Energy demand presents risks and opportunities for climate action

UNDP programme analyst Jihan Seoud on sub-national climate change responses in Lebanon

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With energy production making up a large share of global carbon dioxide emissions, meeting climate change objectives will require strong action on energy. Environmental specialist Jihan Seoud manages the Energy and Environment Programme at the UNDP Lebanon Country Office. She spoke with us about the risks and opportunities she sees in the country’s energy sector.

Tell us about the sub-national climate action taking place in Lebanon and its cities

In Lebanon, UNDP works on various angles in climate change: we work on projects that showcase various types of renewable energy technologies so citizens can experience the benefits and applicability of these systems in their day-to-day lives. These activities are mainly in the city of Beirut and its surroundings as well as in the Bekaa region in Lebanon. We also use low-carbon technologies to support rural and poorer areas, such as solar home kits that can be used to provide lighting during electricity blackouts. UNDP also works at the technical level with the Government of Lebanon to determine Lebanon’s climate footprint and to look at the long-term impacts of climate change on the country’s environment. Within this context, policy support is provided so that more climate sensitive approaches are used in the national agenda.

What do you see as the greatest risks that climate change poses to the cities you work in?

In the region of the world where I work, I consider the impact of climate change on water resources and agricultural patterns as the most dangerous. Given that the highest population density in Lebanon is in its coastal cities, mainly the capital Beirut, as well as other cities like Saida and Jounieh, these cities will be impacted most, in terms of access to water and sea level rise. Projections show that rain and snowfall will decrease over the coming decades and this in turn is a risk for food security, ecosystems and as a result, social stability in general. Impacts on the agriculture sector would effect the more rural or agricultural towns in Lebanon.

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Before the installation of solar energy systems, many North Lebanon residents depended on candles to light their homes.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for these cities in combatting climate change and benefiting from renewable energies?

In a country such as Lebanon that already faces shortages in energy supply — electricity supply at the national level is not sufficient to cover demand — renewable energy is an opportunity to bridge this gap in a clean and efficient way. The same applies to the other opportunities such as expanding into greener economic sectors that could reduce the impact of climate change as well as create new jobs and markets in a growing economy such as Lebanon.

What are Lebanese cities doing to help reduce GHG emissions?

The Lebanese government has voluntarily set renewable energy and energy efficiency targets that we are all working towards. The industrial and productive sectors are also getting more engaged in this momentum.

What inspired you to work in this area?

On a personal level, I was always in awe of nature and loved spending time outdoors. While growing up, the realization of the damage that we are doing to the earth shocked me, and I’ve wanted to do something about it since then.

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