I found this article in “The Daily Star ” online. I hope our “new” government takes the initiative and speaks up in Copenhagen….
BEIRUT: With the Copenhagen summit on climate change less than a month away, environmental activists warned Lebanon’s new government on Sunday that it cannot sit by while larger nations debate global warming policy. With high levels of air and sea pollution, water mismanagement and electricity demand outstripping supply, Lebanon can hardly claim to be a world leader on environmental issues.
In spite of past administrations failing to seriously address the country’s checkered environmental record, Wael Hmaidan from environmental NGO IndyACT, told The Daily Star that Lebanon needed dynamic and decisive action by its politicians.
“We all know that the planet is negotiating a new agreement on climate change. Lebanon so far has been outside these negotiations,” he said. “Like the rest of the world, Lebanon will be devastated by climate change. Even though it is a small country with very little political power, Lebanon can make a difference.
“We have a problem with energy and this is also an environmentally linked problem. At this stage we need to reduce our CO2 emissions and we will not have an economy if we don’t have a secure source of energy,” he added.
The prospect of going into coal-fired production has been raised by some in Lebanon – a huge mistake, according to Hamaidan.
“Coal produces more CO2 than anything else and coal [usage] will prevent Lebanon getting any assistance in the international energy sector.
“The best alternative for Lebanon at the moment is to go into natural gas,” said Hmaidan, which produces 40 percent less CO2 than coal. “This way Lebanon will be reducing its emissions. Renewable energy needs to be introduced to Lebanon over the years, but gas can be deployed immediately and in significant amounts.
Garabed Kazanjian, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace in Lebanon, agreed that renewable energy needed to be implemented bit by bit.
“Overall, there should be a government initiative to gradually convert the national energy plan towards the use of a sustainable energy source,” he told The Daily Star. “In a region considered as the well of oil and everlasting nuclear disputes, Lebanon has the potential to become the pioneer in the solar sector.”
Water supply in Lebanon has long been a divisive topic and Kazanjian said that plans mooted for the construction of damns were not a viable way to tackle shortages.
“As a solution to water problems, we can build reservoirs to trap rainwater, and use according to our needs,” he said.
Lebanon produces approximately 1.4 million tons of solid waste every year, of which only eight percent is recycled. Many villages and towns simply tip refuse in local dumps, posing health risks as well as environmental damages.
The most obvious example of this is Sidon’s dump, parts of which were strewn this month over miles of coastline following heavy storms.
“The Sidon dump is a disgrace to the Lebanese government and a health hazard to the population, in addition to a source of toxic discharge to the marine life in its vicinity,” said Kazanjian. The Lebanese government must, in the earliest possible occasion, officially close down the waste dump.
“There are available funds for such a project. All that is lacking is the political decision.”
More generally, the new administration must educate the population as to the benefits of recycling if Lebanon is ever to curb its ever-increasing waste pile, according to Kazanjian.
“Efforts should be made to increase public awareness on daily activities, such as diminishing the use of plastic bags, encouraging the use of public transportation, and the use of solar power as a source of energy,” he said.
Time for action is short and with issues such as national security and the perilous state of the economy up for discussion, Lebanon’s new government may have more pressing needs to attend to.
Not so, said Hmaidan: “If we don’t work on climate change there is no need to work on anything else.”