chart a post-crisis recovery path towards a nature-positive economy is vital because;

  • Sri Lanka is at a juncture where a re-imagination of our economic growth path is essential to face both economic and environmental challenges in the short to medium term horizon
  • Nature-positivity calls for a holistic aspiration to embed nature in economic activity
  • Nature-positivity can both combat and fall prey to ‘green-washing’, so discussing and clarifying such aims rooted in the local context is vital.

Stay tuned for the release of the interviews during February 2024.

Knowledge Insights