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Prof Mohan Munasinghe, Sri Lanka’s only Nobel Peace Prize winner delivered the inaugural Nobel keynote speech at the Global Water and Sustainability conference in Barcelona, Spain. He made his speech and also launched the latest edition of his path-breaking book on Sustainomics.

The Water Forum is a renowned international event, which has previously hosted many Nobel laureates including Gro Harlem Brundtland and Prof. George Akerlof. This year Prof. Munasinghe was the distinguished keynote speaker who addressed a packed audience of over 500 leading academics and government and business leaders, receiving wide coverage in the global media. He warned of the imperative need for governments to fight against climate change, stating that “we know what the solutions are, but they are not being implemented”. He argued that, in fact, the challenges of sustainability were already identified at the time of the founding of the United Nations, more than 70 years ago, and yet little progress has been made.

Prof. Munasinghe has little faith in agreements like the one of Paris on climatic change, “what they reveal is the weakness of the political leadership. What is the use of signing agreements if they are not enforced?” asked the Nobel Prize winner. That is why the change must start from below. “It must be the citizen, the individual, who is the first to become aware and develop habits of sustainability, who will pressure politicians to make right decisions. Else, very few leaders will react in time … and we are very close to the edge of a cliff.” For Munasinghe, water is part of the global problem: “It is a very serious issue, and it is part of the problems of sustainability, like poverty and hunger. That is why the solution to the water problem must be integrated within a sustainable development strategy based on the three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Even today, in the world 1.8 billion people use contaminated water sources and 2.4 billion do not have access to sanitation.

Prof. Munasinghe is Founding Chairman of the MIND Group including the Munasinghe Institute for Development (MIND), and Director of The Carbon Consulting Company (CCC) and Eureka Technology Partners.