25 October 2021

Climate change threatens basic state functionality in Libya

The Climate Security Expert Network (CSEN) has recently published a new climate-fragility risk brief on Libya. The risk brief provides a holistic overview of the climate-fragile state in the country. According to CSEN, climate change poses an existential threat to Libya,  that if left unaddressed, threaten basic state functionality and stability. The risk brief also discusses potential entry points for addressing the climate-fragility risks in Libya.

Libya faces major slow onset events in the form of rising temperatures and desertification; whilst also facing many extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, sandstorms and dust storms. Since Libya is 95% desert and accommodates Mediterranean climatic conditions, agricultural production is severely undermined because water-holding capacities are increasingly exhausting. Such a condition poses serious climate risks to Libya, as often the scarcity of water resources cause inter-communal competition amongst the local population. Climate change, coupled with insufficient state capacities, is aggravating the factors driving conflict.

The climate-fragility risk brief identified four major dynamics threatening long-term peace and stability in Libya. Firstly, Libya’s reliance on global fossil fuels prices and its vulnerability to peak oil demand -Libya's energy security and long-term stability. In terms of its energy outlook, Libya has Africa’s largest oil and gas reserves. As a natural consequence, the country is also one of the major exporters, thus remains highly exposed to global oil price fluctuations. The second factor herein is the ill-management of water policy which requires proper integration. Owing to the impacts of climate change, Libya is highly water-stressed. The scarcity of freshwater resources is driving inter-communal competition. Thirdly, the lack of water resources further threatens agricultural output as production has already declined 70% since 2011. With high consumption rates, low investments in efficiency of agricultural water use and high employment in the agricultural sector, the stresses on the livelihoods of people are gradually increasing. Lastly, present conditions in Libya witness deficiencies in basic infrastructure, shortcomings in electricity and water systems. Rising temperatures are further complicating efforts to stabilize the electrical system at a point when demand is increasing but supply is short.

The risk brief also discussed potential entry points for addressing climate- fragility risks in Libya. Despite the recognition that government institutions are weak and fragmented, there are several opportunities for practical solutions. Climate Security Expert Network recommends:

  • Libya explores the diversification of public revenue in order to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels. Investment in vital infrastructures, better management of its sovereign wealth fund, tightening of tax regimes and a reduction in payroll spending are a list of a few steps the Libyan government can consider. 
  • Libya adopts an integrated water policy to ensure efficient and sustainable management of its water resources. Investments in more sustainable options such as water rationalization, wastewater treatment and desalinization should follow. Also important is securing access to the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System through the Man-Made River (MMR) extraction method.
  • Given the major water problem, the Libyan government must focus on less water-intensive crops and more on water-efficient technologies. For example, the adoption of drip irrigation could benefit the agricultural sector.
  • Libya must incentivize the energy transition by creating conditions for private sector investment in renewable energy.  Further investments in energy-efficient technologies and attention to maintenance could help stabilize the electricity grid. As the quality of services improves, electricity tariffs could increase to relax the burden on the state utility companies.

Read full climate0fragility risk brief here

Photo credit: David Stanley/Flickr