Action on climate change must be at the heart of Lebanon’s recovery from financial crisis, the country’s environment minister said on Tuesday.
“Climate change will continue to accelerate some of the shocks we are seeing in the country,” Nasser Yassin told an online UN panel.
He said that environmental protection had to be the essence of Lebanon’s recovery plan.
The comments were made during a seminar on Lebanon's climate commitment and sustainable recovery. Mr Yassin is scheduled to travel to Glasgow, Scotland, for Cop26, the UN’s annual climate summit, this week.
“Climate change action is not a luxury. We are not going there [to Cop 26] to take pictures with world leaders – this is going to be at the heart of the coming recovery plan of the government,” he said.
Mr Yassin became Lebanon's environment minister in the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati last month. He was a professor of policy and planning at the American University of Beirut.
With Lebanon facing a cascade of social and political crises, as well as an economic crisis the World Bank has described as one of the worst in history, Mr Yassin reaffirmed the government’s targets under the Nationally Determined Contribution – a series of commitments which includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental measures.
“We were ambitious in the midst of crisis we are going through,” he said.
Under the targets, which were updated last year, Lebanon aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2030, as well as providing 18 per cent of power demands from renewable energy sources.
Panellist Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank regional director for the Middle East, said that the gulf between Lebanon’s government and its people would be a hurdle to achieving any climate goals.
“In no country is this agenda more relevant,” he said. “It requires behavioural change in the country. People need to be engaged in this conversation.”
He also said that climate action needed to be incorporated into Lebanon’s educational curriculum: “People need to study the climate in their early education.”
Early on Tuesday, Mr Mikati met Mr Yassin and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib. They comprise Lebanon’s delegation to the Glasgow summit.
A statement released after the meeting affirmed Lebanon’s “belief in combating the climate crisis by adopting the path to sustainable development, especially within the framework of the financial and economic advancement plan”.