BEIRUT: The Environment Ministry launched three climate change initiatives Monday with the United Nations, as the ministry looks for ways to combat the country’s wasteful energy use in difficult economic times.
The announcement, which came from Environment Minister Nazem Khoury and U.N. Development Program representative Robert Watkins, also included a new list ranking the best technology investments for Lebanon to fix its weak infrastructure without further damaging the environment.
The three initiatives are intended to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and make use of green energy programs.
The Low Emission Capacity Building program will rank Lebanon’s progress in reducing its greenhouse gases. The Climate Change Coordinating Unit will help government officials implement carbon emission reduction projects, such as building wind farms and implementing better public transportation networks. The National Communication project will create a coordination body to let environmental experts help develop national policy.
“We firmly believe that climate change is one diverse and multisector issue that necessitates the active involvement and participation of all national actors,” Khoury said about the larger scope of the initiatives.
Over the past year, Khoury has been warned that his ministry lacks the power it needs to implement environmental policies in the country. He has called for an environmental public prosecutor and a special police force to help enforce the country’s environmental laws that are often overlooked. The country’s road and waterways are severely polluted with gas emissions and waste dumping that increase people’s risk of cancer.
The initiatives launched Monday are a step to help the ministry make environmental policy more meaningful across the country.
Environment Ministry experts say that when a policy is implemented correctly it can end up saving the country millions of dollars a year with low-cost energy programs such as dams and wind farms.
“Our commitment to ensure a safe, clear and healthy environment goes hand in hand with our intention to ensure sustainable economic growth,” Khoury added.
A report ranking the most cost efficient technology programs that could reduce Lebanon’s dangerous carbon emissions was also issued by the ministry Monday.
The report suggests wind power, hydropower, solar power and specialized gas turbines are the best investments for the country’s power sector. The introduction of fuel-efficient and hybrid cars into the public and private transportation sector can also save the country millions of dollars while reducing emissions, the report says.
But the Environment Ministry also recognizes the severe challenges in implementing new programs. It reported that over 25 percent of generated electricity is not paid for due to corruption, which would hamper any new energy project.
The U.N. is a major contributor to the country’s environmental programs, operating a number of offices in coordination with the ministry to conduct environmental studies.
“Here as elsewhere, the answer to past well-being lies in leaving behind the shortsighted policies of the past that often traded economic, social and environmental objectives against each other,” Watkins said. “I look forward to our continued collaboration in helping clear the path for a sustainable, low carbon economy, and a better future for all in Lebanon.”