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Today is World Environment Day and on 8th June we mark with people all over the world, World Oceans Day. This year, as the world faces unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these occasions are an opportunity to be reminded evermore strongly how important it is to safeguard our environment and biodiversity as this plays a crucial role for sustainable life on the planet.  As President Ursula von der Leyen indicated: “making nature healthy again is key to our physical and mental wellbeing and is an ally in the fight against climate change and disease outbreaks.”

The biodiversity crisis, climate change, pollution and the excessive use of natural resources are also global emergencies. In the global response to COVID-19, the European Union upholds its commitment the environment and climate change, as set out in the European Green Deal. This roadmap aims at creating a world where we give more to nature than we take from it. It sets the stage for a more sustainable, socially just, and resource efficient post-pandemic world, and for a more universal fight against climate change.  

It is only through reducing pollution, protecting the oceans and forests, promoting more sustainable agriculture, developing greener cities, and creating more circular economies that we help protect environmental biodiversity and ensure a sustainable existence. That is why a core of the European Green Deal is the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and its Action Plan that aims to build societies’ resilience to future threats such as climate change impacts, forest fires, or disease outbreaks, including by protecting wildlife.

In Lebanon, the European Union remains committed to supporting the country, its environment and its people, also in these challenging times. On the occasion of World Environment Day and World Oceans Day this year we celebrate key milestones related to our support. 

On Monday together with our partners the Lebanese Environment Forum and Lebanese Eco Movement we will launch our support to eight new actions within the “Bahr Bala Plastic” project. The initiative aims at alleviating the negative impact of plastics on fisheries, tourism, ecotourism, and marine biodiversity, through building the awareness of citizens on plastic litter, and financing local initiatives from community-based organizations, universities and start-ups. 

A total of eight projects by eight different local organizations that support these objectives have been selected: Byblos Ecologia NGO, Auberge Beity Association, Rawda Al Fayhaa High School Alumni Association, Al Hourouf Association, Green Southerners NGO in partnership with Aaraya Environmental Association, Green OrientAssociation in partnership with Beam Association, Lebanese Developers Association and Himaya Daeem Aataa HAD Association.

Another key action supported by the European Union, coming to life this month and unfolding over the summer, is the deployment of artificial reefs off the Lebanese coast as part of a project implemented by Oxfam in partnership with the University of Balamand’s Marine and Coastal Resources Programme. These reefs will help boost marine life, improve marine ecotourism, and most importantly, help support at least 34 cooperatives, as well as 5 syndicates of fishermen across Lebanon. Supporting the livelihoods of seaside communities including fishermen and their households is a priority of the European Union and under this action almost 5,000 fishermen will be able to create more sustainable, environmentally friendly fishing grounds that shelter many different marine species of commercial importance. 

Through this partnership, 25 different scuba-diving clubs will be provided with attractive new sites for divers from all the over the world, thus promoting marine ecotourism. Moreover, environmental marine education activities will be held in at least 40 schools, universities and non-governmental organisations. 

In addition to grants for key actions, the European Union also supports key research and knowledge sharing efforts, an example of which is the Evaluation of the Lebanese Marine Environment implemented by the National Council for Scientific Research and aimed at studying Lebanon’s current marine conditions in an attempt to reach effective and sustainable marine costal management. The study is crucial to the understanding of the marine ecosystem in Lebanon, and its results will help support Lebanese institutions with evidence-based research to inform policy making, reduce marine pollution and support fishermen’s livelihoods with sustainable fishing techniques. 

The European Union shares with Lebanon the common beautiful Mediterranean Sea. As neighbours we are committed to a better, more sustainable, biodiverse and greener future for all.

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