WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

Lebanon 2017 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tarek Mohamad El Khatib, Minister of Environment, on boosting renewables in Lebanon, working with municipalities to maximize waste management efficiency, and dealing with the environmental fallout of the crisis in Syria.

Tarek Mohamad El Khati
BIOGRAPHY
Tarek Mohamad El Khatib was born in Hasrout in 1955. He holds a degree from the Lebanese University Faculty of Law. From 1980 until now, he has been active member of the Beirut Bar Association and has managed the Khatib Law Firm since 1991.

How do you plan to achieve 12% renewable energy by 2020?

According to the Ministry of Energy and Water, which is responsible for implementing the goal of reaching 12% of renewable energy in Lebanon by 2020, there are companies currently bidding for the selection of sites to build 200MW of wind power plants. The Ministry of Energy and Water intends to produce 180MW of solar energy by the year 2020. It is expected that the solar water heaters will be adopted over an area of no less than 1 million sqm.

Lebanon is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. What are your expectations in this regard?

Lebanon has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2030 as an unconditional goal and by 30% as a goal conditional on international support. The plan includes increasing the proportion of renewable energy and heating to 15% unconditionally and 20% if there is international support. We are also planning on increasing the energy efficiency ratio by 3% unconditionally and 10% conditionally. In the transport sector, our unconditional goal is to increase this 36%, or to 48% in the event of adequate international support. The plan also includes a 20% increase in the proportion of cars capable of fueling consumption. In the forestry sector, 20 million trees will be planted by 2030 to absorb carbon emissions. This number could reach 26 million if the appropriate support is available. And for the waste sector, we want to reduce this by 25%. The plan also includes treating 51% of wastewater.

What are the key initiatives taken by the ministry to prevent another waste crisis in the country?

The role of municipalities in the integrated management of solid waste is still crucial. The ministry issued circular No. 8/1 on November 16, 2015, concerning some guidelines on the integrated management of solid household waste to municipalities, municipal federations, and governors. This deals with the hierarchy of waste management from the reduction of waste production to reusing and recycling, energy extraction, and the rehabilitation of distorted sites. In addition to the above-mentioned technical support, the ministry is seeking financial support through grants, most recently a EU grant of EUR13 million for the Protection and Sustainable Development of Marine Resources in Lebanon project.

How does your ministry work alongside the Ministry of Energy and Water and the Petroleum Sector Management Authority to ensure proper environmentally friendly procedures for future exploration in oil and gas?

In 2010/2011, we prepared a strategic environmental assessment study with funding from the Ministry of Energy and Water that had a number of recommendations based on the activities proposed in the Sustainable Development of Oil and Gas in Lebanon (SUDIL) project.

As Environment Minister, what are your main priorities for the coming year?

I have seven priorities: first, the initiation of a transition to a circular economy starting with the integrated management of solid waste and the rehabilitation of quarry sites. Second, the protection of water resources from pollution by following up on the implementation of the road map to combat the pollution of Lake Qaraoun and the Litani river, while preparing similar plans for other rivers. Third, reversing the phenomenon of random urban extension and conserving biological diversity, starting with guidelines for the protection of mountain tops and natural areas and regulating investment in beaches, green spaces, and agricultural lands, as well as the rehabilitation of quarry sites. Fourth, continuing to stimulate climate action. Fifth, reducing the environmental impact of the crisis of displaced Syrians. Sixth, activating a system of environmental control and application of environmental laws. And finally, we must complete our National Strategy for Sustainable Development.