COP26: Mikati warns of climate change impact on Lebanon

Lebanon PM warns of climate change risks, says ready to back green initiatives
4 min read
03 November, 2021
As his newly formed government struggles to meet and address the country's numerous crises, Lebanon's prime minister said he was ready to cooperate with initiatives in the fight against climate change
Mikati claimed Lebanon was at the forefront of countries trying to achieve environmental sustainability [AFP/Getty]

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned Tuesday that the impacts of climate change on his country would be devastating as it reels under a multitude of crises, urging support from global partners.

Speaking on the second day of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Mikati - whose new cabinet is in stalemate as it faces a barrage of issues since its formation in September – gave a breakdown of challenges currently being faced by Lebanon, and how the climate crisis would exacerbate these problems.

"I’m addressing you today as Lebanon is facing many challenges, including social, economic, banking, financial and monetary crises, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, the 4 August port explosion and the impact of Syrian refugees," he said.

Adverse climate impacts will add to the already many struggles Lebanese are facing and impede any attempts to improve the socio-economic situation, he added.

"Temperatures will increase, leading to long periods of drought and substantial reduction of snow coverage. Sea levels will gradually rise (and are) expected to cause massive damage to coastal infrastructure."

International bodies say they expect climate change to have a direct, negative impact on Lebanon’s densely populated coastal urban areas and its agricultural productivity. Deforestation, urbanisation and illegal quarrying add to these dangers.

Mikati spoke numbers at the summit, saying such scenarios would result in significant economic losses for a country already witnessing one of the world’s worst financial meltdowns since the 19th century, according to the World Bank.

"National studies estimate losses of approximately $1.4 billion by 2040, associated with rising sea levels. Another report by the UNDP points out that the total cost of climate change on the Lebanese economy is estimated to be $16 billion by 2040," he stated.

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The three-time premier told world leaders that Lebanon has "responded to the global call," claiming that the government had adopted a roadmap for sustainable environmental development.

He claimed Lebanon has set its NDC, a national climate plan, for 18 percent net-zero commission by 2030, an increase from its 2015 target.

"Lebanon’s updated NDC is an important milestone for ambitious climate action in the country, with clear implications for the implementation of agenda 2030 for sustainable development," he said, "particularly in relation to green economic growth, affordable and clean energy, food security, improved air quality, and gender equality."

"Lebanon will also submit a 2050 long-term strategy for low emissions and resilient development strategies," he said.

Successive governments have spent tens of billions of dollars in the past decades on the country’s broken, state-run energy sector, with most money going to purchasing expensive and harmful fuel or being squandered and mismanaged. This fuel was the source of a major scandal last year after it was discovered that it contained carcinogenic substances.

Beirut has agreed with Egypt to import cheaper and cleaner natural gas to help it solve its acute electricity crisis.

Billionaire Mikati called on the international community to stand by Lebanon in helping it with its strategy.

He also claimed that Lebanon was at the forefront of countries trying to achieve human and environmental sustainability - drawing mockery from many Lebanese on social media.

Mikati thanked Saudi Arabia for its effort and environmental initiatives as part of  Saudi Vision 2030 framework, days after Riyadh cut off diplomatic ties with Beirut in an unprecedented row between the two nations.

"Lebanon highly appreciates the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its set of initiatives it has put forward to protect the environment and tackle climate challenges; its keenness to launch a green Middle East initiative which will benefit all the Middle East region."

"Lebanon is ready to cooperate and positively engage with such initiatives and stand ready to play a regional role, potentially becoming a hub in sharing its expertise among regional partners," he added.

Mikati was following the news from Scotland and met with Arab officials as developments between Saudi Arabia, its Gulf allies and Lebanon unravelled. He is expected to return to Beirut in the coming hours and look for an exit out of the crisis.

Mikati also met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French President Emmanuel Macron.

"Productive meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati at COP26. We discussed the need to implement urgent reforms to address Lebanon’s economic crisis and to hold free and fair elections next year," Blinken wrote on Twitter.