There have been countless studies conducted which have shown that developing countries are the hardest hit by the consequences of climate change. Water scarcity, desertification, and natural disasters are just some of the upcoming challenges facing these countries. And yet, if you talk to citizens residing there, the environment is usually the last thing on their minds.
Libya is one such country. While its geography and unique environmental situation make it particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the civil war in the country has overshadowed all other problems. Right now the main focus is on providing humanitarian relief, temporary shelter and emergency health care to those affected by the crisis. In this scenario, there are many issues that take a back seat, including culture, social equality, and of course the environment.
Yet, we cannot ignore our degrading ecosystem until the war is over and Libya is stable, which could take decades. Action needs to be taken now in order to prepare for future environmental crises. One way this is being done is the solar panel project implemented by UNDP’s Stabilization Facility for Libya. Through this project, support is provided to the health sector in the form of solar energy, whereby hospitals are able to continue functioning through off-grid power during severe power outages. In this way, a humanitarian issue is treated which also contributes to promoting clean energy.
While these kinds of efforts are commendable, they cannot achieve a wider impact if there is no awareness among the local population of why these solutions are so crucial. In a power outage, Libyan citizens will most likely use a generator rather than install a solar power system, because it is cheaper, faster and more familiar. And so how do we change this phenomenon?
This is a challenge that we have been trying to tackle at the Libyan Sustainable Development Network. Our main aim is to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a list of 17 goals to be achieved by 2030. These goals can be divided into social, economic and environmental categories. While the social and economic goals receive a lot of attention during our work, there is little interest in the environmental goals (13 – Climate Action, 14 – Life under Water, 15 – Life on Land). So how do we make them relevant?
The cool thing about the SDGs is that they are connected; by achieving one goal, you can contribute to achieving others. The SDGs are built on a model called the Raworth Donut, which is a framework of social and environmental boundaries that highlights a transversal approach to improving human lives. A disruption in this balance is the cause of many problems we have in the world today.
Talking about these inter-linkages has been a successful method for the network in making the conversation on climate change relevant in Libya. By trying to achieve climate action, we are also tackling goals like clean water and sanitation. When we work on innovation and industry, we are able to achieve progress for goals like health and well-being, and quality education. It is one big web in which every contribution makes a difference.
While Libya still has a long way to go in promoting climate action policies and achieving sustainable development, the post-conflict recovery phase is a prime opportunity for us as Libyans, and particularly for young Libyans, to begin doing things better than before. The SDGs are a great tool in making sure that we have a comprehensive strategy in developing our country, which in turn will help us do our part in creating a better world.
Written by: Nada Elfeituri | Libyan Sustainable Development Network