During his trip to New York for the 74th UN General Assembly, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi participated in the 2019 Climate Summit. The summit aims to combat climate change and agree long- and short-term limits on emissions. It offers an opportunity for countries to raise their game when it comes to limiting greenhouse emissions which have reached record levels and continue to rise as countries water down their commitments to combating climate change.
Al-Sisi’s address to the summit highlighted the perspectives of Egypt, Africa and developing countries on climate change. The impact of climate change impacts all aspects of our lives, yet Africa’s own global warming gas emissions are minute. There is a dire need for sustainable, appropriate funding and technology and capacity building so developing countries can offset the phenomenon.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the goal of inviting world leaders to the climate summit is to encourage countries to present “concrete action” to the UN in the hope of boosting the Paris Agreement on climate change and the ambitious goals that are the cornerstone of the 2030 Sustainable Development plan. On meeting many aspects of the 2030 sustainable development agenda, he warned, “we are not on the right track.”
Guterres said more international cooperation on climate change was needed and called on world leaders to come to the UN with ideas and concrete plans instead of “just talk”. He warned that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century means the world must be carbon-neutral by 2050.
“We must reduce emissions drastically in the coming decade, and we want more and more countries to come here and make a commitment to the 2050 carbon neutrality pledge and make reductions,” he said.
He asserted that the goal is to reduce emissions by 45 per cent in the coming decades, raise the $100 billion needed each year to help developing countries adapt to, and mitigate, the effects of climate change, and promote investments supporting renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.
“We can plant differently and use the land differently and cities can have different strategies to reduce emissions,” he said. “There are many tangible measures that we hope countries, cities and companies will announce at the summit.”
Egypt’s Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad attended meetings of the various climate change alliances, including the Adaptation Alliance headed by Egypt, in partnership with the UK. Fouad reported on Cairo’s efforts to increase international cooperation and noted that Egypt had presented nine initiatives on climate change.
She said the alliance was working on uniting global efforts to address the impact of climate change and support Third World countries which suffer most from the effects of global warming. Fouad added that Egypt is honouring its commitments under the Paris Agreement and supports raising adaptation goals.
“We made a political announcement at the summit focused on funding adaptation, supporting early warning systems, responding to natural disasters, including adaptation in national plans, and calling on advanced countries to increase funding for adaptation,” she said.
Fouad reiterated Egypt’s full support and commitment to climate action through the alliance it co-chairs with the UK.
“We have several ambitious initiatives needed to meet adaptation needs and flexibility and a precise plan of implementation that relies on increasing funding and support for developing countries that suffer the most from the impact of climate change.”
Egypt, she said, will always support global group action, which is why, in 2015 at the Paris conference, President Al-Sisi launched the African Adaptation Initiative to encourage advanced countries to honour their commitments to help African states confront the adverse effects of climate change. The initiative also fine-tunes African demands and concerns, including early warning systems, funding, national plans and investment packages for the private sector.
Fouad said Egypt has submitted initiatives that protect the most vulnerable through Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) and which will provide security for more than a billion people facing climate change, as well as initiatives on small-scale agriculture.
Egypt succeeded in changing the global climate change agenda by including adaptation as a priority at the Climate Summit, and convinced 107 countries to sign the political declaration presented by Egypt that sets adaptation as a top priority in environmental action.
By chairing the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Alliance on Adaptation and Mitigation, Egypt has shown it can lead the world on global environmental issues that serve the interests of all countries, said Fouad.
The minister of environment was also a key speaker at the World Climate Resilience Day, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, where she addressed more than 400 young people on building a future capable of confronting climate change. The beginning, she said, is in the hands of the young, and must include education that combines action against climate change, protection of biodiversity and the curbing of desertification.
“Youth must be given a chance to lessen the impact of climate change and adapt to it through their innovative solutions and new projects.”
Fouad also called on states to move faster in confronting the impact of climate change. Africa, she said, remains vulnerable to climate change: 1,000 natural disasters that have impacted on the lives of more than 200 million people across the continent and caused the death of 400,000.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Confronting climate change