BEIRUT: Women and youth empowerment can lead to the faster development of climate solutions: This was the main takeaway from this year’s Social Good Summit, organized by the United Nations Development Program. Women can help spearhead climate action, conference participants said, but the role of gender in facing challenges of climate change is often overlooked, even though women are 14 times more likely to die from natural disasters, and 40 percent of global refugees and displaced persons are women.
Participants added that Lebanon can devise a better approach to climate change if women are involved in decision-making and participate in politics, whether on the local or national level, to make sure policies have gender considerations.
If not combatted, climate change will kill some 50,000 in Lebanon, drive up food prices and put added strain on the country’s troubled electricity sector, according to one of the participants at the event Thursday, whose main theme was combatting climate change, the 13th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.
“If not us, then the next generation will definitely pay the cost [of the environmental degradation in Lebanon],” said Lea Kai, a climate change project manager with the Environment Ministry and UNDP.
Tens of thousands will die from illnesses such as asthma and respiratory problems and as a result of heat waves with an estimated 1 degree Celsius increase in Lebanon, Kai said. In addition, the agricultural sector will be immensely impacted, sending food prices upward, and the amount of snow on mountains will decrease by 40 percent, along with the amount of rainfall in Lebanon.
The already troubled electricity sector, with the increase in the demand of cooling devices, will also be negatively impacted.
Lebanon has been taking steps to fight climate change, and is a “signatory of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” Kai said.
“Lebanon has presented its nationally determined contributions and pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 15 percent,” she added.
To reach this target, several measures have been taken.
As 85 percent of Lebanon’s carbon emissions come from the energy and transportation sectors, Customs fees have been removed since 2018 on imports of electric and hybrid cars to encourage their use, Kai noted. Lebanon has also set a target of getting 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources and planting 40 million trees by 2030.
However, Kai emphasized that the government and agencies like UNDP are not the only bodies responsible for fighting climate change. She added that the citizens should also first, recognize the consequences of climate change and adjust their habits and behavior to be more environmentally conscious.
Lebanese people should strive to conserve water, electricity and the forests. In addition to that, more people should start carpooling, commuting by bicycles and use public transportation to reduce carbon emissions through their cars. Kai said that 1.2 million people are car owners in Lebanon.
Youth have been increasingly involved with the fight against climate change and achieving the SDGs in Lebanon.
UNDP’s Youth Leadership Program is an initiative that brings together young innovative minds in the Arab region and trains them on project design, social entrepreneurship and leadership. Many participants have established small businesses and startups that incorporate the SDGs in different ways.
Cezar’s Guest House was a success story of former Lebanese YLP participant Cezar Mahmoud, whose initiative, a guesthouse in the Barouk Cedars of Chouf, has welcomed 5,500 guests from 69 different countries since it was founded in 2016. The aim of this project was to promote eco-tourism in the Chouf area and contribute to its economic development by providing various opportunities to the local community.
Infrastic, another initiative by a former YLP participant, aims to decrease plastic waste by building walls, benches and partitions from mixtures that contain used plastic.