The Minister of Energy and Water of Lebanon, representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment and more than 70 stakeholders from Ministries, relevant institutions, international organisations, NGOs, development agencies and the private sector, gathered on 24-25 August at the 1st Multi-Stakeholders Consultation Meeting on the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems Nexus in Lebanon. Organised by the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-Med), the consultation was held in the framework of the “GEF/UNEP MedProgramme: Enhancing Environmental Security”.
The meeting enabled stakeholders to:
- enhance their understanding of the Nexus approach, its opportunities and benefits
- discuss and provide feedback on Lebanon’s priorities under the current crisis circumstances,
- build a vision on the sustainable management of natural resources and the Nexus sectors in Lebanon and
- suggest paths for the upscaling and financing of WEFE Nexus solutions in the country
At his opening speech, Dr. Walid Fayad, Minister of Energy and Water said that there is a need to put political disagreements aside when managing and planning for vital issues and sectors and reach an agreement on the most urgent actions. Energy is an essential element that affects all sectors in the country. The priorities under the current crisis are meeting energy needs at low costs and with reduced environmental impact and the rationalization and management of the demand. Dr. Fayad also referred to the fact that subsidization of energy fees has led to severe losses in the sector, and that tariffs should be reformulated to improve the sector’s performance with due consideration of the need to differentiate between various users and to protect the vulnerable population.
Mr. Habib Maalouf, representing H.E Dr. Nasser Yassin, Minister of Environment, mentioned that there is a need for following a systemic approach like the one that was applied in older times and for better integration of the four Nexus sectors through rethinking concepts and policies. He also referred to the importance of developing a sustainability strategy for Lebanon based on the local context and tailored to local conditions instead of importing and applying foreign concepts without taking into account the country’s specificities. In fact, previous plans that put sustainability as a goal failed in protecting resources and were driven by growth in consumption and demand. Mr. Maalouf also stated that there is a need to reformulate and update all national policies to address existing challenges, including new pressures to marine environment and ecosystems due to offshore gas exploration; studying possibilities for groundwater recharge; making sure that ecosystems are protected when planning for dams; and the necessity to improve food sector management so as to be less dependent from imports.
Ms. Maya Mhanna, representing H.E Dr. Abbas Hajj Hassan, Minister of Agriculture, began her speech by saying that scarcity, depletion and competition for resources, as well as centralization of production, were the main causes of wars in the world. She also mentioned that currently in Lebanon more than 50% of the population suffers from food insecurity, due to the economical and financial crisis affecting the country since 2019. The economic situation resulted in a drastic rise in the price ofenergy needed for agriculture, also increasing costs of agricultural production. About 80% of farmers in Lebanon are small and medium scale farmers who don’t have any more the needed financial resources for agricultural production. The Ministry of Agriculture, including through its National Strategy 2020-2025, is trying to find ways to adapt quickly to current challenges and to move to self-sufficiency in food production, including through the application of renewable energies and other new technologies for improved quality of production. Among the targets are also the support of wheat and barley production and the sustainable management of forest resources and pasture lands. However, the implementation of these goals requires cooperation between stakeholders, and assistance from international donors and financial institutions.
Key take-outs from the Consultation
During the consultation, institutional representatives from the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) sectors as well as participants from other bodies, acknowledged the necessity for integration of the four sectors and the need to effectively address and manage trade-offs among them. They expressed their appreciation for the fact that the Programme creates the conditions for dialogue and the development of short-medium-long term solutions to tackle the main causes behind the present challenges that the sectors are facing. From these, short term solutions are the answer to the country’s priorities dictated by the current crisis.
Energy was acknowledged as the entry sector for analysis and for setting the targets that will determine the overall objectives of the other Nexus sectors, namely water, food and ecosystems. To this end, the relevant ministries formed a WEFE Nexus Inter-ministerial group to guide the activities of the Med Programme but also strengthen dialogue among the 4 WEFE sectors in Lebanon.
Finally, following the presentation of lessons learned from the practical implementation of WEFE Nexus projects in the Mediterranean and Lebanon, the panel dialogue on “Upscaling and financing WEFE Nexus solutions”, that took place on the second day of the Consultation with the participation of representatives from International Organisations, Development Agencies, Financing Partners and the Private Sector, was appreciated as a necessary action to enable market responses towards sustainability.
The application of the Nexus approach in Lebanon through the MedProgramme’s Child Project 2.2
The 1st Multi-Stakeholders Consultation Meeting on the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus is part of MedProgramme’s Child Project 2.2 (CP 2.2.) with the title “Mediterranean Coastal Zones: Managing the Water-Energy-Food and Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus: Balancing of competing water uses in priority coastal areas through water, food, energy and ecosystems integrated governance, to enhance environmental security and sharing of benefits”. CP 2.2 is executed by UNEP/MAP and GWP-Med and aims to balance competing water uses through water, food, energy and ecosystems integrated governance, enhance environmental security and sharing of benefits.
Traditionally in Lebanon – as in many other Mediterranean countries - Water, Energy, Food and the Environment “sectors” have been dealt mostly through separate regulatory and institutional frameworks and related strategies, priorities and infrastructure. However, it is being increasingly realized that through such fragmented approaches it is difficult - or even impossible - to achieve sustainable management of and security in any of these sectors.
Under the Nexus approach linkages among the relevant sectors are identified and existing or potential trade-offs assessed with the aim to identify solutions fostering security of supply for these resources and efficiency in their use, while reducing impacts and risks on ecosystems. The implementation of the Nexus and “Source to Sea” approach in Lebanon through Child Project 2.2. is carried out in synergy with activities undertaken in the country towards the preparation of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Strategy and climate change adaptation approaches in ICZM planning that are implemented by other Executing Partners (PAP/RAC and Plan Bleu) under Child Project 2.1, another sub-component of the MedProgramme.
The GEF funded and UNEP implemented MedProgramme represents the first joint effort by 9 Mediterranean countries and a number of partners aiming to operationalize priority actions to reduce major environmental stresses in its coastal areas while strengthening climate resilience and water security and improving the health and livelihoods of coastal populations. Activities are implemented through 8 Child Projects, each one with concrete objectives and carried out by different Executing Partners. Child Project 2.2 on the WEFE Nexus is one of these projects.
The presentations and the agenda of the Consultation can be found in the top right hand side of the article.
Due to force majeure PAP/RAC's presentation could not be delivered at the Consultation but is included in the provided material. PAP/RAC is available to provide further information.
GEF Lead Implementing Agency: UNEP. Other GEF Implementing Agency: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Leading Executing Agency: UN Environment/MAP. Executing partners: UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP), European Investment Bank (EIB), Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med), WWF Mediterranean Programme Office (WWF MedPO), IUCN, Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC), Plan Bleu Regional Activity Centre (Plan Bleu), Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Centre (SPA/RAC) and the Sustainable Consumption and Production Regional Activity Centre (SCP/RAC)