Sri Lanka could slash its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 19 percent of projected levels in 2020 at little or no long-term cost using an array of green power options, a new study from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed.
“Sri Lanka has the potential to avoid emissions of over 5.6 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020 out of projected output of nearly 30 million tons by adopting green power technologies and improving energy efficiency,” said Mahfuz Ahmed, Principal Climate Change Specialist with the ADB’s South Asia Department.
“This course of action would really help to lessen the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuels which are currently used to generate over half its electricity.” The study, The Economics of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in South Asia, says without action to combat climate change, annual energy-related GHG emissions in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka are set to rise from about 58 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2005 to nearly 245 million in 2030.
In Sri Lanka, they will rise from about 10.5 million tons to over 57 million.
Replacing conventional coal-based power generators with cleaner burning equipment would contribute to the bulk of reductions in Sri Lanka, while switching to municipal solid waste-generated power instead of fossil fuels, would also be a major contributor.
Other emission reductions could come from adopting more energy-efficient refrigerators, air conditioners, boilers, electric motors, vehicles and other equipment. Sri Lanka also has ample scope for bioethanol and biodiesel production as well as wind power.
Introducing a carbon tax under a globally practiced carbon market regime, starting at $15 a ton, rising to $41, would also have beneficial impacts by encouraging a switch to cleaner energy technologies.
Such an approach could see Sri Lanka’s cumulative GHG emissions from 2005 to 2030 drop by nearly 22 percent against business-as-usual output levels over the same period – the highest percentage drop across the five study countries.
Achieving these emission cuts however will involve overcoming long-standing challenges to clean energy development, which in the case of Sri Lanka, includes a national grid that has technical limitations in absorbing the total renewable energy potential and the absence of a subsidized consumer finance scheme to support the widespread adoption of home-based solar power systems. South Asia, home to half the world’s poor, is Asia’s most vulnerable region to climate change and reversing the alarming rise in GHG emissions is essential to prevent the potential displacement of hundreds of millions of people and massive economic damage. Sri Lanka, with much of its coastal land less than one meter above sea level, could see large areas submerged by rising oceans, while higher temperatures would have a serious impact on yields from its vital tea industry.
India, the biggest energy consumer and largest generator of greenhouse gases in the region, is not covered by the report.