18 September, 2020

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Over-Dependence On Fossil Fuel: An Urgent Call For Green Initiatives

By Zahrah Rizwan

Zahrah Rizwan

Petrol Crisis in Sri Lanka

“Petrol” has been the talk of the town since early November. The daily lives of the public have been disrupted with rising traffic congestions and transportation issues. Vehicles have been queuing up at petrol stations fearing a petrol shortage since last Friday, creating traffic jams in the streets of Colombo, amidst the heavy showers. Public transportation services and taxis available for hire reduced its functioning, further exacerbating the situation. The ongoing debates about the petrol shortage contain allegations against Lanka IOC (LIOC) for its low-quality petrol shipments being rejected and on the other hand hold Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), the main supplier of petroleum catering to eighty-four per cent of the local market, responsible for being unable to meet the demands of the people. Moreover, the Government of Sri Lanka as a whole is held accountable for its inept decision-making and policy procedures in responding to the supply shock.

Leaving aside the political commotion behind the issue, let us have a look at the issue from a different angle. ‘Petrol’ alone has been able to create a country-wide issue affecting lives of people irrespective of demographic or geographic differences. Can we all then agree to the fact that ‘petroleum fuel’ has then entered the list of basic needs of humans? Willingly or unwillingly, we need to agree to the fact that we as a nation are highly dependent on fossil fuels for the daily functioning of our lives. Imported petroleum oil is the primary source of fuel for vehicles in Sri Lanka. About six percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Sri Lanka is spent on petroleum imports. Hence, this is an economic burden as well as a threat to the climate.

Sri Lanka’s commitment to reduce GHG Emissions

Moving on to the climate change debate, the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) dominate total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) globally, while locally the transport sector is one of the main GHG emitters in Sri Lanka. Given the fact that Sri Lanka has signed and ratified the Paris Agreement that entered into force on 4 November 2016 in the country, we have committed to keeping the global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  This Agreement requires parties to present the intended procedures to achieve the above goal in terms mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and implementation under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The NDCs for Mitigation of Sri Lanka intends to reduce the GHG emissions 20% in the energy sector and by 10% in other sectors (transport, industry, forests and waste) by 2030. Apart from the NDCs, the recent launch of the Sri Lankan government’s policy framework, ‘V2025: A Country Enriched’ has further included actions to be taken within the transport sector to promote clean energy and an energy efficient transport system.

Proposed Energy-Efficient Initiatives for the Transport Sector

In order to achieve the reduction in GHG emissions in the transport sector, Sri Lanka has presented various activities under the NDCs for transport. The encouragement and introduction of low emission vehicles such as electric and hybrid (electrified three-wheelers to reduce emissions, electrified boat service, electric buses, and other electrified vehicles), electrification of the railway system from Veyangoda to Panadura, establishment of energy efficient and environmentally sustainable transport systems by 2030 by developing Urban Transport Master Plans (UTMP) to improve the transport system in line with the Megapolis Plan, introduction of an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) based bus management system and a canal transport system are some of the initiatives documented in the NDCs submitted by Sri Lanka.

The development of a more environment-friendly transport sector and the promotion of energy efficient vehicles that will reduce fuel consumption are objectives stated in ‘Vision 2025’ document as well. This document states that the Government of Sri Lanka will establish multi-model transport centres with park and ride facilities, upgrade and construct more than 70 bridges, including the new Kelaniya Bridge, modernize and expand the rail system by setting up a new railway line between Matara and Kataragama and construct new rail tracks connecting Kurunegala and Habarana via Dambulla. To ease current passenger congestion in the system bus priority lanes are to be introduced along with an advanced traffic management system.

Keeping in mind that the above activities are to be achieved by 2025 in order for Sri Lanka to be able to fulfil its NDCs by 2030, the country has to urgently tend to the implementation of these actions. The policy documents can provide guidance and direction for the achievement of the targets, however the people of Sri Lanka need to be educated and made aware of the importance of minimizing the dependence of fossil fuels. The successful implementation of the mitigation actions requires transformational change in the governance of the transport sector, particularly related to policy, regulatory, institutional frameworks and information management. Apart from regulations and laws such as the provision of tax benefits, subsidies or loans for green initiatives taken by people, country-wide awareness needs to be conducted for instance through national media on the need to adopt clean energy lifestyles for the individual benefits as well as the society as a whole, while educating people on the inconveniences one would have to confront due to one’s actions, thereby calling for collective action for transformation. The current petrol crisis is a lesson to be learnt, which requires change within government decisions and policies as well as individual conduct, without which such occurrences would become a common phenomena.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    I heard, already the Sinhale North is felling the effects of Global warming. that is some coastal areas are inundated with sea water after the big storm. So, we can expect Tamil self determination has to be in Greater colombo where most Tamils reside and Wellawaththa has to be the ancient Tamil capitol.

  • 0
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    Global warming is a Hoax perpetrated by the Chinese said Trump 2 years ago. He pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. He has denied that global climate change is man made. Most American Christians also agree with Trump and against Science. Trump is right. This is a chinese plot. Chinese have started using more coal this year leading to a 4% rise in CO2 levels. But Trump knows more. He has authorized the Keystone Pipeline even despite leaks. He has canceled by executive fiat most environmentally friendly laws passed by Obama or executive orders Obama signed: for example the law that banned coal mining companies from polluting streams with dust and other things.

    Trump formally lifted the ban on new coal leasing on federal land, a policy shift that was one of the cornerstones of the climate and energy executive order that President Trump signed.He
    also suspended a review of federal coal-leasing rates that the Obama administration and environmental activists had touted as a win-win for the climate and for taxpayers.

    So we see no problem with pollution and more greenhouse gases. Our Christian god will take care of it.

    • 0
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      The author seems to be shinning up the usual (wrong) trees to find answers to the energy crisis.
      We are never going to be able to find enough “green” energy to feed the hordes of vehicles caught in traffic jams, or the air conditioners in the newfangled apartment towers churning out hot hair into the atmosphere.
      The solution is to LIMIT energy consumption. Do people need to live in glass-fronted ovens? Do people need to travel Hambantota in 2 hours using diesel SUV’s ? How did people manage when there were NO highways? I live next to the Kandy road, and I know for a fact that the congestion started with the opening of the Airport Highway. Now, even a widened Kandy road is impassable most of the time. What is the point of fancy highways if they are unusable?
      Improved public transport is a good suggestion, but it must be clean and regular. Private transport MUST be discouraged . Also the building of apartment blocks suitable for temperate countries must be prohibited. Architects must design building that use far less energy. Surely there is enough space in the country for low naturally ventilated buildings. State banks at least must stop installing air conditioners in their branches. If they operated for 60 years without AC, why not now?

  • 0
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    Ms Rizwan, All that is good, but what Mangala proposed is impracticable.Definitely not in SL.From 1989, I have contacted different people in power over the use of ethanol as a fuel. Only three replied.
    My interest is in that I have been in the ethanol industry since 1968.Almost all ignored my request.One Minister fixed an appointment for a meeting to discuss the details but cancelled it the day before the scheduled date.
    Mangala’s Electric vehicles will have to come off fossils Petroleum or Coal.We cannot depend on Hydro, due to the collection of silt in the reservoirs The Mahaweli reservoirs are the worst as reforestation was ignored, Solar though much talked of has many technical problems in connecting up with the grid, It is O.K.for domestic use.The best place for wind are the highlands – that too is out..
    Only solution is alcohols, both Ethanol and Butanol. I presented a proposal on the 31st January and 31 March 2015 to a Minister in this govt no reply todate. That speaks for our interest in renewables.

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