Sri Lanka's energy crisis is a glimpse of what is coming

(Context, 31 Oct 2022) Depending on finite fossil fuels over sustainable natural assets such as renewables will always trap us in energy poverty and social inequality.

Pradeep Kurukulasuriyais director and executive coordinator of the Nature, Climate and Energy Portfolio at the United Nations Development Programme.

When Sri Lanka’s fuel crisis hit in June, waiting in a petrol queue for over 14 hours in Colombo gave time for some truths to sink in. One is that going to get that coffee to keep you awake would inevitably prompt the queue to move. Another is that when a crisis strikes, not everyone suffers equally.  

The reality is that when the current fuel shortage - and the worst economic crisis in more than 70 years - hit Sri Lanka, and petrol queues backed up for days across Colombo, it was the poorest who queued longest, facing an uphill struggle against rising prices.  

Compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, the crisis in Sri Lanka is a symptom of a bigger problem unfolding globally. The consequences of relying on finite fossil fuels tied to volatile markets to supply our energy and drive our economies should have hit home during the fuel, food and financial crisis of 2008. As we recovered, this was a moment to prioritize social protection to cushion the poor from future destabilizing price hikes.

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Context, 31 Oct 2022: Sri Lanka's energy crisis is a glimpse of what is coming